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60 of 65 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bound Brilliance
I think the last time I was so impressed with a novel was when I read David Mitchell's "Ghostwritten". This was published at the very end of 2004 and for me it's the best of last year and probably this year as well. Billed as "an epic novel about obsessive love in an age of obsessive materialsim", the basic thrust of the story is about a man who never having gotten over a...
Published on February 2, 2005 by Brett Benner

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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Starts off promising, then veers into pretentiousness
I went into Seven Types of Ambiguity with high hopes. A reviewer's blurb on the back called it The Alexandria Quartet for grown ups. Since The Alexandria Quartet is a huge favorite of my partner, I was very excited to read something comparable in one novel instead of four.

The meat of the story is fairly simple: for ten years Simon is infatuated with and...
Published on January 7, 2009 by bowery boy


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60 of 65 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bound Brilliance, February 2, 2005
By 
Brett Benner (Los Angeles, CA USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Seven Types of Ambiguity (Hardcover)
I think the last time I was so impressed with a novel was when I read David Mitchell's "Ghostwritten". This was published at the very end of 2004 and for me it's the best of last year and probably this year as well. Billed as "an epic novel about obsessive love in an age of obsessive materialsim", the basic thrust of the story is about a man who never having gotten over a woman who left him ten years before, kidnaps her son.

The brilliance of the novel is in it's construction. The book is segmented in seven parts, each narrated by a different player in the unfolding drama with sections and scenes overlapping in a 'Rashomon' like narrative. The only criticism I have with the book echos other reviewers, that many of the characters voices are similar. They all seem cut from the same Mensa cloth,being incredibly insightful,bright,and in tune with the human condition regardless of age, sex, or social standing.However as criticisms go, it's a small one, and one that doesn't detract from the awesome magnitude or scope of what I think is a phenomenal piece of literature.
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31 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars No Ambiguity: This Is A Masterpiece, January 10, 2005
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This review is from: Seven Types of Ambiguity (Hardcover)
Every now and then, a novel comes along that is so masterful, so breathtaking in scope, that everything you read afterwards pales in comparison. This is such a book.

The author employs seven narrators, all of whom ultimately impact each others' lives. Each character is fleshed out so that the reader knows him or her through and through...right down to interior thoughts. One can only imagine the research Mr. Perlman had to go through to "get it right" -- from investment banking to gambling...from prostitution to literary matters...from psychiatry to research analyst. If there is a false note in any of these narratives, I wasn't able to detect it.

The novel, seemingly, is about the trial of Simon, an unemployed teacher who, in a fit of obsessive love, kidnaps the son of Anna, the woman he has worshiped for many years. In reality, each character in this novel is going through his or her own trial. Each will end up in a different place than when the narration began. Each will go through the harshest judge of all -- himself or herself; some will make it, some will not.

There is, indeed, ambiguity in literature, as there is in relationships and life in general. This novel can be read as a pure page-turner or it can be read for deeper meaning. I closed the book understanding a little more about myself. It is a rare book that allows the reader to do that.
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49 of 55 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best novel of 2004, January 3, 2005
This review is from: Seven Types of Ambiguity (Hardcover)
This daring and intriguing novel was my favorite of 2004. Australian author Elliot Perlman has chosen to tell his story from seven different points of view-not a new idea, but one that seems completely fresh and surprising in Perlman's hands. The characters he chooses as his narrators and the voices he gives them are what propels "Seven Types" ahead to an end that comes all too soon for the besotted reader. The publisher's tag line deeming this "an epic novel about obsessive love in an age of obsessive materialism" does not do it any sort of justice. This novel is about much more than that and should not be missed.
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A very thought provoking book, May 4, 2005
By 
L. Jonsson (Charleston, SC United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Seven Types of Ambiguity (Hardcover)
I read this book months ago, and I still think about its message every day. It is very difficult to catogorize as evidenced by the other book reviews. It is a love story, social commentary, extremely political novel that requires concentration when reading.

Only one person has given this book a bad review, and he has a good point. The different chapters that are different points of view are in the same writing style. However, I don't know if the author of that review really realizes how difficult writing in different styles is (ever try Faulkner? That is fun reading isn't it?) I feel that the author did this deliberately in order to depict his message in unconfusing ways. Yes, the characters do not talk as people do in real life. (That is why I read books, personally; I don't like the way people talk in real life). It is gothic in style and magnificent in its scope. I think it is one of the best books I have ever read.
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Starts off promising, then veers into pretentiousness, January 7, 2009
I went into Seven Types of Ambiguity with high hopes. A reviewer's blurb on the back called it The Alexandria Quartet for grown ups. Since The Alexandria Quartet is a huge favorite of my partner, I was very excited to read something comparable in one novel instead of four.

