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Customer reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
4.2 out of 5 stars
Other Voices, Other Rooms (Penguin Modern Classics)
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on 28 February 2015
Big fan of Capote, I enjoy all of his work to date
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on 3 September 2017
Read on the back of reading Harper Lee (and discovering that Dill in those books was Capote, just as Scout is described by Capote in this one), this immediately became one of my all time favourite reads, one that I wanted to read and savour every word of. What a talent was wasted, I couldn't help but think. I had never read what is often described as "Southern Gothic" before, and this may well define the genre, with its creepy house and creepy people. But it is the prose that just astounded me, so beautifully crafted it was, if a little OTT at times. The ending becomes a bit jumbled, but the last few lines must be some of the saddest I've ever read. It's rather pointless to call a book a masterpiece, but it's the only word that came to mind on finishing it. And hugely enjoyable.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 8 April 2017
Exquisite descriptive writing abounds in this short novel, a coming of age tale of 13 year old Joel Knox, sent to live with the father he has never met.
This really immerses you in the world of rural Alabama:
'Deep in the hollow, dark syrup crusted the bark of vine-roped sweetgums; like pale apple leaves green witch butterflies sank and rose; a breezy lane of trumpet lilies beckoned like hands lace-gloved and ghostly.'
The boy encounters a weird household- father ill in bed, strange stepmother and Cousin Randolph (an Oscar Wilde type character.) He befriends the house servant and Idabel, a local tomboy with her own issues.
Then the latter part of the book becomes hard to follow, but we see Joel starting to come to terms with his homosexuality.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 12 August 2011
Following the death of his mother, thirteen year old Joel Knox travels to Alabama to live with his estranged father in a large, remote and decaying house where also live his step mother and cousin Randolph. He has never meet his father, and it seems upon arrival that he is not likely to meet him soon either, but that is just one of the many mysteries that will trouble young Joel, who is fast beginning to think is move South is at best a disaster, and at worst a betrayal.

But he finds friends in the form of a neighbour the rough and ready young tomboy Idabel, in Zoo the black help, and a black hermit who works charms. But he is also drawn to homosexual cousin Randolph; and his somewhat girlish good looks enamour him to most of those he meets.

Other Voices, Other Rooms is a beautiful story, as much from the way it is told as its content, rich in remarkable and imaginative metaphors that create a steamy atmosphere of the hot South; subtle in its depiction of the coming Joel's awareness of homosexuality; and full of insight - it is a most moving and captivating read, all the more remarkable considering the young age of its author, his first book.

This Penguin Classics 2004 edition contains an interesting introduction by John Berendt which adds much to our understanding of the novel, not least of which is its autobiographical content.
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on 19 December 2001
At times Capote's first novel is brilliant: as all the other reviews have said, the imagery is wonderfully evocative. Yet, compared to later work (Breakfast At Tiffany's, In Cold Blood) this novel seems fussy, ellusive and (at times) over-written. Moreover, certain characters are either frustratingly two-dimensional or pretentious. In short, Capote was trying too hard. But then he was only 17, and there's enough in this book to hint towards what a superb writer he was to become.
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on 10 July 1998
Never having read a Capote novel or short story before this novel was probably the best way to go. The premise was simple enough: a boy whose beloved mother has died, sets out to live with his estranged father in a rural southern town. The story, however, is not that...ordinary. The mysterious father does not immediately appear, and the young boy is left virtually alone with a mentally imbalanced extended family headed by an aging artist. Capote introduces a Carson McCullers-esque tomboy, a witch doctor, a circus sideshow, and you begin to understand that this novel is about many stories--not just Joel's story. Capote never lets you imagine for a moment that his novel will turn into one of those "feel good" coming of age stories in which, despite setbacks and loopy family arrangements, the young hero or heroine finally "makes it." Our hero moves on in the best way that he can, which is all anybody really can do. I appreciate Capote's sense of reality.
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on 7 June 2009
Author of Afinidad: A Novel of a Serial KillerAztec Dawn: A Tale of Sacrifical Murder, from Manhattan to Mexico
Truman Capote's novel is so beautifully written that I found it hard to believe it was his first. There is a lyrical, dancing quality to his writing, like sunlight dancing on waves, that carries you along, e.g., 'He lay there on a bed of cold pebbles, the cool water washing, rippling over him; he wished he were a leaf, like the current-carried leaves riding past; leaf-boy, he would float lightly away, float and fade into a river, an ocean, the world's greatest flood.' His descriptions of his characters are just as evocative. Joel, the boy at the centre of the novel, is very lonely, and your heart aches for him as you read the novel. Joel's mother has died and he is sent to live with the father who abandoned him at birth. He has fantasies about this unknown father that verge on heroic but the reality is as far from them as can be imagined. You wish very much that he will find the love that he craves and he does, but from a most unexpected source.
Ruin is a prominent feature of the story. The mansion Joel's family lives in; an abandoned hotel that he is taken to; the nearest town of Noon City; all are well past their prime and descriptions of them, of which there are plenty, evoke a sad feeling of decay and weariness. Quite a few of the characters are also very lonely.
If a novel reveals anything about its author, I would venture to say that Capote had a very low opinion of his fellow humans but at the same time, a great love of them. Both sentiments come through strongly in this book. The book also deals with a theme that, for Capote in real life, would have consumed much of his early years; that of gender and sexual orientation. Joel is described as effiminate and one of my favourite characters, Randolph, is a .... well, I won't give THAT away. It's a great surprise. Idabel, a girl who befriends Joel, is extremely tomboyish, and seems to hate the fact that she is female.
For all its pathos, you will be curiously warmed by this story at the end. It makes you feel it is worthwhile never giving up hope.
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on 22 December 2008
This is Capote's debut novel and tells the story of Joel Knox, a thirteen-year-old boy sent to live with his estranged father in Alabama following the death of his mother. What he discovers there is a dilapidated mansion, his prim step-mother Amy, his witty and somewhat debauched cousin Randolph, and the mysterious absence of his father. Over the course of the novel Joel's transition from boyhood to adolescence and all the self-discovery that entails is traced with a deft, subtle pen.

