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30 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars No escaping the past
Like his first novel, "The Impressionist", Hari Kunzru's latest is about the nature of identity and re-invention of self. In "My Revolutions", former 60's radical Michael Frame is living a quiet suburban life as a bookseller with his wife Miranda, who runs a cosmetics company that boasts of its "natural botanicals" while factory-producing them. He's kept his past a secret...
Published on January 24, 2008 by NoGoodDeed

versus
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Well-Researched Story, Characters are a thin stew, however.
I read this book b/c Junot Diaz recommended it for its sizzling prose. In some ways I agree with him, but mainly I don't. For sure, the highly imaginative story Kunzru's come up with allows Chris, his main character, to riff on the perversity of the post-WWII class system from a unique perspective and it's done very well. And the plot's well done. The idealistic...
Published on May 29, 2008 by Pen name


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30 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars No escaping the past, January 24, 2008
This review is from: My Revolutions (Hardcover)
Like his first novel, "The Impressionist", Hari Kunzru's latest is about the nature of identity and re-invention of self. In "My Revolutions", former 60's radical Michael Frame is living a quiet suburban life as a bookseller with his wife Miranda, who runs a cosmetics company that boasts of its "natural botanicals" while factory-producing them. He's kept his past a secret from his wife and step daughter: that of a zealous anti-Vietnam War protester named Chris Carver who blew up buildings as part of a leftist group that included his occasional lover Anna Addison. Now (in 1998), while on a French holiday, Michael glimpses someone who may be Anna, who he thought had been killed years before in a terrorist act. Shortly thereafter another old acquaintance from his revolutionary days, Miles Bridgeman, tracks Michael down and begins blackmailing him, threatening to expose Michael's former identity. With one foot in a past that is about to pounce on him, Michael struggles to re-connect with Anna and stay one step ahead of Miles. Michael's youthful experiences, in which he is first drawn into the counterculture, are vividly rendered, and his present-day travails and staid family life illustrate the difficulty in retaining some sense of idealism while leading a peaceful modern existence. A relatively short book with no shortage of thought-provoking ideas, and better yet, characters that, with all their contradictions and hypocrisy, are real and engaging.

Also recommended: A Stranger Lies There - a superior desert-noir about a former 60's radical who's never forgiven himself for his part in a violent anti-Vietnam War action that left three dead. His past catches up with him one morning in the form of an unidentified corpse on his front lawn. "A STRANGER LIES THERE" won the Malice Domestic Award for best first mystery, and earned "two thumbs way up" from the other major online bookseller's Editorial Review. It explores some of the same themes as "My Revolutions" does, within the framework of an engrossing mystery.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars You can't escape your past, March 21, 2008
This review is from: My Revolutions (Hardcover)
I was quite enthralled with this book, mostly since it really appears that Hari Kunzru has done his homework. He really paints a vibrant picture of the era of a sixties revolutionary hell bent on change. You can picture every row house brick in the burroughs, and the cramped in meetings of the characters he picks up along the way.

The best success is the feelings he gives to the reader in wanting to know what really makes these activists in his story tick, they really are off the deep end in politicizing even the most single trivial decisions. Kunzru also manages to stay away from stupid plot devices and from the nicely wrapped up ending. You really get a sense of wanting to know what happens next, and never feel cheated in the end.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "Hand out the arms and ammo, March 22, 2008
By 
Leonard Fleisig "Len" (Virginia Beach, Virginia) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: My Revolutions (Hardcover)
We're going to blast our way through here
We've got to get together sooner or later
Because the revolution's here, and you know its right." Thunderclap Newman

For many the revolution of the 60s (such as it was) was played out in song. Whether the Beatles, the Who, or Thunderclap Newman, there was a lot of talk, a lot of song, and plenty of demos and marches. But for the most part talk about revolution was just talk. There were some notable exceptions. Paris, Mexico and the Prague Spring in 1968 were a few. In the U.S. some elements of the anti-war movement, most notably the Weather Underground morphed into violence. The U.K. had the "Angry Brigade" and it is that group that provides the historical background for Hari Kunzru's new work, "My Revolutions".

