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Paradise Hardcover – March 8, 2005

3.2 out of 5 stars 13 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. When a dull neighbor asks Hannah Luckraft what she does for a living, Hannah can barely refrain from answering honestly: "Oh, a little theft, monstrosity, credit-card fraud, and my hobbies include giving blow jobs to unpleasant men while I'm semi-unconscious. I also drink a lot." With her fifth novel, Kennedy proves herself—again—to be a master of extracting searing beauty from patently ugly truths. Awash in whisky, 30-year-old narrator Hannah is the consummate professional screwup: she drinks with ferocity and harbors no pretenses about her self-destructive impulses or their horrendous consequences. Her wry, wary commentary has no right to be anything but gut-wrenchingly sad, yet her savage wit and chilling self-awareness transform even unspeakable misery into something howlingly funny. Blacking out becomes "master[ing] the art of escaping from linear time," rehab is reduced to "being slapped down into a grisly ring of pink Naugahyde armchairs and made to discuss [our] personal lives with a dozen emotional vampires" and paradise itself is revealed to be "an untouched bottle and the man who loves me, the man I love." Of course, Hannah knows that happiness can't last, so when a charming drunk named Robert stumbles into her life, her bed and her head, no one dares to hope for a happy ending. Their thirst for oblivion, sobriety and oblivion again is the story of paradise found and lost a thousand times over. "How it happens is a long story, always," but rarely is it so jaw-droppingly good as this. (Mar. 14)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Bookmarks Magazine

If there’s one point of consensus in reviews of Kennedy’s latest novel, it’s that she is a masterful stylist. The fork in the road for critics of Paradise, the British author’s fifth U.S. release, is the subject matter. Her supporters are impressed that the book avoids a tumble into bleak self-pity. Hannah is a perceptive, funny guide to her own dissolution. But the detractors—a distinct minority—see Hannah’s ability to express herself and her inability to solve her problems as a narrative failure. In the end, this seems less a criticism of the book than a judgment about its main character. Maybe Paradise hits too close to home, but, if the ayes have it, that’s simply a testament to Kennedy’s skill.

Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf (March 8, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400043646
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400043644
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 1.4 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,473,774 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Paradise is one of those books I wanted to enjoy more than I did. Stylistically, it's simply fantastic-the language, the poetic phrasing, the original descriptions and metaphors, the structure and its allusions to the stations of the cross are all evidence of a prose stylist at the top of her craft. Much of the writing is simply gorgeous. But unfortunately it all felt to little purpose to me. The whole was less than the sum of its parts.
One expects a bit of distance from a book whose main character and narrator is a drunk. There's the inherent distance of not really understanding what that entails (beyond the stock cliches which Kennedy does a fine job of avoiding), the distance of willful repulsion ("who would or could live like that?"), and the narrative distance of having a story communicated by someone who slips in and out of time and who is often attempting (sometimes successfully, sometimes not) to anesthetize herself.
But there was more than that operating here and though I can't put my finger on just why, I never felt really pulled in by Hannah's story, never compelled by either the sorrows of her life (the fall from middle-class grace, the on-and-off love affair with a fellow drunk, the on-and-off affair with gainful employment or detoxification, etc.) or its accordant joys (the drink obviously, the aforementioned love affair, the recognition that her family still somehow loves her). More and more I found myself appreciating not what I was reading but how it was being communicated.
The book never really took off for me and then noticeably slowed past the two-thirds point. It seemed over long by then and somewhat repetitive, even if that repetitiveness was part of the point.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
It's apparent, reading other reviews of Kennedy's book, Paradise, that for many people good literature is that which reinforces their own ideas about the world, the happy ending which leaves them pleasantly sated being essential. (Why, exactly, we would be interested in the opinions of people who didn't read or only got part way through the book is beyond me.) That is adamantly, not what this book is about. It is an unflinching look over the edge, a story which harbors no illusions about a happy ending. It is also, literature of the highest sort, a searing look at how everyday life can blend into madness.
It is the first person account of one Hannah Luckraft, a thirty-ish year old woman whose alcoholism is either medication for an intractable depression or the cause of it. While sections of the book have been described as humorous, it is humor of the wry sort, the I-know-what-she-means sort (i.e. having been there myself,) it is nothing close to comic. It is the story of an addiction in all its technicolor black and white, its unanswerable needs and inevitable debasement. Kennedy's knowledge seems to be of the insider's sort implying either an extraordinary ability to write about her own experience or an enviable capacity for imagination. Whichever it reflects, this book is superb.
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Format: Hardcover
This is a remarkable novel. Kennedy is a superb stylist--each sentence gives me a pang that I didn't write it myself--and the narrator is funny and endearing and maddening even as the story she's telling gets bleaker and bleaker. I really, really liked this book. (I liked Augusten Burroughs' "Dry" too; that's a great story, well-told, though he's not on this level as a stylist; but this, though it's fiction rather than memoir, is ultimately a more realistic and painful picture of life as an alcoholic. Not to knock Burroughs. Read that too! But this novel's amazing in a completely different way.)
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Format: Hardcover
"I don't hate the reader, but I do want to drag them into hell's mouth - it's good for them."

This is a comment that came right out of the writer's mouth. She apparently was dead set on making good on this pledge because boy-oh-boy does the reader go to hell with main character Hannah, a seemingly somewhat attractive alcoholic who lives to destroy herself.

Growing up in Asbury Park, NJ, I'd seen lots and lots of derelicts and drunks, homeless people and crackheads. Their lot in life seemed so far gone to me that it couldn't be very much unlike looking into total darkness; making a home in a wasteland where carbon monoxide took the place of oxygen. Well, compared to Hannah, it seemed like they had it easy.

Literally bathing in the throes of human imperfection, Hannah is a puppet and Kennedy is the evil master pulling the strings. The poor girl spends her entire existence frequenting pub after pub after pub, blacks out all the time and never ceases to amaze in her efforts to destroy herself day in and day out. And the darnedest thing is, she manages to make it all sound like a hysterically good time. Witty, ironic and funny, puppet-master Kennedy has a ball killing narrator Hannah with the Devil's water: booze.

I call Kennedy the puppet-master because it seems that she is the only reason Hannah does these things to herself. I found myself asking why, why, why over and over again. With every hallucination and after every binge, it becomes less and less clear what her motivations are. It all seems contingent upon the whims of the writer - the malicious demon dead-set on taking us on a rollercoaster ride through her firey neighborhood at the expense of this hapless figment of her imagination.
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