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Five Bells: A Novel [Kindle Edition]

Gail Jones
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $18.00
Kindle Price: $7.59
You Save: $10.41 (58%)
Sold by: Macmillan


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Book Description

A Picador Paperback Original

On a radiant day in Sydney, four adults converge on Circular Quay, site of the iconic Opera House and the Sydney Harbor Bridge. Crowds of tourists mix with the locals, enjoying the glorious surroundings and the play of light on water.

But just as Circular Quay resonates with Australia’s past, each of the four carries a complicated history from elsewhere. Each person is haunted by past secrets and guilt. Ellie is preoccupied by her sexual experiences as a girl, James by a tragedy for which he feels responsible, Catherine by the loss of her beloved brother in Dublin, and Pei Xing by her imprisonment during China’s Cultural Revolution.

Told over the course of a single Saturday, Five Bells describes four lives that come to share not only a place and a time but also mysterious patterns and ambiguous symbols, including a barely glimpsed fifth figure, a young child. By nightfall, when Sydney is drenched in a summer rainstorm, each life will have been transformed by the events of this day.

Editorial Reviews


"Thoughtful, intelligent and intensely lyrical, Five Bells is likely to consolidate an already considerable literary reputation" Guardian "A story peopled by achingly real characters, memorably related in delicate, ornate prose, and throbbing with loss" Independent on Sunday "Jones's writing has the intensity of a dream, and the pattern she makes of the characters' lives is beautiful, managing to combine tension with lyricism" The Times "An intense, poetic tale" Financial Times "A novel that reaches beyond the glittering surface of Sydney to capture the rippling patterns of a wider human history with singular beauty and power" Canberra Times

About the Author

GAIL JONES teaches literature, cinema and cultural studies at the University of Western Australia. She is the author of Sixty Lights which was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize, Dreams of Speaking and Sorry, both of which were longlisted for the Orange Prize.

Product Details

  • File Size: 316 KB
  • Print Length: 222 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1250003733
  • Publisher: Picador; Reprint edition (February 28, 2012)
  • Sold by: Macmillan
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B007FU84RO
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #809,380 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Lives intersect at the Sydney Opera House March 12, 2012
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Five Bells is the story of four separate lives that come together one Saturday near the Sydney Opera House. Pei Xing is a survivor of China's Cultural Revolution. After her imprisonment, she relocated to Australia. Catherine is haunted by the death of her brother in Dublin. Ellie and James knew each other long ago and are meeting to discuss something James needs to share. The four main characters have sorrow, guilt and secrets from their pasts. The events of this particular Saturday change them all in some way.

Although the present tale takes place in just one day, the author gives us glimpses of each character's life and shows what brings them to Circular Quay this day. While the stories are interesting and the language of the novel is beautifully written, the character development is somewhat lacking. It is tough to fully delve into so many main characters. I fell like this book should have been twice as long to give each character his or her proper due. I liked the characters and I wanted them all to find peace and joy, but it would have been more satisfying to just have more of the past, more of their feelings, more of a look at their futures. Overall, I enjoyed the book, it just felt a little bit empty and unresolved when I finished it.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Presumably you've already read the product description on this page if you've made it to the reviews, so you know the gist of this book: Four people all happen to find themselves at Sydney's Circular Quay on a Saturday afternoon in the summer (January--Australia, remember). As each goes about their business they find themselves awash in memories of the past, triggered by stimuli that make sense only to them in the context of a very private symbolism.

Certainly I've had days like that from time to time, and every so often I find myself looking at the strangers I pass on a given day--or those I run into regularly, but don't really know, like barristas at a favorite cafe or something like that--and wondering what story each of them carries around in their heads, invisible to those who are passing by but, perhaps, very profound and poignant in its own way.

What this book sort of made me realize is just how hard it is to get a feel for what makes someone else tick. Peek into someone else's mind, as we do for these characters, and we see a lot of stream of consciousness, one thing reminding that person of another in ways that don't make sense to someone who wasn't there when the initial memories were forged, nonsequential recollections of different incidents that allow us to see only the dimmest outline of the subject's identity.

