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3.2 out of 5 stars
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3.2 out of 5 stars
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on 15 May 2013
I should probably start off by saying that I only read the first 100 pages of this book. I don't normally give up on novels and I have made it to the end of many books that are much more badly-written than this one, but after 100 pages I felt absolutely no connection to the characters and had tired of waiting for something to happen.

I suppose this book would be classed as 'literary-fiction'. We know it is literary-fiction because absolutely nothing happens. You can read 100 pages and find that the only notable event was that three people went shopping and one of them needed a poo. However, whereas most literary-fiction novels can draw you in with prose and keep you interested with engaging characters, this book reads like the diary of a self-absorbed teenager gossiping about his friends - and not in a good way.

Whereas some authors of literary fiction might try to be clever by using overly clever language, it seems that Adam Thirlwell is trying to be clever by using mundanely basic language.

I found his writing to be as bland as the people he was writing about. The characters in the book were described in the most basic ways: 'Moshe likes this because..., Nana doesn't like this because...'.

When a writer is so obvious and prescriptive in the description of his characters, it is difficult for the reader to feel anything towards them or to use their imagination in order to add meat to the characters' bones.

The author is much venerated and this book has received great reviews, so I was surprised that I didn't enjoy it.I am perfectly happy to admit that I didn't 'get' the book. Perhaps there is some deep and meaningful layer of narrative hidden amongst the tepid descriptions of the characters' humdrum lives. If so, I congratulate the author, but I won't buy any more of his books as I am too low-brow to be able to appreciate them.

As I said, I have happily read to the end of some terribly written books, but at least those books were engaging, at least they offered something in the way of a story. After 100 pages of Adam Thirlwell's Politics, I couldn't think of a reason to continue reading it.

Who knows, perhaps the second half of the book will see Thirlwell's characters being whisked away on the most amazing adventure ever documented in the English language. I will never know and, in all honesty, I really don't care.
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on 15 March 2008
It was ok although a bit disappointing compared to all the reviews and seemed to rely a bit to much on graphic and shocking sex. There was a lot of focus on one character's insecurities which, despite the author's early assurances that we would like him, he really just came across as annoyingly self involved.

However, good points are that the author had an original writing style that involved the reader, as it was quite conversational. It was also quite easy to read and had the ability to keep the reader turning the page, although some of the sexual descriptions were at times a little too graphic (the discovery of thrush....) but I suppose that does add realism. It's a strange one, definitely worth the read if only to make up your own mind...
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on 30 September 2014
What this has in common with Kundera's The Unbearable Lightness of Being is the dully flat characters it employs to make the authors intended theories about politics and philosophy. Thirwell seems to be trying the same tricks as Kundera and ends up leaving one weak with disinterest and lack of involvement. Like TULOB I was left with no real visceral sense of any of the characters. I'm glad to close this book.
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on 9 December 2010
I gave this three stars, because maybe I'm confused and there's something going on that I don't "get". I have read half this book and I've decided not to keep going. It's boring. Even the sex scenes are boring. And I don't think I'm ever "going to like Moshe" or any of the other characters. Oh, and why are they all talking like drunks and slurring their words? Isshat how wezoound when wuh tawk? Not me.
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on 11 October 2004
I was interested to read Politics from when I heard that Adam Thirlwell was a fan of Milan Kundera and his Art of the Novel. I had also heard him accused of trying to emulate Kundera's style and failing, and I had heard that Politics was not a particularly good book.
It is all too easy, however, to make comparisons with Kundera. Like him, Thirlwell divides his chapters into short, numbered sections, and he also adopts a definite authorial voice. However, it should be clear that he has not followed The Art of the Novel word for word, as his style is definitely his own.
Perhaps the authorial voice is one place where he is accused of failing to imitate Kundera. I disagree with such accusations: Thirlwell's voice is less subtle than Kundera's, and worse off for it, but he doesn't appear to be trying to sound like anyone else. This voice however is at times annoying and patronising. "I think you are going to like Moshe." he says, introducing a character on the first page. "His girlfriend's name was Nana. I think you will like her too."
It would be wrong to forbid an author from liking his own characters, no matter what they do in the book, but in trying to force his opinion on his readers, Thirlwell somewhat defeats the object of creative writing. It is interesting to have authorial insight at times, such as when he directly explains why he has made a character do a certain thing, but it does make it difficult to form a personal interpretation, and this could come across as very off-putting.
Thirlwell's use of characters is also similar to Kundera's, with both authors taking a theme, using it as the title of a novel, and describing how it affects the characters. However, Thirlwell's principals are more closely linked than most of Kundera's, through the ménage à trois which is the subject of Politics.
Somewhat confusingly, the appalling blurb claims that "Politics is not about politics." prompting me to wonder why, in that case, Thirlwell decided it was a fitting title for his book. To my mind, the novel is about social and sexual politics, and as such may have benefited from having a wider array of characters to act out the various scenarios.
However, it works well as it is, and it is an exploration of the possibly unasked question "How do you end a ménage à trois?" The anecdotal style may not appeal to everyone, but I enjoyed it, and despite the off-putting beginning I did come to like the characters, whose humanity was visible through their often thoughtless façades.
Politics is not an average novel, and as such may seem disconcerting, and is probably not to everyone's taste, but it is worth reading, and for all its uncomfortable foibles, I found it strangely compelling. Adam Thirlwell is not a low-fat version of Milan Kundera, but he never purports to be, and I admired his book for his own style. Politics is a very good first novel, and Thirlwell shows the potential to one day write one which, while being wholly distinct from, may be as great as The Unbearable Lightness of Being.
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on 7 July 2004
It is a book I will remember. I read it all in a day and had great fun throughout. If you like Kundera, you are off to holiday and fancy something light and refereshing this is the best and teriffic achievement for such a young author.
If you want a strong story in your book and are put off if things obviously would not happen in real life like they do in the book (Ok there are not too many 6ft georgous blondes dating little overweight nerds asking other women to join in a threesome out of kindness where I live either) don't bother.
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on 22 March 2007
I don't consider myself well-read. So perhaps the fact that this book is one of the most original books I have ever read says little at all. But no. I feel quite sure that the book IS very original. It certainly ranks as one of the more memorable books of my life because of the honest and detailed account of everyday private thoughts, habits, etc which we all have but rarely admit to because, well, we don't WANT to hear or talk about them in public. But it's fine in this case; reading a novel is a private affair and throughout the book there is a sense that we're being let in on a secret, which we are in a way.

