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Customer reviews

3.3 out of 5 stars
8
If Only
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on 22 October 2016
I have read some of Vizinczey's other books but for me this is by far the one I have most enjoyed. I bought this on my kindle and having started to read the book I misplaced the kindle. I wanted to finish the book so I bought it in paperback just so I could find out how it ended.
As the story of James's life developed one could not help but become a part of the characters lives, the reader is in the room with them, living the moment.
Through his words, Vizinczey has painted a very vivid image of James, Lesley, the wonderful character Neb and all the other characters lives that you learn to love and indeed HATE. As one reads one becomes part of the story which has a clear message for today.... You can't help but go along for the ride and the ending....nothing short of brilliant...I shall say no more... a book not to be missed....
4 people found this helpful
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on 31 January 2018
miserable and boring
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on 22 December 2016
I have just finished reading IF ONLY. I waited until the Christmas break so I could give it my undivided attention and read it in one gulp (as it were).

It’s a wonderful novel, with many different facets that I’m still in the process of digesting.

First of all, it is entertaining. I kept turning the pages, wanting to find out how things were going to turn out. The characters are memorable, as are the worlds Vizinczey describes. He does a brilliant job, for instance, of describing the inner workings of a large business, and all the ruthless machinations of those at the top. He also conveys in many moving ways the ups and downs of a long marriage, especially a childless one.

But the high point for me comes in Part 2 of the book. This part is for me that rare thing: a fairy tale for adults. It transforms the novel into something transcendent and timeless. The scenes depicting the arrival of the comet and Jim’s failed attempt to commit suicide are particularly brilliant. And then Jim's various attempts to wreak vengeance on those he despises are both hilarious and salutary. We come to realise that no matter how technologically advanced we might become, in the end human society will remain fundamentally incorrigible; there will always be a backlash against anyone who sets out to improve us and our institutions. I half expected Jim and his allies to meet the same fate of a prior messiah who came by 2000 years ago.

There are many other aspects that are interesting. For instance, Vizinczey's view of the immigrant (the “stranger”) as well as his depiction of those who despise such people and long to have “their countries” back. These themes, along with the theme of ruthless businesses and inequality, very much capture the tenor of our times.

Stylistically too, there were many things I liked. For instance, I liked the short chapters, each with a title and a quotation. Indeed, the quotations on their own could potentially tell the story, with a little further embellishing.

The only thing that might have slightly improved the novel for me would have been to have a longer Part 2. This could be because of my obsession with symmetry. But it could also be because I think Part 2 really transforms the novel into something special and that it could have helped to make it longer.

This is a great read, at any time of the year, in any year. But especially over Christmas as we usher in 2017 and hope that it brings something better than 2016 did.
6 people found this helpful
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on 30 July 2016
This is the modern world as Swift or Voltaire might have depicted it, a world just as wicked and corrupt, of course, as it has always been—and will continue to be till genetic engineering breeds our lowlifes and scumbags out of existence. Eccentric, mordantly ironic and unashamedly (not to say a little tastelessly) bawdy, "If Only" presents the reader with a gallery of lowlifes and scumbags and seethes throughout with a bitter hatred of human stupidity, which, as Flaubert said, is infinite. Vizinczey has caught the beastliness of this perennially wicked and corrupt world and rendered that beastliness with style and eloquence.
5 people found this helpful
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on 23 August 2016
This is a fantastic novel. It is in many ways the culmination of the writing powers of Stephen Vizinczey; combining in its wonderful story the intimacy of In Praise of Older Women and the universality of An Innocent Millionaire. The protagonist, Jim Taylor, take us on a journey that crosses not only oceans but boundaries of imagination and explores the depths of human nature as well as its inherent frailty. We may all make different wishes but
in essence we all want the same; to live forever and to be happy. With this wonderful novel Vizinczey has surely achieved both of those aims!
4 people found this helpful
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on 15 October 2016
A compelling and profound book about decisions and choices and also a wonderful insight into the human psyche - what drives people, why the act a certain way. It is a masterclass not only in beautiful writing but also in understanding the intricate working of our emotions through a fascinating two-layered story.
2 people found this helpful
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on 28 March 2017
I was not gripped. I didn't care about any of the characters and there was nothing extraordinary about the writing
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on 11 January 2018
Unreadable
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