"My Revolutions" takes us back to a time when something was in the air, but makes the reader question what that something actually was. Kunzru takes us down this path with one Mike Frame, a man approaching 50, leading a quiet, comfortable suburban life with his partner of 16-years, Miranda. We soon discover that Mike Frame is not at all what he seems to be. Rather, his real name is Chris Carver, a radical in the 60s who went underground after a series of robberies and bombings at the height of the anti-war movement in the UK. After a vacation on the continent Frame's life begins to unravel. He spots a woman there who appears to be one of his old comrades in arms. He is then approached by a second old comrade, one who seeks to blackmail Frame/Carver into revealing that yet another comrade, now a highly placed government official, was once part of the violent fringe of the anti-war movement in the UK. The novel alternates between the unraveling of Frame's life and the back story of Carver's. Kunzru does an excellent job in keeping the narrative going while jumping between Carver's story and that of his alter ego, Frame. Each story is laid out in such a way that the book's climax arrives just when the old and new identities are fully revealed to the reader.

Kunzru, who is too young to have lived through this time, gets the details perfectly. His description of the social and political life at University during that time was spot on. (Carver was at the London School of Economics at around the same time I was in Manchester.) The endlessly morphing student political groups, each a variant of the other, each claiming to the true interpreter of the genius of Marx and Lenin (International Marxist Group, International Socialists, the old-line CP, etc.) and each peopled by earnest students eager to change the world. The dead seriousness was matched by the same sort of endless conversations, the self-critical examinations and random anger set out perfectly by Kunzru. So to were Carver's recollections of random couplings as a political act, as a way of distancing oneself from the mores of the bourgeoisie. The book is filled with little snippets that really capture the time and Kunzru had me nodding nostalgically (if ruefully) time and time again.

At the same time, though, this spot-on accuracy did have one unintended side effect. Kunzru not only got the atmospherics right, he got the personalities right. As much as the characters made me wax nostalgic for the days of free love it also reminded of just how utterly self-important and devoid of humor this all was. The International Marxist Group and all its various and sundry splinters would never be confused with International Groucho Marxists. Consequently, Frame/Carver and his contemporaries are not exactly the sort of people a reader is likely to feel any great deal of empathy for. While Kunzru treats his characters' underlying idealism with no little bit of respect the sheer utter futility of their efforts marks them come across as little more than amateur, middle-class nihilists earnestly trying to make the world a better place by convincing themselves that destruction is a prerequisite to building a just society. That is not to criticize the book or the story in any way, I very much enjoyed the characters for the flawed, once-well-intended beings they were in their callow youth. But a reader who needs to feel some sort of emotional investment in a fictional character may be disappointed. I don't think that is an essential prerequisite for a successful novel but different readers may not feel that way.

"My Revolutions" is a worthy successor to Kunzru's earlier book, Transmission. It also made a nice companion book to His Illegal Self

Recommended. L Fleisig
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Free All People All Free, September 8, 2009
By 
Luc REYNAERT (Beernem, Belgium) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Within the international context of the Vietnam War, the British intervention in Northern Ireland and May 68 in France, a group of angry young leftist revolutionaries rebels against the Political, Social and Moral Establishments for a better world.
They are impatient and frustrated that nearly nothing in the world changes and believe that through small actions (bombings, demonstrations, squatting) revolution is possible. `You can't hate the world's imperfections so absolutely without getting drawn towards death.'
They have a vision that `after the revolution there will be enough for all.'
But they make the cardinal sin of forgetting that in the real world the working class is organized (unions).

As always with leftists movements the members are all the time split by sectarian ideological rifts. On the (a)moral front, their life in a commune turns into a combat of roosters. As the Italian communist theorist Antonio Gramsci also believed, `a revolutionary transformation of society would require a transformation of social life', of man himself.

The main character in this book finally understands that his movement is doomed, that he (it) is powerless. But, his revolutionary past continues to haunt him. He becomes a pawn in an attempt to demolish the political career of a potential British PM.

Mixing brilliantly past and present, Hari Kunzru's novel, written like a thriller, gives a profound and thorough assessment of political action outside the real organized world.
Not to be missed.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Well-Researched Story, Characters are a thin stew, however., May 29, 2008
By 
This review is from: My Revolutions (Hardcover)
I read this book b/c Junot Diaz recommended it for its sizzling prose. In some ways I agree with him, but mainly I don't. For sure, the highly imaginative story Kunzru's come up with allows Chris, his main character, to riff on the perversity of the post-WWII class system from a unique perspective and it's done very well. And the plot's well done. The idealistic antiwar group Chris joins as a young man seeking an end to war becomes too radical, forcing a choice between staying on with the group to its inevitable demise or leaving them (and his identity) behind. Thirty years later, hiding under an assumed name amongst British nouveau riche, events force Chris to revisit the past he's been suppressing. This was very cool and new stuff. The story's believable for its excellent research on the times and the different counter-culture groups in Britain.

