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The Drowning People Paperback – May 27, 2010


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 348 pages
  • Publisher: Grand Central Publishing; 1 Reprint edition (May 27, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0446582867
  • ISBN-13: 978-0446582865
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 5.9 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (177 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,149,073 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

"My wife of more than forty-five years shot herself yesterday afternoon. At least that is what the police assume, and I am playing the part of grieving widower with enthusiasm and success... It was I who killed her." Thus begins the much-hyped first novel by 20-year-old Oxford undergraduate Richard Mason. Your typical murder mystery The Drowning People is not, for we are given the identity of the killer--the who--immediately. The puzzle in this introspective novel is why--why did 70-year-old James Farrell murder his aristocratic wife, Sarah? The answer lies nearly 50 years into the past as the book ranges from Prague to London, from France to a remote castle in Cornwall. At its core is an intoxicating love affair between 22-year-old James, a talented violinist and hopeless romantic, and Ella Harewood, an American heiress to an English title, trapped by her heritage and destiny. A beautifully written exploration of self-absorbed first love and its tragic consequences, The Drowning People soars beyond the highest of expectations placed upon it. --Shannon Bingham, Amazon.co.uk --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Publishers Weekly

The startling opening sentence (My wife of more than 45 years shot herself yesterday afternoon) and the compelling voice of narrator James Farrell draw the reader into the emotional vortex of this accomplished debut novel by a 20-year-old British writer. We learn immediately that his long marriage to Sarah Harcourt was not an affair of the heart for James. His love for Sarahs insecure, fragile cousin, Emma, is the substance of the flashback narrative, which deftly evokes the obsessive passion of first love, meanwhile alluding heavily to sin and guilt. When James meets Ella Harcourt he is about to graduate from Oxford, and to begin serious study of the violin. English-born but raised in America, Ella is heiress to the family seat, Seton Castle, which Sarah patently covets. Moreover, Ella has stolen the man Sarah loves, an eminently acceptable member of the English upper class, and is about to announce their engagement. Recognizing that they are meant for each other, Ella and James conspire to break the engagement, meanwhile meeting secretly and enjoying supreme happiness. They separate for a time when James goes to Prague with his generous and devoted friend Eric de Vaurigard, but Ellas needy nature requires proof of Jamess love, and his actions lead to betrayal and death. Mason is remarkably assured for a young writer, but he has not aimed his sights very high. This is essentially a romantic novel in the Du Maurier tradition, reproducing the portentous, elegiac tone and slowly revealed secrets of this seductive genre. Though Mason supplies clever plot twists, the suspense element is clothed in psychological trendiness: the source of Jamess dilemma is the plot device of too much fiction of late. And though Jamess ruminations on the emotional repression of the British privileged classes alert the reader to his crucial lack of maturity, his incessantly repeated claims of navet and innocence wear thin. Yet there is a large audience for a suspenseful, romantic story like this one, especially when it is told in literate and polished prose. Moreover, the photogenic Mason (and his Oxford accent) should make quite a hit on the talk shows. Major ad/promo; rights sold in Germany, Poland, Sweden, Denmark, Italy, France, Holland, Israel, Finland, Greece, Spain, Portugal, Norway and Japan; Literary Guild alternate; Time Warner audio; author tour.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

The last third of the book, I basically scanned, just to get the answers I needed.
Tee Bellflower
Although the story is told by James Farrell, a man in his seventies, it is not difficult to remember that the novel was written by a nineteen-year-old.
Alison Strock
As a mystery, the book stumbles through a plot hobbled by static characters and (sadly) foreseeable developments in its story line.
Patrick Regnart

