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on July 17, 2011
Through the characters of Martin Blake and Sara Sexton, the novel explores the notion of consumption - as the creation of identity and meaning through possessions and conspicuous consumption; as the attrition of the consumer when the facade they create replaces their identity and demands ever greater effort to maintain; and, finally, the consumption and abuse of the goodwill of friends and family.

Martin is a brooding character who impacts Sara's life - a charismatic friend who is intrusive, demanding and destructive; one who retains an inexplicable attraction despite being a near psychopath. While the link between the two characters is attributed to shared experiences while they grew up in Hobart, I think it's also based on the excitement of being around someone who is outrageous and who seems to be part of the A list, someone around whom the world seems to turn. At least, till the demands become too random and the cracks become increasingly obvious.

GS Johnston displays a lovely command as he describes people, mood and places. As I read the book, I wanted to know 'what happens next?' I felt involved in Sara's life. While I wondered why she found it hard to sever the connection with Martin after she became involved with Andy, I sympathised with her resistance to the ultimatum she was given.

One element I found puzzling was the naming of the parts of the novel - Green; Gold; Platinum; Black; See Through; Green Back - the first five taking place two years apart starting from 1995, the last in 2008. I suspect the first four parts refer to the colours of Amex cards while the last two refer to disillusionment and new beginnings. I'd be interested to read the interpretation of others.

'Consumption' is an accomplished and evocative work. Recommended.
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on June 5, 2011
Wow. What a surprise! I just bought this because I liked the cover - I mean, how wrong can you go for 3 bucks? Such a great story and so well told. Intense. Martin Blake is like Hannibal Lecter in pink angora. And the writing is so beautiful. I felt like I arrived in Hong Kong in 1995 and then moved through all the ages of the book. I can't recommend this more highly.
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on June 23, 2011
I have read many books on my Kindle and I am always keeping an eye open for the more reasonably priced ones. This one is one of the best $3 book that I have found.
The characters are so well written you will feel like you know them. The actions moves between Hong Kong and Australia - places where I have not visited but the author seems to know very well.
The interaction between Sara and Martin becomes more and more toxic as the story moves forward. Sara is very likeable and Martin becomes more villainous as the story unfolds.
A bit of a surprise twist to the ending for me but very enjoyable and I felt like the story came to a logical close with an ending I could live with.
Thank you G S Johnson, I am hoping to read more books like this from you.
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on July 4, 2011
Why do we keep the friends we do even after changing drastically during our adulthood? Why do we buy and feel like we need the things we do?

These are the two major questions asked and answered during Consumption by G.S. Johnston and as always, it's not the answers that are important but the way the questions are answered. I was drawn into this book immediately with the expert description and the fully-rounded characters of Sara and Martin. I've never been to Hong Kong or Sydney, but I'd imagine that Johnston's description here is as spot on as it sounds.

I loved that all the characters in the book were realistically flawed. Martin cannot stop buying and lying, but he loves Sara and has a sympathetic past. Sara is kind, brash and gullible. Andy is nerdy, stubborn and caring. These character felt like real people, these places felt completely realized, and the story progressed forward to a logical conclusion.

I thought the ending may have been a little heavy-handed, but I enjoyed this book so much that I let it slide immediately. This novel was fantastic and gets my highest recommendation.
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on July 29, 2011
For all that Consumption is about our desperate consumer society, something Johnston displays with sparing and classy elan, for me Consumption will always be about the direction friendships can take. Of how toxic they become, how chained to the past a friendship can be and how liberating making the right choices is. The novel packs a huge emotional punch and is beautifully written. Highly recommended in a field that is as much romance as it is literary fiction.
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on August 14, 2011
I'm a picky reader, prone to shelving novels unfinished when they fail to be engaging. To be engaging, they need subtlety and complexity - if I can see everything coming or if too much is explained, I'd just as soon read a catalog. Good fiction is a collaboration between author and reader.

Fortunately, G.S. Johnston understands all that, and with "Consumption" he has given us an unusual subject, explored with grace and nuance. As many others have remarked, the settings are so well realized you feel like you've been there, but without being overloaded with sensory detail. The plot is low-key but all the more realistic for it, and there are significant moments of drama that keep the pace moving. The characters are fully fleshed human beings, with pasts and problems and flaws and strengths, and that's what's at the heart of this book: people. Sara and Martin are so essentially human and their relationship so believable that even when we find them frustrating, the empathy remains. Other reviews have covered the story and characters well, though, so I won't go into them here.

