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In a Strange Room Paperback – October 13, 2010

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Europa Editions; 1 edition (October 13, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1609450116
  • ISBN-13: 978-1609450113
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 0.7 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (37 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #526,997 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. There's a lot of travel in Booker Prize finalist Galgut's (The Good Doctor) new novel, but he's more interested in depicting the randomness, heightened sensitivity, dread, and possibility that come from unfamiliar places than in seeing the sights. A South African man travels in Greece, Lesotho, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Tanzania, and India, forming the complicated, tenuous relationships that provide the book's three sections titles (Follower; Lover; Guardian). This character, who bears the author's name and seems to share his history, is both "he" and "I." Though these shifts can occur in the space of a sentence, they're surprisingly easy to accept, and attentive readers will get a subtle, frank depiction of some of the problems of writing; "he" seems to be Galgut, but often experiences himself as divided, uncertain, and blurry as a fictional character evading his creator, "I" often steps in to remind us of the limits of memory and the artificiality of genre distinctions. At its best Galgut's tale has the feel of arriving in a destination you'd never planned to go. It's not always pleasant, but it's strangely fascinating.


"This is a wise and brilliant book." --Times
"A beautiful book, strikingly conceived and hauntingly written, a writer''s novel par excellence without a clumsy word in it." --The Guardian
"Galgut''s powerful writing is honest and insightful, polished as it is to a marble-like perfection." --The Globe and Mail

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Customer Reviews

Galgut's writing style was very interesting.
Larry Hoffer
We read this book in our book club and there were a few who really liked it, a few who were neutral, and one member of the club who didn't like it at all.
C. B Collins Jr.
In fact I found myself enjoying this novel more and more as I allowed myself to "go with the flow."
C. E. Selby

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

48 of 52 people found the following review helpful By Carrie Dunham-LaGree on July 30, 2010
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
In a Strange Room is a curious book to describe. It could well be described as both a novel or three stories/novellas. The narrator is the same throughout the stories, and they're heavily connected through theme. None of the other characters or events transcend their sections, but it still felt like a novel to me. Regardless of its structural semantics, it's ultimately the tale of a South African man who travels the world (Africa, Europe and India) forming bonds with his fellow wanderers.

Galgut's writing captured me from the beginning of this novel. When he writes dialogue, he doesn't use quotation marks. Instead, he adds a blank line in between each speaker. He doesn't use question marks either, which brings a poignancy and nuance to many of the conversational statements that can work as both questions and statements. Using quotation marks and question marks yields fewer meanings, but Galgut avoids them and creates a concise prose with the beautiful vagueness of poetry. He often uses commas to string together multiple sentences. His commandeering of punctuation was as mesmerizing as the musings of his characters:
"Myth always has some fact in it. And what is the face here. I don't know, this place exists, for a long time people thoughts it didn't, that's a fact to start with."

Galgut seems to play with the reader too. The narrator jumps between first-person and third-person and offers glimpses of the future. Initially, I couldn't tell if the narrator was the main character. Galgut revealed it by jumping between first and third-person narrative within the same sentence, a trick he used several times. This switching alters the story in its own way as well. The reader and the narrator feel closer to the story at some times than others.
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20 of 20 people found the following review helpful By a reader on September 5, 2010
Format: Hardcover
You will know whether you like this book or not within about 5 pages. I read it because it's on the Man Booker longlist, and I'm glad I persevered, though it is way outside my comfort zone. It's a stripped-down narrative told in first- and third-person (and sometimes even second), often within the same sentence: "he" becomes "I" and can occasionally even be the all-encompassing "you." And this main character is named Damon, like the author.

If you can get past that, it actually pays off. We follow Damon, a South African from Capetown, through 3 widely-spaced journeys -- Greece, Africa, and India -- and get the impression that the time between these journeys is also spent traveling, continuously pulling up stakes, putting things in storage, bunking with friends, etc. You just have to put aside thoughts of how this man manages to make a living (trust fund?), what inspired him to travel in the first place, whether or not he's ever had a romantic relationship, and how he manages to have friends everywhere despite demonstrating real problems making human connections. In fact, this last issue you can't put aside. It's probably the heart of the entire novel, though I notice that other reviewers have focused on other issues.

In the first of the 3 sections, he becomes the traveling companion of a ghastly German named Reiner. There are vague sexual overtones to initiate the relationship, but these quickly give way to Reiner's competitive and controlling nature, which eventually drive the narrator to part company with him on a remote mountain in Africa.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By M. Feldman VINE VOICE on August 29, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
"In a Strange Room," by the South African writer Damon Galgut, appears on this year's (2010) Man Booker long list and is a very interesting novel--actually three novellas, each chronicling a journey and each also chronicling a failed human relationship. The narrator, who leaves his home in Capetown to wander from place to place for reasons he can scarcely articulate, usually speaks in the third person, but at times the novel shifts to first person as he moves out of each story to reflect on its meaning. Has experience made the first person speaker wiser or happier? It is impossible to say.

Each story is quite different. The first, set in Greece and Lesotho, involves the narrator's attraction to a self-contained German man who is seemingly able to live happily without forming deep ties with others. The second, set in Africa and in Europe, is about a longing between the narrator and another man, neither of whom can articulate his feelings. The third, set mostly in India, examines the relationship between the narrator and a female friend whose mental illness reconfigures their relationship.

The narration in this novel is spare; there is just enough detail to establish a setting. Galgut also uses only a comma (instead of a semi-colon) to link together related clauses, and the effect is almost like a stutter. It helps to establish the traveler's inability to articulate his deepest feelings and thoughts to others; he is able only to commit them to paper and ink. With the reader (also a kind of traveler), the narrator establishes the sympathy and connection that he cannot find in his travels in life.
M. Feldman
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