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by George: A Novel Paperback – August 25, 2008


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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Singer-songwriter John Wesley Harding, writing under his given name Wesley Stace (Misfortune), crafts a British performing family's saga filled with wit, warmth and imagination. George Fisher is 11 years old in 1973 when his mother, Frankie, enjoying a successful run as Peter Pan, delivers him to Upside Boarding School. George misses his family, particularly his 93-year-old great-grandmother Evangeline, who for many years performed as a ventriloquist—as did her son, Joe. Under the watchful eye of the headmaster, George learns to escape student responsibilities by cheating, throwing his voice and befriending the groundskeeper, who gives him ventriloquism how-to books. George's school-days narrative alternates with another memoiristic voice from 1930, that of Joe's dummy, also called George. While George the schoolboy leaves Upside, eventually finding work in the family business, George the dummy accompanies Joe on the road to entertain troops during WWII. In different eras, boy and dummy each finds his own voice, plus some understanding of a world full of trickery and illusion. Family secrets revealed are not much of a surprise, but Stace amasses enough gently ironic humor (including sly references to Harry Potter and David Copperfield), emotion and insight to carry his voices beautifully. (Aug.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* This second novel by the author of Misfortune (2005) wends its way through a labyrinth of familial idiosyncrasies, grudges, and conundrums. As John Wesley Harding, Stace writes lyrics and performs music, and his folksy style infuses an air of warmth and humor to what is essentially the story of a controlling woman who nearly ruins her entire family. The multilinear and multigenerational tale begins with the last days of an elderly vaudeville ventriloquist, Echo Ender, whose onstage success with her dummy, Naughty Narcissus, ensures entry into the entertainment world for future generations of her family. First comes Echo's son, Joe, also a ventriloquist, who has a dummy named George; he's followed by his flamboyant daughter, Frankie, an actress; and then by her withdrawn son, also named George, who develops his own talent for throwing his voice at boarding school. The two Georges—one a boy, the other a dummy—are the joint narrators in this saga of the backstage failures behind one family's onstage success. The two Georges' stories eventually merge in a surprising conclusion to a novel that most readers will hate to see end. Characters spring to life in the words of the sardonic dummy, whose pointed comments about his wacky family make the book a hoot to read and beg the question, Who's in control, the puppet or the puppet master? Book groups will enjoy sorting out this one! Baker, Jennifer --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Back Bay Books; Reprint edition (August 25, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9780316018685
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316018685
  • ASIN: 0316018686
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,425,916 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

I found the characters three-dimensional and fascinating.
Zora C.
Stace's writing is both literary and contemporary, and his characters are both novel and fascinating.
Buzz
No reader will quickly scan this book--nor would one want to!
Sally

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Rick Mitchell VINE VOICE on December 30, 2007
Format: Hardcover
This is a family history told by two Georges - one a ventriloquist's dummy named George and the other by a boy (who grows into a teen) named George after the dummy.

The family is in entertainment, starting with the matriarchical great grandmother, Echo, down through her son, his wife, grandaughter and then the now-living George. The wooden George belonged to the son who died in WWII, entertaining the troops with his ventriloquism until his death. He narrates part of the story. As strange as this seems, it is fitting and does not go over the top (he even makes a snide reference to the dummy in Goldman's book of the '70's which is very funny).

The story line follows the family, including George-the-living, through its history. Every generation has its conflicts, ghosts and skeletons in the closet. Therefore there is some tension from the outset. However, the tension builds and builds as the family's revelations come to light. Everyone older than George, including George the dummy, has secrets they reveal. The final secrets are brought out of the closet by the living George.

This is a terrific story following several generations in the entertainment business in England; starting in vaudeville, going through entertaining troops in WWII and all the way into television. The telling is sprinkled with humor. There is something reminiscent of "Water for Elephants" in that it is most of all a very good story in interesting settings. The revelations in every generation are startling, yet believable. The characters, including the supporting cast, are all interesting and have depth. The writing is very good as well. Highly recommended for a very good and entertaining family saga.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Cheryl Koch VINE VOICE on September 20, 2008
Format: Paperback
What do you do when you discover that there's someone else out there with the same name as you? In this charming story about two Georges, you will find out. First there is George, a ventriloquist dummy and than there is George an eleven-year old boy. This story is really told and narrated by George, the puppet as told by his memoirs that he experienced as a dummy and all the travels and people he meets along the way.

I thought it was refreshing as well as unique to see everything through a ventriloquist dummy's point of view. The situations George, the dummy had to deal with were pretty amusing. As much as I liked gaining a different prospective I did have some trouble staying focused all the way through this book. There were some dry spots. Even with this being a factor I would still read another book by Mr. Stace. I definitely thought that Mr. Stace brought a lot of creativity to By George.
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By kareng on April 4, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition
This novel is unique in the balance between the dummy "boy" and the young son also named George. It held my interest as I followed the strong-willed women and the effect that they had on the development of all those involved. I will definitely look into reading other novels by this author as he was able to connect with me and cause me to reflect on a number of issues which is important in my choice of reading material.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Buzz on November 13, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Wesley Stace is a very good author who deserves to be better known. I was so impressed with his latest novel, "Charles Jessold, Considered as a Murderer," that I rushed to read his previous book, "by George." While not as good as "Jessold," Stace's characteristic plot creativity and meticulous research, lead to a very interesting story of four generations of English ventriloquists, who comprise as mixed-up a family you'll find anywhere, but who are strangely affecting. The book covers English theatrical history from the music hall, the variety show, Vaudeville, and into the TV era. The heart of the story is the role that the dummy George plays in the life of the real life George, a teenager, and his grandfather, both ventriloquists. Stace's writing is both literary and contemporary, and his characters are both novel and fascinating. Having now read, in reverse order, two of Stace's three novels to date, I will turn next to his debut novel "Misfortune."
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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Kimberly Chisholm on October 27, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Reading by George was like eating candy. In the very best of ways. The pace is fast, the characters are real, the writing is both dickensian and contemporary. It's about vaudeville, a topic that didn't interest me but that Stace developed so well, I found myself looking forward to each foray into his fictional vaudevillian world. One thing by George did was to make me want to race back and re-read Stace's debut novel, Misfortune. Both books have a redeeming warmth and a sophistication that's remarkable in contemporary fiction. Check them out. They're both really good. Stace is really good.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By James Curtis Smith on October 23, 2007
Format: Hardcover
I recently finished "by George", the latest novel by Wesley Stace. I can't recommend it highly enough.

Stace creates amazing characters and places them in stories filled with laughs, surprises and more than their fair share of heartbreak. His knack for storytelling had me reading well past my normal bed time every night until I finished. It is one of those books that you just don't want to put down.

You may know Stace by his recorded musical works under the stage name John Wesley Harding. I confess I tried his first novel based on my admiration for his songwriting. It stood to reason that such an intelligent songwriter would have at least one great novel in them. "Misfortune" certainly was a great book. "by George" demonstrates Stace had at least two great novels in his head.

I am anxiously awaiting his next.
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