However, for all of that attention to the times, Kunzru doesn't breathe life into the characters. But for Chris (and to a far lesser extent, Anna), most of the characters we meet are rather flat "types" who serve some narrative function behind a thin layer of description. Fair enough since this is Chris' story, but Kunzru falls short of the mark with his treatment of Chris, too.

I understand that Chris has had to suppress his revolutionary past and, thus, his emotions. So the reader can expect the studied calmness of Chris's narrative voice as he recollects his past. But even when the story takes us through events occurring when Chris was a young revolutionary, completely immersed in the wildness of the times, Kunzru also keeps him too far removed from the reader. As a revolutionary, Chris is rough-and-ready, has deep political beliefs which he acts upon, and is as passionate for Anna as anything else in his life. So why not tell his story with the same verve that he felt at the time? Instead, the story comes from too chilly a remove to connect with. Chris's dilemmas and passions weren't told closely enough for me to feel them through the character. In fact, Kunzru frequently chronicles Chris's downfalls through ragged physical descriptions of him in lieu of telling us what's happening in his head.

Kunzru blocks large parts of Chris's internal struggles away from view. This is evident in the telling of Chris's love for Anna. It's as though Kunzru was writing and simultaneously checking off a list from an MFA seminar on How to Show a Character in Love: Describe beautiful object of desire, check; relate the hero's hyperactive respiratory and/or circulatory system upon sight of said object of desire, e.g., "I felt a deep thumping in my chest," check; describe a tiny physical detail only someone truly in love would notice (hair tightly pulled back in a bun), check; and make her unavailable to the hero, check. Kunzru sometimes relies too much on the reader to buy into well-settled narrative formulas.

I really wanted to like My Revolutions more. The premise of the story is wonderful. But the book failed to deliver the goods of a really good novel. I liked it enough. And I may read Kunzru's next book, but I probably won't recommend My Revolutions to a wide audience of friends.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of My Favorites, July 10, 2011
By 
J. Smallridge (Kansas City, MO USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: My Revolutions (Hardcover)
"My Revolutions," like all good books, stuck with me long after I finished it. The story revolves around a former radical in 1960s London who settles into a life of middle-class regularity by the time the 2000s roll around. The book unfolds like a mystery, but is much more than merely a page-turner because it explores loss, gain, and the retrospective ways in which humans understand their pasts. I enjoyed how Hari Kunzru weaves philosophy and political belief into a story about a man attracted to certain views only to become deeply impacted by them as a youth and then, surprisingly, as an adult. The book felt fresh to me even though it told a tale familiar to anyone with radically-inclined, Baby Boomer parents. Kunzru's writing is a big reason for such freshness and his work is to be commended.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful, sad and very funny, August 2, 2010
By 
Book Babe (St. Louis, MO USA) - See all my reviews
This is a beautifully imagined story of the later years of a sixties radical -- the price he paid for his activism and his youthful passions. It's so well done, it's hard to imagine that Kunru wasn't there!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "Hand out the arms and ammo, April 26, 2009
By 
Leonard Fleisig "Len" (Virginia Beach, Virginia) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
We're going to blast our way through here
We've got to get together sooner or later
Because the revolution's here, and you know its right." Thunderclap Newman

For many the revolution of the 60s (such as it was) was played out in song. Whether the Beatles, the Who, or Thunderclap Newman, there was a lot of talk, a lot of song, and plenty of demos and marches. But for the most part talk about revolution was just talk. There were some notable exceptions. Paris, Mexico and the Prague Spring in 1968 were a few. In the U.S. some elements of the anti-war movement, most notably the Weather Underground morphed into violence. The U.K. had the "Angry Brigade" and it is that group that provides the historical background for Hari Kunzru's new work, "My Revolutions".

