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Chapman's Odyssey Hardcover – March 1, 2011

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Editorial Reviews


'If Fred Astaire had been a novelist he'd have been Paul Bailey. This beautiful, moving novel is a piece of dazzling footwork and reveals Bailey once more as one of the wittiest, most panacheful and most graceful writers we have. I love this beautiful book' Ali Smith 'Assuaging in its honesty and its little ironies and vanities ... I was touched by this book; by its poignant glimpses of a lifetime's pain and pleasure' Barbara Trapido 'Marvellous. So rich and bittersweet and elegaic but also funny and beautifully, wittily, compassionately nuanced and observed' Shena Mackay **** As Paul Bailey's novel progresses, his exploration of Harry's emotional life grows subtly more and more intense Daily Telegraph

About the Author

Paul Bailey is an award-winning writer whose novels include At The Jerusalem, which won a Somerset Maugham Award and an Arts Council Writers' Award; Peter Smart's Confessions and Gabriel's Lament, both shortlisted for the Booker Prize for Fiction; Sugar Cane, a sequel to Gabriel's Lament, Kitty and Virgil and most recently, Uncle Rudolf. He is the recipient of the E. M. Forster Award and the George Orwell Memorial Award, and has also written and presented features for radio. Paul Bailey lives in London.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 211 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury UK (March 1, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1408811472
  • ISBN-13: 978-1408811474
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.8 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #179,549 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Mr. D. James on April 20, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Paul Bailey,

Chapman's Odyssey

Despite the title Paul Bailey's new novel is hardly a sequel to Homer and still less a tribute to George Chapman, the Elizabethan poet who first made Homer accessible to a vast readership, culminating in John Keats with his sonnet, `On First Looking into Chapman's Homer.' No, our hero is not Chapman, the poet and dramatist, and his voyages, alas, are extremely constricted, for throughout the novel Harry Chapman is confined to a hospital bed, from where, forever so to speak at death's door, he is subject to an array of physical and mental tortures as he tries to put his life into some sort of perspective before his inevitable demise.

Harry is obviously, like his author, steeped in literature, a lover of poetry and the quirks of language, a sometime teacher and writer of sorts. None of this would necessarily endear him to a modern reader not a fan of highbrow English literature.

The reader may well be tempted to conflate Harry with his author and find his constant so-so apt quotations to himself and to the surrounding hospital staff a little tedious and pedantic. To some extent this may be true; one would not relish spending half an hour at his hospital bedside while he spills out his learning and forever recites perfectly remembered lines. The many attendant nurses, medical orderlies, consultants and surgeons who visit him, however, seem to be fascinated and even delighted by their garrulously eccentric patient; they demand more and more. Give us a poem, Harry! Something cheerful, this time. And Harry duly obliges, sandwiching in between operations a little Shakespeare, Spenser or what-have-you before or after `going down to the theatre.
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Format: Paperback
Seventy-year-old Harry Chapman has just been admitted to a hospital for diagnosis and treatment of health problems. Confined to bed for the next two weeks, Harry, a writer, cannot help sharing his thoughts with the reader and sometimes the hospital staff. Books, poems, plays, and paintings are a vivid part of his on-going reality, with some of Harry's favorite literary characters and his most admired fellow writers crossing the borders of reality and fiction to work their way into his memories of real people and real events. Though his attention constantly jumps around, it is through these seemingly random memories, stories, favorite poems, and observations about life that author Paul Bailey succeeds in bringing Harry to life and creating a "real" person for the reader.

Harry chats with Bartleby, the Scrivener, from Melville's novel of the same name, and tells the priest that he has his own spiritual resources - George Herbert, John Donne, and Marcus Aurelius. He remembers Henry IV, Part I, in which he once acted; calls up Jack Hawkins to act as his personal lookout, instead of Long John Silver's; and remembers the friend who introduced him to Babar and Celeste, at whose elephant wedding he imagines Fred Astaire dancing with Celeste. As thoughts of Virginia Woolf, Malcolm Lowry, and many other authors drift through Harry's befogged consciousness, he also reveals more private information about his own life - his friends, his enemies, and his lovers. His dour and hurtful mother Alice, "the perpetual dampener of every prideful feeling, [with] her bottomless bucket of ice-cold water perpetually at hand," is a constant, upsetting presence.
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By D. J Penick on November 14, 2012
Format: Paperback
Harry Chapman is dying He's not quite sure, of course, and the nurses and doctors are reassuring. His deceased parents, vanished lovers, distant friends, and the literary characters he has loved come and go unbidden as his mind drifts. Some are helpful, some consoling, others importunate, and relentlessly unpleasant. These relationships with the vanished, the distant, the imaginary continue and evolve.

Paul Bailey unfolds this journey in a way that is effortless, comic, and deeply poignant; it is utterly unsentimental. CHAPMAN'S ODYSSEY is the work of a great artist. It's a marvel.
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By C. Ring on June 13, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Beautifully imagined account of the inner life of an extremely well educated man as he lies in hospital accepting with grace the ministrations of the hospital staff while communing with people from his past life--both literary and real.
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