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

26 of 30 people found the following review helpful By neilnmarty@aol.com on August 12, 2000
Format: Hardcover
OK, let's give Mr. Mason credit for a damn good 2-page opening. It's the remaining 300 pages I have trouble with. First of all, the author is intellectually lazy. He wanted his protagonist to reminesce over the past 50 years but couldn't be bothered doing research on life in 1950 (don't forget that advance they were dangling in front of him), so he plops him down in 2040 without even a by-your-leave. After all, then he'd have to show a little creativity about life in the future. I don't know why so many reviewers said they couldn't believe the book was written by an 18 year old. It could ONLY have been written by an 18 year old! Only kids that age are involved in so much "philosophical", narcissistic, we're-different-from-the-rest-of-the-planet, self-absorbed navel-gazing. Blah, blah, blah, blah.....And this is where Mr. Mason shows his mediocrity as a writer. He continually describes what his characters are thinking, feeling, etc., but he doesn't have the ability to let them demonstrate his descriptions though their own words and actions. And then there's the story. Did you really believe Sarah's pathological hatred of Ella is based on Ella's snagging the most forgettable character in all literature (She should have thanked her!) Do you have any clue why James marred Sarah? And best of all--this was really a thigh-slapper--Did you really buy James' agreeing to have sex with his best male friend in order to prove to his fiancee that he wasn't homosexual? How many men are getting on that line! But,most sadly of all, I could have forgiven all of the above had there been a single word of wit or charm or grace. Daphne du Maurier indeed!
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23 of 27 people found the following review helpful By MartinP on February 5, 2002
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Mason is being touted as some kind of adolescent prodigy, but the book simply doesn't deliver. It is an extremely convoluted and unlikely story, overstuffed with cities, castles and too obviously 'interesting' rich people. Characterisation hardly evolves beyond caricature, which is fatal especially for the main figures, James and Ella. Ella emerges as some kind of histrionic Gorgon, fickle and highly unlikeable, which makes it hard to see why James would fall in love with her in the first place, let alone have his every emotion and action dictated by her (fancy attempting to have sex with your best male friend only to prove to your girl, who suspects you of being gay, that it doesn't work for you. There's a bit of twisted psychology for you if ever there was!) This uncritical slavery doesn't inspire much sympathy for his character either. Mason doesn't bother to explain all this, probably being too busy keeping the storyline together. Yet the love of James for Ella is the pivotal element, without an understanding of which the plot simply falls apart.Mason's inexperience, not as much as a writer but simply in life, shines through on every page. He seems selfconscious about this, judging by all the times he lets his (elderly) narrator muse on the inexperience and silliness of youth. All this is not too convincing. Though not per se badly written, there are some irritating mannerisms, not least the far too frequent use of the tag 'you see', probably meant to create the intimate feel of the narrator directly addressing us. But in a novel where there is really so very little to be seen (and what there is, you will have seen at least 20 pages before the narrator comes out with it) this did strike me as somewhat ridiculous: like somebody telling you the clue (ta-taaa) to a joke that has fallen flat long before. So forget about this book. Too many words to describe too little, too many aspirations and too little realisation of them.
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Steven Reynolds on March 14, 2005
Format: Mass Market Paperback
The best thing about Richard Mason's debut novel is its deeply macabre plot about upper-class family madness, murderous revenge, and the ruthless insensitivity of young people in love. Taken on its own, it's quite good fun in a gothic, BBC-drama kind of way, and would make a decent movie. You'll work out what's happened well before the final pages, but that doesn't actually spoil things at all - it's entertaining to watch it all unfold like a car accident in slow-motion, and most readers will be happily immersed in it. Mason clearly has a talent for conceiving bizarre revenge plots (as his second and weaker novel, "Us", confirms - not available in the USA, but you can get it from Amazon UK). What he's not so good at (yet) is the actual writing. In "The Drowning People", he seems to have made the fundamental error of wanting us to take the plot seriously; or, rather, choosing such a plot as the basis for a novel which obviously yearns to say something serious about guilt, the dangerous power of first love, and the life-long consequences of youthful selfishness. But it's too convoluted, too B-movie, and too concerned with its own construction to be very effective in that task. The result is that the real "content" of the novel - the ideas about guilt and responsibility - don't emerge from the events. Rather, they're imposed on them. They're constantly re-stated by a narrator who pontificates about Life and all that he has learned from it, which sadly seems to be little more than a raft of platitudes and cliches, delivered in a pompous, finely-cadenced, T.S. Eliotesque tone that irritates more than it convinces. But what else would you expect from an 18-year-old writer with no experience of the kind of life-long perspective he's affecting?Read more ›
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