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3.9 out of 5 stars
The Blood Oranges: A Novel (New Directions Paperbook)
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21 of 24 people found the following review helpful
on August 26, 2001
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
John Hawkes has created some of the most beautiful prose ever penned; the word surface in this book is as memorable and enjoyable as any I've read, at turns surprising, sensual, poetic, and often all of this and more. As an extended flight of the imagination 'The Blood Oranges' explores regions of desire, fidelity, and repression that many have gestured towards or illuminated in passing, but that few have mapped extensively. For me, it stands as tremendously courageous writing, and writing elevated by a pervasive and exciting humour. It's very funny, in the way that Beckett's or Kafka's prose can be - and Hawkes' deserves to be considered as a writer of their stature. I only wish I'd been exposed to his writing sooner. He's a genius.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on July 11, 1999
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
I found this book lyrical and somewhat surreal. It evoked memories of John Barth's End of the Road. The book was original, uninhibited, and rather melancholy. It presented an image of the idle rich who are hedonistic yet emotional. Jealousy plays a half-veiled and sinister role. I highly recommend this book to lovers of poetic prose (a la Barth or Toni Morrison).
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on January 30, 2002
Format: Paperback
This is a complicated and mysterious book by a writer with an amazing command of his prose. The tragic story is doled out in tiny slivers along with a vivid description of the imagined Mediteraenan location where the events unfold. The narrator is a self-proclaimed "love singer" who is desperately proud of his marriage and of the many, many women he has loved during his marriage. It's hard at least for this reader to be sure how ironically we are to view the protagonists advocacy of totally free love. The narrator clearly blames the stories tragic outcome on the small-mindedness of his rival in love--I at least am left wondering whether the author means us to blame the victim or the protagonist. The story can be oppressive at times with its pervasive melancholy--but it certainly makes you think. Hawkes is a terrific writer and this is a challenging, difficult and definitely uncomfortable work of genius.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on April 20, 2012
Format: Paperback
I finished this book over a week ago, mostly in an effort to write a review that would give it the justice it deserves, but I feel that time might have been spent it in vain. This is a strange, lyrical book - an idyll, really - that takes place on a Mediterranean island named "Illyria." The name is obviously meant to evoke Shakespeare's "Twelfth Night" and its paradisiacal setting, but Hawkes plants something haunting and evil here that never lets the reader get too comfortable.

The plot is as unencumbered with passé concerns like pacing or character development as its characters are fascinated by their own sexual lives. Fiona is married to Cyril, and Catherine is married to Hugh. The novel traces the whole range of their interactions, from mundane conversations, but mostly is concerned with their complicated sexual entanglements. Everything is told through flashbacks, and opens with Cyril trying to console Catherine for some reason the reader has yet to ascertain. Hawkes bounces back and forth in time, telling how the two couples met (Fiona and Cyril look on as Catherine and Hugh are rescued from a bus that has fallen into a nearby waterway) to the whittling away of endless hours on the beach with Hugh and Catherine's children in the background.

Most of the action, such as it is, revolves around the eventual untangling of the formerly monogamous relationships of the two couples. Catherine initially stammers and hedges in her attraction toward Cyril, but Fiona is more open-minded and adventurous with Hugh. Hugh, on the other hand, tends to be slightly more cautious, and on several occasions voices his reservations to Cyril, only to be reassured that Fiona is perfectly okay with the arrangement. This is pretty much how things proceed, playing footsy in the sand, the sly unbuckling of a bikini strap in the white Greek sands. But Hugh eventually finds it to be too much, realizes that he's gone too far, and proceeds to take matters into his own hands.

Aside from the children that Hugh and Catherine have, none of the characters are bothered by anything approaching responsibility or are interrupted by growth or self-afflatus. It seemed like a big exercise is omphaloskepsis. But for those interested in something truly off the beaten narrative path, this is worth looking at. While the singular obsession of the characters seemed unrealistic, there is at least a rhythmic lyricism to the prose that makes it a unique reading experience.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on February 16, 2005
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
Beauty becomes denial in this aesthetically rendered tale of a life brought to ruin by a galloping sexuality. The narrator's gorgeous account creates an irreality that both disturbs and compells.

The books dissonances are reminiscent of Nabokov's Lolita and Gide's The Egoist. If you like stylistic fiction, this book is for you.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on July 13, 1999
Format: Paperback
Hawkes' sensuality at its most accessible, a work whose difficultly may be off-putting to some readers, but whose rewards run deep. Sex and death repose in contented embrace from beginning to end; from fetid canals to crab-strewn plates.
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VINE VOICEon August 20, 2013
Format: Paperback
Hawkes' prose weaves dazzlingly wrought sentences of rare beauty in this surreal exploration of desire and the limits of human and natural fidelity. Through the prism of a quartet--a pair of couples in good Shakespearean fashion--Hawkes takes us through a rotating kaleidoscope of defamiliarized images. While is narrative grip is still pretty loose here, one can forgive him for the paucity of plot points, for the depths of his creative voice form a kind of art all their own.
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on January 7, 2014
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
John Hawkes was one of the great British novelists of his age (The Lime Twig, Adventures in the Alaskan Skin Trade) whose novels were often erotic in the best sense. This is not an erotic novel, but a novel about eroticism, featuring two couples on holiday whose time in the sun begins to spin out of control from their own obsessions. secret desires, and human frailties.

In many ways this is one of the most erotic books you will ever read though there is little actual sex in it and virtually no sexual passages of the type associated with the form. Instead it is a fine novel about the mystery of eroticism, and the byways of the heart, the mind, and the soul related to the erotic nature of man. Curiously it is all the more sensual for this, and a stunning novel by a master of the form.
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6 of 41 people found the following review helpful
on June 29, 1999
Format: Paperback
The Blood Oranges is a book that is too flowery. Not that flowery is bad, it's good if you follow the story without having to take notes. Every page has nothing to do with each other. A much better book to read which has almost the same story is John Irving's 158-pound Marriage. He has the ability to cleverly reveal secrets in a very interesting way.
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