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Thanksgiving Paperback – August 13, 2002

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage (August 13, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375726071
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375726071
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.5 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,354,812 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews Review

Thanksgiving is a small book with grand ambitions. Michael Dibdin, the author of the Aurelio Zen mysteries (which feature a strong sense of place and an eponymous, freewheeling, and urbanely skeptical Roman police inspector), has created a wisp of longing, a morsel of obsession, a covert glance at the past's capacity to haunt the present and the future.

After his wife, Lucy, dies in a plane crash, something compels Anthony to visit Lucy's ex-husband, Darryl Bob, who lives in the middle of a Nevada desert in a trailer filled with audio and video evidence of Lucy's tantalizing and occasionally adulterous sexuality. What prompts the visit? Grief? Anger? A desire to reconnect with the past? We don't know, exactly, and neither does Anthony--nor is he sure why he brought a gun with him. But contrary to all rules of Chekhovian drama, he leaves, shaken and scarred after a particularly disturbing stroll down memory lane, without using the revolver.

Shortly after Anthony leaves the trailer, Darryl Bob is found dead, and the police hone in on Anthony as their prime suspect. But this novel is not a mystery, not a police procedural, not a thriller. Dibdin pays scant attention to the plot twist he's created (which works itself out in a distracted sort of manner, receding politely into the background), preferring to concentrate instead on Anthony's struggle to come to terms with Lucy's death and with the idea that in death, even her life is receding from his grasp.

The initial encounter between Anthony and Darryl Bob is probably the novel's strongest moment. The two men circle one another warily, feinting with acerbic humor, like lions around a carcass (the metaphor has eerily literal overtones). Darryl Bob's open acknowledgement of their bizarre, post-mortem competition doesn't lessen its impact; the men are struggling to lay claim to a dead woman, seeking to reclaim the past and possess Lucy by appropriating her life and (re)inscribing themselves within and over it.

Thanksgiving is the kind of book that lends itself to refined and scholarly discussion (shall we untangle the threads of patriarchal narrative, looking for the palimpsest of a woman's voice?), but that isn't in the end very satisfying to read. The book may wish to be as challenging and austere as an '82 Château Petrus, but in (or under) the glass, it reveals itself as a thin, relatively unimpressive vin ordinaire. --Kelly Flynn --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

A middle-aged British journalist based in Seattle tracks down his deceased wife's first husband in this novel of nostalgia and obsession, a departure for Dibdin, author of the popular Aurelio Zen mystery series. After the death of his American wife, Lucy, in a plane crash, Anthony travels to Nevada to visit Darryl Bob, Lucy's creepy and reclusive former husband, who lives in a trailer filled with porn photos of Lucy and audiotapes of her adulterous trysts. Shortly after Anthony leaves Darryl Bob's trailer, Darryl Bob is found dead. Although Anthony is blameless, he is a suspect because his handgun is found in the trailer--but only because Darryl Bob bought it when Anthony began to brandish it in agitation at Darryl Bob's sarcasm. Gradually, Anthony shakes himself loose of the murder charge. Retreating to his parents' vacation home in France, he works toward adjusting to the reality of his wife's death, despite imagined visits from her ghost. A touching flashback to his courtship of Lucy and transcriptions of his past conversations with her further fleshes out Dibdin's portrait of the couple. Snapping along persuasively as it skips back and forth in time, the novel perceptively questions the boundaries of intimacy and love, though it sometimes moves too smoothly for its own good. Although Anthony's path toward psychological repair is attentively chronicled, we never really become acquainted with his personality--he remains a cipher throughout. (Mar. 29)Forecast: Dibdin shifts easily to literary fiction with this capable offering, but his mysteries are livelier and arguably more substantial. Fans may go along for the ride, but they will surely clamor for the speedy return of Aurelio Zen.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
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Michael Dibdin is one of genre fictions great writers.
The book is an elegant story, and a great addition to this man's work.
taking a rest
This book went nowhere and was confusing along the way to nowhere.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

