- Hardcover: 160 pages
- Publisher: Harvill Secker (6 Jan. 2011)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1846553881
- ISBN-13: 978-1846553882
- Product Dimensions: 13.8 x 1.8 x 20.6 cm
- Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,382,361 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Caroline: A Mystery Hardcover – 6 Jan 2011
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`Medvei's prose is limpid and particular, telling the story with an exquisite control that interfuses the sublime and ridiculous in exact proportions, the one hidden inside the other. ...The result is pleasurable and profound. Medvei never puts a foot wrong.'
-- TLS, December 13, 2010
`enchanting... absolutely engrossing' --Sunday Times: Culture, Lucy Scholes, January 7, 2011
The utterly beguiling and moving story of what happens when a man who is becoming tired of life meets a donkey called Caroline.See all Product description
Top Customer Reviews
Mr Shaw lives a dreary, tiresome existence of office, supper and bed that is familiar to most of us. He is approaching retirement; his wife is dreading having him at home all day. Then, on a family holiday, Mr Shaw meets Caroline, a donkey so apparently remarkable he decides to buy her, taking an extra week off work to walk her home, alone; growing a beard, living rough. He builds Caroline a stable in the back yard and spends every evening with her. One evening he takes his chessboard to the stable and discovers that Caroline is even more remarkable than he thought.
Written throughout as a true account, with just a dash of doubt sprinkled over the end - was Caroline a true prodigy, a chess genius who, for a while, took over Mr Shaw's office job and did it so well that everyone apparently forgot that Shaw was ever there at all? Or was Shaw's father perhaps just having a breakdown? This is magical realism gently told, in a voice that's not quite English. There's the whiff of middle Europe about this story that adds strongly to the sense of reading a folktale. Where is it set? We are never told, certainly not in the UK. Some Persian Poetry from Shaw's diary gives a possible clue to the inspiration for this quirky little novel, which seemed to me to be a fable about the oddness of love and the true value of friends and family.
It's very short and a quick read. The story unfolds quietly, there are no whistles or bells, none are needed. The story is quietly calming, soothing, like a warm bath or a cup of hot tea; like being home, on a weekday, reading a good book on a dark, rainy day. It's not an exciting experience, there's nothing here to upset or disturb, it's just pleasantly calming, relaxing and deeply enjoyable.
I was thoroughly charmed by this book and I'm not easily charmed by other people's writing. It's also been a while since I read a novel from start to finish in one go - I think the last one was a stephen king, and this is as far from king as one can perhaps go, short of experimental fiction. Perhaps because of the special role that chess plays in this book, perhaps because of the calm, collected style of telling, I was reminded of Stefan Zweig's wonderful novella "The Royal Game". I also noticed some Russian sensibility between the pages and not only because Russia (via the subject of chess) makes a short appearance.
Here is an excerpt almost from the end of the book, which shows the fine story telling & which made me think of the last time I saw my own father before his sudden death: «Even his dress, which to the insensitive observer might have suggested an old man letting himself go (sweater gone at the elbows, bedsocks stuffed into galoshes, haphazardly shaven chin), seemed to me like nothing so much as a demonstration of the sage's magnificent disregard for external appearances.Read more ›
Mr. Shaw met donkey Caroline on a family holiday, was at once attracted and brought her home - she to transform his hitherto predictable life. He rode her to work, where she proved an asset at the office. Colleagues, at first wary, became captivated (except for receptionist Miss Lamb, whose hat she ate). Neighbours too were gradually won over. There could be no underestimating Caroline's talents - chess a doddle, interests wide. All the while we learn much about donkeys (Robert Louis Stevenson not emerging with credit). Truly Mr. Shaw and Caroline would have seemed kindred spirits.
All a bit silly? A few may think so. For most, here is a tale full of wry humour and considerable charm. Ultimately it also proves moving, an elderly man's life so enriched by the unlikeliest of companions.
Recommended to all who prefer not always to have their feet firmly on the ground.
Having read the synopsis I did not know what to expect, but as I adore Donkeys I thought I would give it a go.
It is a very different book that is suitable for everyone. As the tale is told it is easy to picture the man, his family, his home, his place of work and of course Caroline.
At the start it is almost like a memoir instead of a piece of fiction. Then as you get further into the book it becomes a story, a fantasy and perhaps one that all of us would like to experience.
It is a very clever piece of writing. A book that is haunting, that is very sweet and one you will certainly not forget in a hurry. I thoroughly recommend it.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This is a lovely story, I like it a lot. I hope the author can keep writing and I am looking forward to reading his new works.Published on 22 Sept. 2014 by Yi Shen
As he nears retirement, Mr. Shaw the insurance broker goes on his summer holiday and falls for a creature with "eyes a man could drown in". Her name is Caroline. Read morePublished on 27 Mar. 2014 by xenofan
I am a massive animal lover and a massive lover of animals in books - Wolf Totem and Life of Pi are two of my all-time favourite books. Read morePublished on 14 Feb. 2014 by Boof
I am always delighted to find a little gems such as this. So much fiction, these days, is formulaic that I sometimes feel quirky little books like this do not exist any more. Read morePublished on 20 Nov. 2013 by Uncle Barbar
In writing this story, about an eccentric man and his increasingly donkey, I am reminded of the musicians of Bremen, where the donkey is the base of the story. Read morePublished on 15 Aug. 2013 by Jack Chakotay
This a strange, offbeat, semi-comic, really rather charming novella about the obsessive, deepening bond of affection that forms between a man and a donkey names Caroline. Read morePublished on 6 Aug. 2013 by Andrew Sutherland
This is a strange story, very short, which many readers will read through in a couple of hours or so as I did. Read morePublished on 26 Feb. 2013 by Brett H
I loved this book - I never thought that any other donkey would come close to Eeyore in my affections, but Caroline does so. Read morePublished on 22 Feb. 2013 by T. Russell