"My Revolutions" takes us back to a time when something was in the air, but makes the reader question what that something actually was. Kunzru takes us down this path with one Mike Frame, a man approaching 50, leading a quiet, comfortable suburban life with his partner of 16-years, Miranda. We soon discover that Mike Frame is not at all what he seems to be. Rather, his real name is Chris Carver, a radical in the 60s who went underground after a series of robberies and bombings at the height of the anti-war movement in the UK. After a vacation on the continent Frame's life begins to unravel. He spots a woman there who appears to be one of his old comrades in arms. He is then approached by a second old comrade, one who seeks to blackmail Frame/Carver into revealing that yet another comrade, now a highly placed government official, was once part of the violent fringe of the anti-war movement in the UK. The novel alternates between the unraveling of Frame's life and the back story of Carver's. Kunzru does an excellent job in keeping the narrative going while jumping between Carver's story and that of his alter ego, Frame. Each story is laid out in such a way that the book's climax arrives just when the old and new identities are fully revealed to the reader.

Kunzru, who is too young to have lived through this time, gets the details perfectly. His description of the social and political life at University during that time was spot on. (Carver was at the London School of Economics at around the same time I was in Manchester.) The endlessly morphing student political groups, each a variant of the other, each claiming to the true interpreter of the genius of Marx and Lenin (International Marxist Group, International Socialists, the old-line CP, etc.) and each peopled by earnest students eager to change the world. The dead seriousness was matched by the same sort of endless conversations, the self-critical examinations and random anger set out perfectly by Kunzru. So to were Carver's recollections of random couplings as a political act, as a way of distancing oneself from the mores of the bourgeoisie. The book is filled with little snippets that really capture the time and Kunzru had me nodding nostalgically (if ruefully) time and time again.

At the same time, though, this spot-on accuracy did have one unintended side effect. Kunzru not only got the atmospherics right, he got the personalities right. As much as the characters made me wax nostalgic for the days of free love it also reminded of just how utterly self-important and devoid of humor this all was. The International Marxist Group and all its various and sundry splinters would never be confused with International Groucho Marxists. Consequently, Frame/Carver and his contemporaries are not exactly the sort of people a reader is likely to feel any great deal of empathy for. While Kunzru treats his characters' underlying idealism with no little bit of respect the sheer utter futility of their efforts marks them come across as little more than amateur, middle-class nihilists earnestly trying to make the world a better place by convincing themselves that destruction is a prerequisite to building a just society. That is not to criticize the book or the story in any way, I very much enjoyed the characters for the flawed, once-well-intended beings they were in their callow youth. But a reader who needs to feel some sort of emotional investment in a fictional character may be disappointed. I don't think that is an essential prerequisite for a successful novel but different readers may not feel that way.

"My Revolutions" is a worthy successor to Kunzru's earlier book, Transmission. It also made a nice companion book to His Illegal Self
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3.0 out of 5 stars An easy read -- well written and engaging., August 15, 2014
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I read this immediately on the back of Gods Without Men, which I loved. Finding Gods Without Men (which, to be honest, I chose mainly for the title and the cover) was the first time I'd heard of Kunzru -- I assumed his name was Japanese! I was wowed, and I downloaded samples of all his other books. My Revolutions grabbed me from the start, and I enjoyed it -- and read it very quickly -- but neither the craftsmanship nor the story was as engrossing as Gods. Revolutions is a good story, well told. I believed all the characters and sympathised with their circumstances and choices. I will read more of Kunzru. At least I now know he's not Japanese.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful book!, April 5, 2014
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Since the author is a bit young to have actually been there, I have to say that I think he did an amazing job of
capturing the spirit of the times. In many ways, Kunzru was better at writing about some of the nuance and complexity
of coming-of-age at that particular time than many other novels written by people who were there, and precisely for
that reason have less of an overall feel for anything other than their own small part of the movement.
In particular, the protagonist's identity issues, from living "underground," having taken on an assumed identity be-
cause of his past, were fascinating and unnerving. The multiple meaning of "revolutions" takes the novel to a whole
other level.

Kunzru's fluid time sense, moving back and forth from the late 60s/early 70s, to the protagonist's current time and where
he would go next, or if he would, was masterfully done and was no small feat in and of itself. It's no spoiler to say that
the female revolutionary is a haunting presence throughout the novel, a powerful and seductive illusion, and a
mystery to the very end.

Having only recently come across "My Revolutions," I was completely mystified as to why I had not discovered it sooner,
wholeheartedly recommend it to others, and am still impressed with how Kunzru dealt so well with the "grey" areas, the nuances,
of what many still assume to have been such a "black and white" era. Though much of the public discourse and rhetoric may
have been just that, very black and white, the actual relationships and day-to-day living was often anything but! Great novel.
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My Revolutions
My Revolutions by Hari Kunzru (Hardcover - January 24, 2008)
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