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Five Bells: A Novel Paperback – Deckle Edge, February 28, 2012


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Editorial Reviews

Review

"Over the past decade Gail Jones has established herself as a significant presence in contemporary Australian fiction. Thoughtful, intelligent, and intensely lyrical…a novel of unmistakable contemporary relevance."---The Guardian (London)

"An intense…poetic tale."---Financial Times (London)

"Five Bells is a brilliant work, both explicitly Australian and insistently cosmopolitan…[and] establishes Gail Jones as one of Australia’s finest authors.…In the midst of pandemonium, traffic, and tourist hordes gazing at icons, Jones gives us individuals who are achingly alive, filled with apprehensions of beauty, love, and mortality."---The Australian

"Jones’s writing has the intensity of a dream…combining tension with lyricism."---The Times (London)

"A story peopled by real characters, memorably related in delicate, ornate prose."---The Independent (London)

"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."---The Canberra Times (Australia)

About the Author

Gail Jones is the author of the novels Black Mirror, Sixty Lights, Dreams of Speaking, and Sorry. She has been nominated for numerous international awards, including the Man Booker Prize, the Orange Prize, the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, and the Prix Femina Étranger. She is a professor of writing at the University of Western Sydney.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Picador; Reprint edition (February 28, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1250003733
  • ISBN-13: 978-1250003737
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.5 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,193,919 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By John Jorgensen VINE VOICE on March 7, 2012
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 By Mary Whipple HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on February 29, 2012
Format: Paperback
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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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Jaddo Mueller on 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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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By TSSmith on February 25, 2012
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
On a sun-lit Saturday morning, four individuals find themselves passing through Sydney Australia's Circular Quay, site of the world-renowned Opera House. Who are these individuals and what are their backstories? What brings them to this colorful part of Australia teeming with people from all walks of life as well as different parts of the world, and would their paths cross?

The four individuals are named Ellie, James, Pei Xing, and Catherine. They have all come to Sydney from elsewhere; two of them are now residents, the other two, just visitors. Each of them has a past that still haunts or affects them deeply.

We get incremental glimpses into their past in each chapter. We first learn where they were born, what their childhoods were like, and what took their lives off-course. Along the way, we learn about Pei Xing's unjust and cruel imprisonment in China during the Cultural Revolution, how she made it to Australia, and the connection between her imprisonment experience and her now regular visits with a certain person in Sydney that brings her to the ferries at Circular Quay every Saturday morning. We find out why Catherine has a special place in her heart for her favorite sibling and only brother Brendan, and how she's coping with his sudden death. Finally, we discover the connection between Ellie and James, why James is desperately seeking a meeting with Ellie, and who's the little girl that James needs to talk to Ellie about.

I thought the novel was written beautifully. In my opinion, however, the author did not flesh out the four characters to an equal extent, devoting more time and space to the Pei Xing character than the remaining three characters. Consequently, I felt like I knew Pei Xing better than the others.
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