The meat of the story is fairly simple: for ten years Simon is infatuated with and silently stalking his ex-girlfriend Ana until one day he decides to kidnap her son. The problem is Ana is unhappily married to Joe who is regularly seeing a prostitute named Angelique who is living with Simon and is unrequitedly in love with him. This incident sets in motion events, suspicions, and emotions told from the perspective of seven different characters and how it dramatically effects all of them.

Sounds promising, right? And initially it is.

The first two sections are engrossing. You get to know the cast of characters. You're slowly made privy to what is going on. You're wondering what's going to happen next. Perlman is a good writer and you're pulled along the trajectory of his novel until suddenly you begin to notice that with each and every section the character's "voices" all sound the same. The uneducated prostitute sounds like the psychiatrist who sounds like the angry stockbroker who sounds like the ex-girlfriend ad infinitum ad nauseum. And, in all seriousness, who talks like these people? It's clear that Perlman is telling the story insteading of letting his characters do that for him.

After awhile, Perlman's writing gets so hamfisted, overbloated, and pseudo-intellectually esoteric that I was becoming annoyed. Very, very annoyed, not only with Perlman's writing but also with his characters. I hated every one of them except for Angelique who was the only character that was a victim of her circumstances. The other characters were self-loathing whiners who had every opportunity to better their situation but chose not to.

I have no doubt Mr. Perlman is an extremely intelligent individual, he hammers you over the head with verbose paragraph after verbose paragraph until you get it, until you realize that he's soooooooo smart. It was bit like reading Franzen's The Corrections. Just tell the story already!

There's 20 pages of a character explaining the inner workings and hierarchy of the stockmarket. There's a few dozen pages of conversational debates regarding Epsom's seven types of ambiguity and various other works of literature. Do I really need to know the entire inner workings of the Australian legal system to understand a basic court scene? Do I really need to read countless pages of characters blathering on about topics that do nothing to further the plot? At least two characters were wholly uneccessary (Mitch, Klima's daughter), and the ending of the novel is farfetched at best. I would have preferred a much more ambiguous conclusion than Perlman's half-hearted attempt to wrap things up neatly. Clearly Perlman's editor was asleep at the wheel. Seven Types of Anbiguity could have been a sleek and taut drama had 300+ pages been trimmed off its bulk and it probably would not have taken me two months to read.

I always say if a writer can evoke from me a strong dislike for their protangonists, then they must be a good writer. However, I've never experienced a writer who was able to evoke from me a strong dislike for the writer himself. Now that's ambiguity
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Original, thought provoking, A+, February 28, 2005
By 
Doug "dcb" (Holladay, Ut United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Seven Types of Ambiguity (Hardcover)
The book is written from the perspective of seven different parties who were all somehow involved in an incident that impacted each of their lives fairly drastically. The unexpected pleasure of this book is that we get to know the characters and their thoughts and actions not only through their own perspective and section in the book, but through each of the other characters and their thoughts. Here is a beautiful female in love with a man she hopes loves her, but when we read from his perspective, she is barely mentioned and we find he is obsessed with one of the other female characters. It's a writing trick that lets us see the whole character and understand the whole story, as powerfully different as seeing something in 3d instead of two 2d, or stereo instead of mono.

The book is full of the important and relevant things in life such as the power of young love, relationships with parents, communicating, learning and philsophizing with other students in college, how another student can almost overpower another with intelligence, leadership and sex appeal. We see intelligent people who love someone so much that they are willing to do things that are wrong to help him or her. And we see the pain husbands and wives can cause each other when they aren't able to take time to love and understand.

Enjoy each section of the book and understand each personality. There is gold hidden throughout. We're never given information too fast. We discover the information gradually and sometimes not until we understand a character who is revealed three sections further into the book.

It all comes together in the seventh section in an extremely subtle and well thought out seventh character. What a great book and great ending.

