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3.9 out of 5 stars
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3.9 out of 5 stars
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VINE VOICEon 14 November 2014
This novel opens in hilarity, with an account by the "editor" of a Scottish laird's ill-starred marriage and the two sons it produced. The couple and the sons are alike estranged, and the sons meet as youths in animosity. This leads to a fateful encounter, whose forensic aftermath is the clumsiest and dullest stretch of the book; but a third of the way through the narrative switches to the first-person memoir of the eponymous 'sinner', which is rather more interesting.

The sinner is 'justified' in that he considers himself chosen by God, his place in heaven reserved. Consequently, all his deeds, even his crimes, must be God's will. He is encouraged in this outlook by a mysterious stranger, a diabolical double who both fascinates and manipulates him, egging him on to ever greater atrocities.

In this, the novel is a satire on Calvinist predestination, but it also partakes of the Gothic, the folktale, the psychological thriller, allegory and tragedy. The inescapable bond between the protagonist and his nemesis calls to mind "Frankenstein", "Caleb Williams", and "Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde". The ingenuous editor, the discovered manuscript and its unreliable narrator form an intriguing metafictional artifice that adds another layer of provocative doubt. The principal interest is the process by which the intelligent, well-meaning and devout confessor is brought down by his own arrogance and his interlocutor's cunning exploitation of his own logic. It's quite a novelty, both a product of its time and weirdly original.
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on 30 January 2014
This is an extraordinary book - a pre-modern post-modern narrative written in 19th Century! It gives conflicting views of the thoughts and actions of a young man who may or may not be a religious hypocrite, drunkard, rapist and murderer, depending on which of the conflicting accounts you choose to believe. It's a bold and experimental narrative which unfolds from an (admittedly dull) solicitor's account of having received a curious manuscript, the contents of which he leaves the reader to judge.
That editor's prologue is a bit heavy going and does nothing to prepare the reader for the extraordinarily first person account which follows, in which the young man appears to be either haunted or crazed after seemingly trading his soul with a devil in the guise of a religious man who convinces him that all his actions are justified as he is one of god's chosen elect. Part satire, part supernatural thriller, part page-turner and multi-layered literary experiment, it even features an Amis-like appearance by the author in the shape of a grumpy shepherd refusing to confirm or deny the details of his own story.
This book is hard to classify or pin down but it really is quite astonishing and it certainly repays the efforts of the reader. It really deserves to be very much better known. Read it and judge for yourself!
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on 11 May 2013
This story is without a doubt one of the most interesting things I've read in ages. There's a lot left open to the reader's interpretation and the more you consider it, the more interesting the tale becomes. My only issue is that Hogg takes an inordinate amount of time to say anything and the pacing is all over the place. The more dramatic parts will fly by only to be followed with pages and pages of tedious expositionary material. Nevertheless, if you have the time and the inclination, it's definitely worth a read. Maybe get a better edition than this though because there are some small, yet irksome, editorial errors in this one.
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on 28 August 2013
I bought this book for study. Personally I did not appreciate the writing however that is purely down to taste. Any theology or literature student should read it for reference purposes. Moreover I cannot complain about price as it is free to download on kindle - again good if you are a student.
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on 17 December 2014
A very strange book, I have read it before and I think it is excellent but I'm not sure it would be to everyone's tast.
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on 28 October 2013
The storyline is one of the most gripping I've ever read! Would definitely recommend it, as it is such a good tale
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on 19 April 2013
I'd been meaning to read this for years but never got round to it. I'm glad I now have done so: magnificent piece of psychological storytelling. Helps that I know the venues too!
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on 28 August 2013
This is a seriously weird book. You'll have to have stamina to tackle it. This is not for the faint-hearted.
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on 17 September 2015
I enjoyed the start but when it developed into fighting and japes I lost interest. Just not my style, and I didn't have the patience to continue even though it was highly recommended to me.
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on 28 June 2015
Studied this book at uni and really quite loved it. Probably added an extra star just because I managed to get to the end of it and felt a smug sencilla of achievement.
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