And that, I'm afraid, is how I related to the characters for much of the book. Eventually I figured out what made three of the four tick, but not until they were placed in situations where they had to explain themselves to someone else, at least internally.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "How we cherish those who give us our dreams." February 29, 2012
In lush and often lyrical language, Australian author Gail Jones creates a consummately literary novel which takes place on Circular Quay, surrounding the Opera House, during one hot summer day in Sydney. Four major characters are dealing with personal losses and memories of the past which make it difficult, if not impossible, for them to participate fully in the present. Deaths haunt them all, and as they gravitate individually towards the Opera House, they relive events from their lives. Time is relative as the novel moves forward and then swirls backward during each character's reminiscences. Only two characters know each other. The other characters lead independent lives, and any connection among them will be just a glancing blow, a random event - one of the minor acts of fate. A mysterious fifth character, who materializes without warning in the conclusion, serves as a catalyst to bring the novel to its thematic conclusion.

Ellie, the first of the characters, is a small town girl who has lived in the countryside for all of her thirty-four years. She has come into the city to reconnect with James DeMello, the love of her life, who has contacted her recently after a twenty year hiatus. James DeMello, who became her lover when they were both fourteen, will be meeting her later that day. James abandoned his medical school studies after just one year, and he secretly dreams of the artistic life. A terrible accident for which he blames himself has made his grip on reality precarious. Catherine Healy, from Ireland, has come to Sydney from Paris to find work as a journalist, leaving her lover Luc behind in Paris. She has still not recovered from the death of her brother several years ago.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
The cover for this book and the blurbs made me expect something along the lines of Maeve Binchy--pleasant, interlocking stories of real people with slightly heightened concerns. I guess that's what this is--although it is more like three short stories with only a very tangential connection between two and only a circumstantial one with the other. First off, I should have read the blurb more carefully, because it took me a while to figure out what the Circular Quay was. Then, I needed to read when I was alert and not kind of snoozy, because there is a lot of lit'r'y verbiage relative to plot to go through. The stories are not overly gripping and the switching about doesn't help keep track of the threads. I would have preferred to read each narrative as a separate short story, since the interlocking aspects are so trivial.

The writing is lush, and rife with literary references--the sort of book you'd love to read if you had to write a paper on it. Unfortunately, I read more for diversion these days, and the stories were okay. I really don't get what the Five Bells is about, even after reading the epigraphic poetry excerpt at the front. I felt that a lot went over my head (I do have an honors degree in English lit), and that some footnotes would have been helpful.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars VERY GOOD, but 5* for writing.....3* for execution/character...
This book was an unusual experience for me to read through, and so ends up with a "split" rating, that averages out to a 4 Star overall total. Read more
Published 16 months ago by Gregory E. Foster
1.0 out of 5 stars Terrible!
Worst book I've read. Totally boring. If I could have given it 0 stars, I would have. Will be discussing it at our book club meeting this week.
Published 18 months ago by Shelly Patterson
4.0 out of 5 stars Tangential
Where have you gone? The tide is over you,
The turn of midnight water's over you,
As Time is over you, and mystery,
And memory, the flood that does not flow. Read more
Published 20 months ago by Roger Brunyate
4.0 out of 5 stars Five Bells
An engaging novel with true to life characters. The author creates a vivid scene of one day at the Circular Que in Sidney.
Published 21 months ago by joann Anthony
4.0 out of 5 stars Literary endeavor nearly succeeds
The story of one particular January Saturday in Sidney, Australia's Circular Quay as experienced by four individuals, Five Bells: A Novel by Gail Jones offers structurally sound... Read more
Published 22 months ago by zhabazon
3.0 out of 5 stars Great book but runs out of steam in the end
I loved this book, the characters and the parallel story lines. I was waiting that the interwoven storylines will connect somehow. Read more
Published 23 months ago by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars Inner Music
Reminiscent of Virginia Woolf's MRS.DALLOWAY and evoking Joyce's story, "The Dead", Gail Jones's stunningly beautiful literary novel follows four characters as they move about near... Read more
Published on August 18, 2012 by Canadian Reader
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding!
Ok I must say I have no clue about what went on in this book. At first I had a hard time getting into it, and I picked up and put it down several times. Read more
Published on June 12, 2012 by Tonya Speelman
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Lives Scarcely Touching
The back cover would do readers more favors if it didn't give the impression (well, to me at least) that _Five Bells_ is a cohesive story in which four strangers come together to... Read more
Published on June 11, 2012 by Amanda M. Hayes
5.0 out of 5 stars Nothing better
Yeah , I'm old fashioned. Don't own a cell phone , Ipad or portable computer. Kindle and Nook aren't for me. Read more
Published on May 18, 2012 by Jim Z
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