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Underworld Paperback – 1997
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Top customer reviews
In the end, though, it is a work simply too expansive and too formidable to detail in a summary book review, and the sheer scale of the undertaking makes it a difficult read at times with long, long sections of incomprehensible consequence. Underworld is magnificently and fiercely written but requires stamina and persistence and will not be to everybody's taste. As a caveat (but not a criticism), it is essentially an American journey despite the parallel nuclear fears elsewhere, and some British readers may feel a little bemused or excluded.
For me, 'Underworld' dazzles for a number of reasons. The most immediately apparent of these is DeLillo's prose which is masterful throughout; the novel contains chapters so beautifully crafted as to demand an immediate second reading.
Secondly, the subject is wonderfully handled, its narrative flitting through fifty years of history and back again to chart the lives of its (many) characters without ever sacrificing the detailed description which makes them believable. The result is a masterpiece of panoramic storytelling, managing to vividly conjure up both the patterns of politics and history and the minutiae of the lives which they both shape and are made of.
It is not just the length that daunts. This is not a "page-turner" in the normal sense. Whilst some sections draw you through, the majority of the text, for me, cried out to be read lovingly and for meaning - which meant that I had to slow right down to make sense of it all.
If you have the time, and energy, (and are prepared to read something almost wholly American) you should read this book. It is surely of the highest quality.
True - there were the odd fifty pages here or there which I struggled with. But that was counterbalanced with some moments of such emotion (the argument over which brother should look after the aging mother; the description of flying through the blast; the scenes of infidelity; the scene with the shotgun to name only a few) to make up for this many times over.