Turow, Grisham, Patterson, you've got new competitor. A fellow barrister. Read his book and get nervous.
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13 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An outstanding read !, January 17, 2005
This review is from: Seven Types of Ambiguity (Hardcover)
Perlman's epic is superbly written and once more we are re-introduced to Joe Gergahty from his earlier (and occasionally as good) debut novel, "Three Dollars." For fellow Finance professionals any reader will quickly develop an affinity for Joe and Mitch and their time at the Corporate Retreat will bring back fond memories. The time invested in reading is paid back tenfold as I often found myself doubling back on sentences merely to saviour their construction or the clarity in which he'd captured the moment. I have often found books like this off-putting becuase soon as you become absorbed in a character they move on to another but Perlman's writing style pulls you in quickly and ensures the rythmn and pace of the story never let up. This is a beautifully written book which ranks as one of my own personal best ever reads ... I recommend it to everyone I know.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Quite good, January 30, 2005
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This review is from: Seven Types of Ambiguity (Hardcover)
Perlman's SEVEN TYPES OF AMBIGUITY is a terrific book. It's an arresting tale of love and human relationships maimed by contemporary culture's preoccupation with "consumption and competition." Told in a byzantine but breathtaking fashion, this book takes one captive until the end. It's impossible to put down, and will occupy your thoughts.

It's not perfect, however. Although told by seven different people, they all come out sounding the same. Same intellectuality, same verbal adroitness, same introspective melancholy. Even the boorish character comes off as a professor. Now this could have been Perlman's intention. It is, after all, a book about the failure or inability of people to genuinely connect with one another, and if they all were very much alike it would only further illustrate the dysfunction of the characters. Even if this were true, it still doesn't work for me. I would have liked to have seen greater differentiation.

Perlman is also a bit self-indulgent. On numerous occassions his characters engage in all kinds of intellectual explorations: gambling, literary criticism, public policy, and so on. Some times this was interesting, other times not. He seemed like a drunk man walking the line, the line in this case being between engaging intellectualism and self-important pedantry.

In the end, it is still a remarkable book, and highly recommended.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Incredibly talented writer!!! WOW!, July 26, 2005
By 
Jennifer C. Steets (Los Angeles, CA USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Seven Types of Ambiguity (Hardcover)
What a journey I went on with this book! I enjoyed the writing style and complexity of the story, so much. This may be in my top "all time" reads. The care that Elliot Perlman takes with each of his characters, no matter what the gender (very refreshing) was unbelievable!!! I loved this book, highly recommend it to readers who want something fantastic, unique and surprisingly tender. Could have used a bit more editing but because all-in-all it was so great, I let that part slide.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Deconstructionism in action, November 10, 2008
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The central incident in "Seven Types of Ambiguity" is a kidnapping by an unemployed and somewhat dissolute man named Simon of a boy named Sam. Sam is the son of a stock dealer named Joe and his wife Anna; the latter was formerly Simon's girlfriend. At the time of the kidnapping, a prostitute named Angela is Simon's current girlfriend and also has Joe as a once a week client.

The events leading up the kidnapping, and the criminal trial and other consequence that follow, are brought out in the narratives of seven characters: (1) Alex, Simon's shrink; (2) Joe; (3) Angela; (4) Mitch, a business colleague of Joe's; (5) Simon; (6) Anna; and (7) a daughter of Alex.

The seven episodes gradually move the story from start to finish, but with many flashbacks, digressions, and side stories (notably a disastrous business deal that gets Joe and Mitch fired). Some incidents come up three or four times in the course of the book, extending its length considerably.

There are numerous literary allusions, including discussion of a book of the same title, by William Empson, that is apparently an esoteric treatise on the subtlety and ambiguity of written language. The assumption that readers will be familiar with Empson's book seems a bit presumptuous, but worse than that Perlman does not do much with the ambiguity theme after introducing it.

The individual narratives are generally quite clear, in some cases graphically so. Such differences as emerge between the various narratives are more a matter of emphasis than interpretation. The failure to use a common set of names for the main characters is merely annoying.

Perlman's writing is polished and expressive. I loved his description of an executive retreat at Joe and Mitch's company, for instance, at which an overpaid charlatan provides ludicrous team building and self-actualization drills. The descriptions of courtroom action were also well above average.

On the other hand, it is not easy to identify with the values that are promoted.

* How can it be that Simon emerges as the most admirable character in the book, after sitting around for 10 years drinking and feeling sorry for himself and then committing a serious criminal act without any good reason for doing so?

* Why is it that every person who enters into a "normal" marriage, holds down a real job, etc. is depicted as shallow, selfish and miserably unhappy?

* What purpose is served by all the generalized assertions about the evils of managed care (structural rationalization of healthcare to hold down costs), the merits of socialism, etc.?

So enjoy the ride, if you are into books that probe human motivations deeply, but do not expect an inspiring conclusion.
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Seven Types of Ambiguity
Seven Types of Ambiguity by Elliot Perlman (Hardcover - December 16, 2004)
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