24 of 25 people found the following review helpful By "scottish_lawyer" on December 15, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Michael Dibdin is one of genre fictions great writers. And as well as being a fine prose stylist Dibdin is versatile. He has written a fine modern series, the Aurelio Zen books, which concluded with the near perfect Blood Rain; has written witty (and erudite) parodies such as The Last Sherlock Holmes Story and The Dying of the Light; and atmospheric thrillers, such as The Tryst. His recent work has suggested a certain tiredness with genre. In some ways the elegiac Blood Rain almost seemed a goodbye to genre. That background has led to his latest novel, Thanksgiving. It is a slight book in size but deals majestically with large themes.
The premise is simple : a widower attempts to find out about his late wife's life before she met him. He is a British journalist, she an American previously married to a redneck. To prepare for his meeting with the first husband, the protagonist takes a pistol.
The opening chapter is a tour de force. Atmosphere is convincing, and the tension of the meeting between the two men linked only by their late lover is cranked up through Dibdin's typical mastery of dialogue.
This confrontation with the past permeates the rest of the novel, and throughout Dibdin deals with love, loss, memory, and identity.
As with all his work the characterisation is deftly drawn. Particularly noteworthy are the first husband, and the protagonist's stepdaughter. The relationship that provides the hub of the novel is convincing, and the grief, and bereavement, are touchingly illustrated. One of Dibdin's merits as a stylist (a development in his more recent work particularly) is his tendency to show and not tell and at times this can lead to some writing appearing obtuse.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By taking a rest HALL OF FAME on June 12, 2001
Format: Hardcover
The term, "Derivative", often carries a derogatory or negative connotation when applied to a book. The criticism is often valid; a given Author lacking the skill/idea will replicate a thinly veneered version of the original. However great musicians, painters, and other skilled practitioners of the arts also have done variations on a theme for reasons of vanity, tribute, or reasons known only to them. Michael Dibdin's, "Dirty Tricks", was similar to John Banville's, "Book Of Evidence". The same comment can be validly made between, "Thanksgiving", by Mr. Dibdin, and "Before She Met Me", by Mr. Julian Barnes. All four books were very good and while sharing similar plot lines, they are complimentary, not derivative in a negative sense.
Mr. Dibdin has stepped aside from his well known, "Aurelio Zen", series on several occasions, I believe, `Thanksgiving", to be easily the best. The work is fairly brief at 182 pages, a length that few Authors can manage successfully, however Mr. Dibdin excels. There is a great deal of geography covered as well as an array of human emotion. The main players are kept to a tightly controlled few, and every word his uses must justify itself, he leaves little to zero room for excess.
The idea covered is the preoccupation with the life and conduct of a spouse prior to her becoming the subject's wife. The similarity between this book and Mr. Banville's ends here, what remains to be shared is the quality of the work. Violence, jealousy, remorse, and irrational behavior all are explored, the question to be resolved is how will it end, how will the emotions be dealt with. There is an additional catalyst in a rather unsavory character that elicits virtually all you would expect from Mr. Dibdin's main character.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Richard Wells on April 2, 2003
Format: Hardcover
I've been a fan of Michael Didbin's Aurelio Zen novels for some time. I've liked the mix of humor, cynicism, and opera buffo that each of the stories contain, and expected something of the same with "Thanksgiving." To be sure, the book starts out with a weirdly comic confrontation between the recently bereaved Anthony and his deceased wife's ex-husband, but it's only the launching pad for a much deeper, more tender exploration of love, loss, and longing than you would expect. This is a story of how sorrow can infiltrate a life and engender a fulsomeness equal to, or even greater than, the loss that prompts it. It's a fairly quick read that provides much more than its beginning would indicate, and was moving enough to cause me a sob on the last page.
My only criticism of this novel is in a wish that Mr. Didbin had found a way to begin equal to the depth of the story that followed.
Caveat emptor: Though "Thanksgiving" is of perfect length for airplane reading, don't read it while flying. It contains a description of an "airline disaster" that could keep you out of the air forever.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By jack olsen on September 8, 2001
Format: Hardcover
"Thanksgiving" is Michael Dibdin with a twist. There's no Aurelio Zen on-scene, but the British author's brilliant pacing, understated sophistication and dead-on characterizations are present in profusion. I've read all his published works, and this is the best of the best.
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Format: Paperback
This is a departure for Dibdin, at least from his Aurelio Zen series. This is direct, shorter, and set in America. It is as much a straightforward, realistic novel as it is a crime/suspense book. This is a story of loss, troubled relationships, and the struggle of how to deal with a past that hangs over into the present. The narrative begins with Tony, an English born journalist, paying an ill-advised midnight visit to a trailer in the Nevada desert, the home of slithery, garrulous Daryl Bob, the ex-husband of his recently deceased wife Lucy. Her sexy spirit hangs over the proceedings, giving rise to memories and jealousies that threaten to destroy Tony's present existence. They have a strange, rambling conversation. The Englishman has a gun in his pocket. A couple of days later, Daryl Bob is found dead. It looks as though Tony, the narrator and main character, he might be charged with murder.

It is a good set-up for a noirish thriller, and at first, Dibdin takes it in that direction. But this writer loves to confound expectations and move off into unexpected directions. At this point, it becomes more a novel of memory of bygone passion, but there is still a good deal of uncertainty concerning the state of mind of Tony, and the reader realizes that he could be an unreliable narrator. This could probably be labeled a psychological thriller, since a good deal of the suspense stems from the revelation of character and backstory. There are moments of brilliant writing, as there usually are in a Dibdin book. "Thanksgiving" deepened my respect for Dibdin, and made me wonder if there are more like it in his oeuvre. He was clearly more than just a writer of entertaining detective stories set in a fanciful version of Italy. This one proves that he could write good psychological suspense and contemporary fiction as well.
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