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4.5 out of 5 stars
Out Of The Picture
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TOP 100 REVIEWERon 27 January 2014
Polly Samson's first full-length novel 'Out of the Picture' focuses on eighteen-year-old Lizzie, daughter of Jack Seymour, a well-known artist, who left her and her mother when Lizzie was a baby, and whom she has not seen since. After an upsetting incident involving her stepfather, Lizzie has left the family home in Devon and is living in a rather squalid flat in Paddington, infested with cockroaches, which when she tries to eliminate them "are invariably too quick for her, and she swears she can hear hysterical, high-pitched giggling as they scurry away and disappear under the carpet." Lizzie is rather ashamed of her temporary domicile, especially when Tony, her not yet divorced boyfriend, who is also her boss, hot-foots it from her bed to his own comfortable house almost as soon as their love-making sessions are over, but poor Lizzie cannot afford anywhere better. Before long Lizzie begins to see Tony for what he really is and upset by his actions, disillusioned by her stepfather's behaviour and haunted by her own father's abandonment of her, Lizzie has to decide whether to continue feeling like a victim or whether to start to take control of her life. When she makes the decision to track down her real father, Lizzie discovers more than she bargained for, but will she be able to cope with her new-found knowledge?

Well-written and keenly observed, Polly Samson's story gently pulls the reader into her heroine's life, making this novel an interesting and absorbing reading experience. Lizzie is an intriguing protagonist who, although doesn't always behave in the way we might want her to, is a strangely appealing and likeable character, drawn into behaving the way she does because of what has happened to her. I found Polly Samson's descriptions of Lizzie's situation rather poignant to read, especially when reading about her temporarily fractured relationship with her mother, and particularly of an occasion where Lizzie clandestinely follows her father and sees him emerging from within the hollowed trunk of a huge oak tree. When he has gone, Lizzie stands where her father has stood. "For the rest of her life, she imagines that when she shut her eyes that day she could hear the breathing of the tree, strangely in time with her own and she felt blessed...Forever more, if anyone asked her what her happiest memory was, it was that hour inside the oak". A bittersweet novel of loss of innocence and lost opportunities but, ultimately, also of hope. I am now very interested in looking at the author's two short story collections: Perfect Lives and Lying in Bed.

4 Stars.
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on 3 May 2000
I only read this because my girlfriend ordered it (she's got a really serious Amazon habit!) and I picked it up off the pile because I liked the cover. For the first few pages, I kept thinking that it probably wasn't the sort of book I was really going to "get" (the main character is an eighteen-year-old girl called Lizzie) but then it was suddenly three o'clock in the morning, my girlfriend was fast asleep, and I was completely hooked on Lizzie - she's the sort of character who makes you want to reach into the book and pull her out so that you can have a laugh with her over dinner and then later maybe let her have a cry on your shoulder. Brilliant! Very real and absorbing characters especially Lizzie and Cordelia. I couldn't have enjoyed it more. My girlfriend (who is reading it as I write this) keeps reading me bits aloud because she says Lizzie is exactly like she was when she was that age, especially all the things like hanging out with the "worst boys" in the pubs and doing armscratches with friends (don't think any boys did them) and all the best-friend stuff. (She hasn't admitted to any shudder-to-remember sex though). I give it five out of five. My girlfriend (from halfway through) gives it four. Grand total = four and a half. Well done Polly Samson - it's great to know you can judge a book by its cover.
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on 4 May 2000
This book made me cry at the end which is unexpected in a book that has this much humour. Although some of it was quite comical I kept wondering if I was supposed to be laughing when there was so much misery in the story. I was the same age as the main character in 1980 when the novel is set, and like Lizzie had a difficult time as I approached my twenties at the start of the Thatcher period. I thought the author captured seventies childhood well, ziggy stardust, jacobs cream crackers, alberto apple VO5 etc and also the way that Lizzie is at an age where she is both adult and a child - depending on whose looking. I could have done without some of the jokes though recommended if - like Lizzie - you want to laugh and cry at the same time "like a Rainbow".
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on 25 July 2000
I have just spent an extremely enjoyable couple of evenings with this book. It is well written, moving and filled with insight. The mysterious things that make people attracted to one another are accutely observed. Polly Samson writes about the sort of people we all know and I was hooked on this story of one such girl and her relationships with her father, her stepfather and her sugar daddy father figure. I couldn't recommend this book more highly.
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on 22 April 2003
This is, quite simply, the most wonderful book I have ever read. It's full of the most delicious atmosphere and sense of place and I cannot praise the author's writing style highly enough. The use of language is exquisite and anyone wishing to wallow in emotive, atmospheric and sensual metaphors will be hooked on this work. I think this novel is worth reading again and again and again, just for the intensity of feeling evoked in every line and phrase. Polly Samson is a wonderfully talented writer and I hope she creates many more works for me to wallow in! Reading this book feels like lazing in an intensely scented bath, encased in seductive bubbles whilst being surrounded by dozens of beautiful candles .... I love it!
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on 21 April 2013
Very engaging: 'Out of the Picture' so glad i stumbled on it, but I've always liked brollies and parasols! so the jacket drew me in!
For so many of us the missing pieces of our jigsaw lives hold the curiosity and flickers of promise and bring with them intrigue
and a sense of excitement. What will we do when we find out? It would be so different 'if only'

In this simple story where we get to know several characters we see the preoccupation and fascination we can dream up about any one of our missing pieces of the jigsaw puzzle. I think this little book would be great reading for a reading group and spark many a conversation. It is imaginative yet light enough to cope with looking at quite big issues.
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on 23 September 2016
I love this novel, especially the first part that tells Lizzie's impossible love story. I've read it mostly on the beach and the pages flowed fast. There are many twists and turns, sometimes I had to stop reading for a moment to absorb it all.
The thing I love most about Polly's writing are the descriptions: every time I read one of her books I feel like I'm going back to my beloved England and live the life of the characters.
I enjoyed the music references (even though they are quite random in the story). And the photo of Syd Barrett of course.
I've found the last part where she's stalking her father a bit awkward and sometimes it was making me uneasy, maybe because I was identifying myself with Lizzie and I was so scared that she was getting herself into big troubles.
A part from this, I really liked it, I'll probably read it again.
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on 11 October 2013
I loved this book. I read all three of her books (Lying in Bed, Perfect Lives) one after the other. I really enjoyed the way the characters were formed, and how the main character grows up, matures and comes to terms with her past. Lots of references to growing up in the 80's, and great attention to detail. I am a big fan of Polly Samson, and can't wait for her next book (I understand there is one in progress). Very much a woman's book I would say, but a world away from "chick lit".
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on 29 April 2015
this was the first book I had read by this writer and, although I kept reading to the end , at no point did I ever find it enthralling, gripping or exciting.

Nor did it tell me much about the human condition ) (I know this is a very big ask!)or make me think think any differently about things or surprise me at all. Overall, it was a very mundane read and , at its heart, it seemed to have a coldness with none of the characters creating any sense of empathy mostly because they were very one dimensional.

The ending was never in any doubt and it is debatable whether anyone (including the hapless Lizzie) learnt anything from their experiences at all or are simply doomed to continue making the same mistakes and feel sorry for themselves.

Somewhere in all of this sad tale, a very good book could have emerged but , sadly, it nver happened.
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on 3 May 2000
I loved this book. Simple as that. I recently read some short stories by her and they were good too. I think she writes about the expectation of unconditional love between fathers and daughters and also mothers and daughters with particular sensitivity and insight.
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