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Caroline: A Mystery Hardcover – 6 Jan 2011

4.0 out of 5 stars 26 customer reviews

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Product details

  • 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)
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Product description

Review

`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

Book Description

The utterly beguiling and moving story of what happens when a man who is becoming tired of life meets a donkey called Caroline.

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Customer Reviews

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
The gently surreal story of a man and his obsessive passion for his best friend and one true love, Caroline, a chess-playing donkey.

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.
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Format: Hardcover
I found the author of this novel on the web site of his agency, Tavistock Wood. The author in the photograph on the site has the air of a scientist about him...or of a chess player, actually. I read the book in one go on a flight -- this is fine writing, considerate of its subject, or subjects, because hidden behind the tale of the man and his donkey, is a larger tale about fathers and sons, about family and even about the cities that surround us, through which we sleepwalk at times with surreal ideas on our minds not unlike the one that Medvei must've had before he penned this work, his second published novel.

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.
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By Mr. D. L. Rees TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 25 Nov. 2012
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Why, at the funeral of Shaw's father, was no mention made of Caroline - she who so enhanced his later years? Despite initial misgivings, a reporter becomes intrigued - the son to tell of a remarkable relationship which grew increasingly surreal....

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.
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By Chris from Hampshire TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 26 Sept. 2012
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
"Caroline: A Mystery" is a very sweet little book and a very easy read.

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.
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