Instead I will say that the best thing about "Consumption" is that all the elements of the book serve the story by allowing the reader to invest a bit of themselves. The dialogue rings especially true in this sense, as people often talk somewhat obliquely to each other, leaving the other characters - and therefore the reader along with them - to interpret the real meaning. The book is pretty dialogue-heavy, in fact, but for me that was a big part of its appeal: the characters are left to speak for themselves without authorial intrusion, allowing readers to get to know them as we would real people.

It's an all-around impressive first novel and I look forward to many more from Mr. Johnston!
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on October 29, 2011
My review:

Consumption: A Novel is a book which will haunt you for long time after you finish reading it. It is that good! It was a very good and easy read, the language was very professional and the story itself very captivating. This book is about friendship, letting go and cutting the relationships. It's a sad and happy story in the same time. I would highly recommend this book to people who love serious novels. I said, it was easy to read, but you should be warned that the topics which the novel touches are complicated. It's a story about human behavior through friendship. Friendship which consumes everything and everybody you have. It's a must read!

Regarding the plot:

The story follows friendship between Sara Sexton and her childhood friend Martin Blake through decades. It starts with Sara visiting Martin where Sara realizes that Martin has changed into high-profile interior designer in Hong-Kong.

Their friendship changes, especially after Sara is meeting Andy. Martin gets more possessive over his friendship with Sara and Sara's life is suffering due to that.

The plot flows. There is not much action in the book, but it keeps you interested until the last page is turned. It shows the best and worst parts of friendship and how it can influence your life and your world.

Regarding the characters:

I felt for Sara and was sometimes really annoyed by the fact that she kept the friendship alive and did not want to let go of Martin. In the same time I felt sympathy for her. She was a strong woman with one specific weakness - her friendship with Martin. Martin was so complex until you found out what was wrong with him. He seemed empty as a person, but still very interesting as a character.

In my opinion there was a third main character as well - consumption. Be it consuming goods or people, the consumption played a huge role in this book.

Generally:

If you like contemporary novels, this book is a must read. It is painful, but brilliant book!

5 stars!
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on September 24, 2012
Sarah Sexton and Martin Blake have been friends since primary school. They are bound together not by blood or by attraction, but by a deep sense of understanding and acceptance of the other. However, as they begin their adult lives, Martin and Sarah take very different paths. Sarah's friends wonder what it is about Sarah and Martin. They have nothing in common. Eventually Sarah begins to wonder about her friendship with Martin as well. He's her oldest friend, but he can be toxic. People leave Sarah's life because of Martin. But Martin needs Sarah. How can she cut off her oldest friend?

This novel made me realize something I didn't think was possible - that is, I could love a story while despising one of the two main characters. However, as much as I didn't like Martin, I had a certain sympathy for him. I wanted to scream at Sarah for not setting boundaries, but I understood her reasons. Loving someone without conditions means not setting boundaries. But does love mean letting yourself be consumed by another?

This was a great read on so many levels. I was drawn in by the strong dialogue and the intricate web of relationships around Sarah and Martin. I also enjoyed the settings - Sydney, Australia and Hong Kong. I've never been to either of these places, but the author did a wonderful job of describing them and they felt familiar by the time I was halfway through the novel.

I'd read The Skin of Water by this same author and absolutely loved it. Consumption is very different in its topic, and yet contains the same wonderful writing and characterization as The Skin of Water. I highly recommend both novels.
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on November 15, 2011
I found the book both enjoyable and humorous with enough twists and turns to keep the plot interesting. I liked all of the characters and they became alive as I was reading. The two main characters Sara and Martin, both had flaws that kept the storyline moving. I felt that there was another important character "Consumption." The book was easy to read and deals with with the topic of friendship and how it can Consume life. I liked how the book took you to different locations throughout the world and the author was able to incorporate the locations into the storyline. If you like a serious novel than this is the book for you. The book was well written and I cannot wait to read the author's next novel when it is published.
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on September 9, 2012
The novel "Consumption", by G. S. Johnston just may consume you. The story is about Sara Sexton and Martin Blake, who have been friends since grade school where they bonded over the loss of their fathers. Through the years they've shared each others joys, sorrows and secrets.

When Sara breaks up with her lover and ends her year in Greece to return home to Australia, she stops in Hong Kong to see Martin and be consoled. Martin is a much sought after designer in Hong Kong, while Sara is now adrift with no set focus.

As the years go by she meets a new love, Andy. Once Martin realizes she is happy he works to make her miserable and break up her relationship. Eventually Sara must choose between the old and the new.

Johnston has really brought the characters to life. You can understand the dilemma Sara is in and how difficult it would be to break free. Martin is diabolical. Loving and sympathetic on the surface and manipulative and cunning beneath it all. The setting of Hong Kong is very vivid as well. I almost felt like I was there wandering the city.

A great read! It will linger with you after you've finished.

5 stars - Kate Farrell, The Kindle Book Review
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