This is a short novel at less than two-hundred pages, but each page is brimming with richly poetic language that brilliantly evokes the Gothic splendour of the Deep South. Characters and landscapes are conjured into life with powerful immediacy. Capote's words shimmer on the page, and I soon found myself hearing what I read in a luxuriant southern American drawl. This is a novel to be savoured for its ambitious, exuberant language, and it flows over the imagination like thick rounded syrup.

Read this, and immerse yourself in the mystical world of America's Deep South...
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on 8 August 2008
I enjoyed this novel, particularly for its beautiful descriptions of the strange flora and fauna of the Deep South and the languid, parched pace of life in rural Alabama. The settings were equally exquisite: decaying mansions and hotels full of faded crystal chandeliers, antique pianolas and crumbling marble columns.

Randolph was interesting (for a while) as the overtly gay, cross-dressing cousin. His inclusion was a brave move by Capote in 1948 - but this homosexual character necessarily had to be ornamented and danced around with artful, evasive language...so much so that any real impact from Randolph's effeminate presence is lost in ethereal wordplay and highfalutin metaphors. This (for me) eventually rendered Randolph nothing more than an annoying aesthete. The gay theme is much more subtle with the young tomboy Idabel.

There is no doubt that this novel is overwritten: every sentence is crammed full of as much symbolism and lyrical imagery as possible. This is not essentially a fault, given the Southern Gothic style and Capote's youthful desire to dazzle and impress - but at times, his elaborate prose can get carried away with itself and begin to feel a little conceited.

This is never more true than the third section of the novel, shortly after Joel has been bitten by a poisonous snake and falls into hallucinatory illness - giving Capote the perfect excuse to shed all literary restraint and fly off on a surreal flight of fancy. I felt the story really fell down here...everything that had been meticulously built up to this point suddenly fell away in a flurry of dream-induced visions that felt totally overblown. Beautifully written, no doubt, but very much over the top and, to my tastes, unsatisfactory as an ending.

It's a captivating novel overall and a rightly judged classic, but written by a very young man whose style had yet to reach its maturity. By the way - can I just clear up an error that most reviewers seem to be making about Capote's age when he wrote this piece of fiction? He was not 17, he was 21 - and 23 by the time it was published.
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on 3 February 2012
I am not a big fan of Truman Capote as a person, just as today Stephen Fry annoys the hell out of me; BUT they both can write and have a style that is interesting and holds your attention. This tale is obviously based muchly on Capotes early life, or what he might want us to believe although it wasnt until much later in his life that he addimtted this. It is intruiging, clever, full of characters all of whom are memorable and does make me want to read some of his other titles. It doesn't make me appreciate the man himself anymore, but that is a personal reflection.
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