Customer Reviews: by George: A Novel
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VINE VOICEon December 30, 2007
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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VINE VOICEon September 20, 2008
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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on November 13, 2011
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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on November 23, 2015
By George is somewhat engaging. It simply is not as good as it could be. Its "surprises" are not surprising. The characters are not well developed and lack depth. You can see what they do, but not who they are. I would have like the book to give me something to ponder. It did not.
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on April 4, 2014
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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on March 23, 2012
The advantage of this complex novel is its disadvantage and finally becomes its advantage. There are two narrators. A "George" who is the bullied grandson of a great ventriloquist, and "George," his ancestor's dummy.

There is a strange adolescent infatuation with speaking through another than draws us through episodes of English boarding school, entertaining the troops during World War II and finally revisiting each location of these to discover what was really going on.

Somehow the confusion of multiple perspectives clicks into place, and the explanations are not only reasonable, but thematically satisfying...and yet. Well I wanted a payoff more bizarre that the meticulous writing and unusual subject matter led me to expect. I didn't want explanations. I wanted magic.

In the Acknowledgments we find out that the author, singer-songwriter Wesley Stace (performs under the name, "John Wesley Harding"), actually had a grandfather, Clifford King, who was a ventriloquist with a dummy named "George." They performed for soldiers during the war. Is that man talking through the author now?

And, do we talk to ourselves through characters in a book? Sometimes worried they might go too far?

- John Lehman, Rosebud Book
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on October 27, 2007
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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on October 23, 2007
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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on June 1, 2009
Simply put, Wesley Stace is one of my favorite contemporary authors. If you love to read, please please PLEASE read By George or Stace's first book (another complete pleasure) Misfortune.

In By George, Stace's beautiful writing and language, captivating characters, emotional and intellectual depth, and constantly intriguing plot provide utter joy, leaving readers like me wishing for more. I will skip an explanation of the plot to leave the satisfaction to you in the hopes that you will read this amazing novel.

And Wesley Stace, please keep writing!! I'm already waiting in anticipation for your next book!
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on July 19, 2010
Other reviewers have done a wonderful job of explaining the structure and plot, but I wanted to briefly add my praise. This is a very British novel to my American eye, interesting in its historical details, and fascinating in its description of the show biz life, vent figures, and even a bit on foley work for the movies later on in the novel. I found the characters three-dimensional and fascinating. Lots of engaging pathos here. I'm catching up on reviewing today, and while some of the books I read six months ago, I remember exactly nothing about, the world of this book is still vivid in my mind. Read it!
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