Thirlwell's writing is witty and artful - The line "I think you are going to like Moshe" and all those like it (in which Thirlwell talks to the reader about the novel itself, its characters, etc) are not patronising, as some seem to think, but I confess to not understanding the function they are meant to serve.

All in all I would say a book definitely worth reading - one that will stay with you after you've finished it and which will grow on you.
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on 1 January 2004
This book could be easily criticised. It owes a lot to Kundera's 'Art of the Novel' (e.g. short chapters, weaving in mini-essays on historical/political themes, and exploring a concept or construct and what it means to different characters).Tbe short sentences and use of proper nouns rather than pronouns gets a little laboured. And the ending seems to turn the theme of the novel into something trite like 'you shouldn't be generous to the point of sacrificing yourself'.(Aristotle's Golden Mean said this better two thousand years earlier). The historical sections seem occasionally to be like a sixth former's parody of Kundera, an E.J. Thribb finding of significance in not very much. And the comedy of sexual self consciousness and embarrassment is fairly well trodden territory, albeit in a new Hoxton, threesome context.
And yet, for all these criticisms, this is an exciting, intriguing and genuinely novel book. It's tone is unusually tender and kind. As well as their self consciousness and misjudgement of others' feelings, the characters have a consideration for each other - it hints at an ethics based on 'acknowledging the face of the other'. I trusted the author's intelligence and awareness, that this is a considered book that deserves csreful reading and reflection. It leaves me with a feeling of excitement and ambiguity, of rich thoughts and questions to be pursued. And you can't ask a lot more than that. As for things like the debt to Kundera, novels aren't created ex nihilo, and what better mentor to have. A fabulous achievement for 24 years old!
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on 4 December 2004
As the range of opinions below suggest, this is a book you will love or hate and there's only one way to find out which! My opinion is that it is a clever, clever book and deeply enjoyable. Nick Hornby meets Milan Kundera is a glowing recommendation where I come from; if that works for you, you'll love 'Politics'. I went off to find Andre Breton's 'Nadja' after reading this; it could send you off in surprising directions too!
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on 17 September 2003
This novel ought to be easy to dislike - Thirlwell is young, talented, on the Granta list at the tender age of 24, and has profiles popping up all over the place. But it's very difficult, if not impossible, to resist this charming, witty and very wise first novel.
The plot is simple and effective - three London twentysomethings fall into a menage a trois, which is explored in all its messy and muddling detail. The characters are convincing and touchingly vulnerable and neurotic - it is enderaring and painful to watch them try to negotiate the confusing sexual situation that they have become entangled in.
One of the novel's greatest strengths are its observations about contemporary relationships. Many readers will enjoy the pleasurable surprise of recognising their own thoughts and experiences in those of the novel's characters - this is far more insightful and realistic than most novels about contemporary relationships, and funnier and more compelling as a result.
This is especially true in the descriptions of sex - for all the inventiveness and sexual exploration, Politics rings far truer than the sex scenes in most novels. It acknowledges the fact that sex isn't athletic and flawless, but often awkward and clumsy and distracted; that it's not always about lust, but also about trying to make other people happy or conforming to imagined social pressure.
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