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The Hide Hardcover – June 17, 1996


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 192 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; 1st American ed edition (June 17, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393039552
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393039559
  • Product Dimensions: 0.6 x 0.1 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #5,417,305 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

The Hide is narrated by the two voices who conflict in this biting slice of life tale in an English countryside estate. Simon, whose sister owns the estate, provides one voice as he prowls through the property in a series of trenches--the hide--that allow him to spy on passing women on bicycles. Josh, the other voice, is the 20-year-old gardener brought to the estate whom Simon suspects is out to foil his trenchant wonderland. There's also Mortimer, Josh's older companion, plus a widow and the young female housekeeper. The characters' crisscrossing relationships and unspoken emotions make for a telling piece on English manners, and also a fine read.

From Publishers Weekly

A gallery of creepy misfits stalk the grounds of an English estate in Unsworth's bizarre, intermittently seductive tale of obsession, an early work from the Booker Prize-winning (Sacred Hunger) novelist available for the first time in the U.S. Two alternating narrators?one cultured, the other vulgar?make a nice contrast. Mild-mannered, highly articulate Simon Thebus, a narcissist and Peeping Tom whose fetishes include collecting pictures of women donning stockings, has spent two years digging a secret network of roofed trenches and tunnels on the estate where he lives, which belongs to his sister, Audrey Wilcox. Josh Murphy is the crude, cunning 20-year-old part-time gardener Audrey has hired. From his clandestine underground retreat, Simon spies on Audrey, a neurotic widow and art connoisseur; on Josh; and on Marion, the naive, orphaned teenage housekeeper whom Josh, a virgin, wants to seduce. Josh looks up to Mortimer Milligan, a co-worker at the fair where they operate stalls. Mortimer fancies himself a philosophical realist, which boils down to a raunchy sexual braggadocio and, on one occasion, to forcing Josh to drive a thorn through a live bird's brain. When Simon mischievously puts teeth in the mousse of one of Audrey's guests, she gives him one month to leave, setting in motion more spying and betrayals as he does everything in his power to stay. There are some deliciously wicked moments, but the plot goes nowhere. Part of the problem is that all the other oddball characters remain remote because they are seen through the eyes of either the perversely self-absorbed Simon or the clueless, foundering Josh. Still, Unsworth has elegantly constructed his modern, intimately scaled notes from underground.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Customer Reviews

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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on January 31, 2000
Format: Hardcover
The Hide, told from two different, but equally disturbed viewpoints, chronicles the small lives of the twin narrators, Simon and Josh. Simon, who lives on a palatial estate with his sister and the shell-shocked housekeeper, Marion, has secretly dug tunnels beneath the grounds. These tunnels-- his hide-- are both for hiding himself from a confusing and vicious world, and to take voyeuristic peeks at his surroundings-- especially the woman in the next house who has a penchant for housework in flimsy garments.
Josh enters the household as a gardener when Simon's sister, Audry, decides in her unilateral way that the estate needs upkeep. Josh finds himself both disturbed by these odd hermits on the enormous estate and slowly attracted to Marion. Simon, for his part, is appalled and terrified of Josh-- a stranger, and worse, a gardener who has access to the grounds and may discover his hide, to say nothing of seeing Simon sneaking in and out of all his secret spots in the overgrown hedges.
The book is entirely engrossing, yet disturbing and sad. Everyone in the book seems broken in some way, limping through life in an unaware, self-piteous sort of rut where nothing ever happens. They are reflexive-things happen TO them, they are not capable, it seems, of exerting any force in their worlds. Simon is obsessed with his tunnels and spying, and in the process of spending so much time alone and underground, has no clear idea how to deal with other adults. Because of this, he does some startlingly childish pranks that he promptly regrets. He is perpetually tongue-tied and overanalytical of every social situation, almost always saying the wrong thing at the wrong time, all the while longing to escape to his secret subterranean realm.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Andrew Rasanen on February 27, 2004
Format: Hardcover
One step forward, two steps back for the haplessly intertwining lives in this absorbing novel. Alternating sections by the narrators create a nice rhythm between two very different kinds of innocence. Simon, the etiolated upper-crust neurotic whose widowed sister owns the estate on which the story takes place, is innocent in the sense that he has removed himself from human intercourse, preferring a life of passive, though acute, observation that prevents him from acquiring sophistication or social graces. Though educated, he is so out of touch with human society that he practices what he will say before speaking, consciously uses hand gestures to simulate a liveliness he does not possess, and is easily nonplussed by others. He literally is most at ease alone in a hole underground. Josiah, the naïve and slow-witted young gardener, is innocent in that he lacks the ability to discern motive or character in others and is inexperienced in the ways of the world. He is completely taken in by Mortimer, a slightly older man with an authoritative presence and an impressive-sounding vocabulary, who has a knack for restating Josh's simple sentiments so that Josh feels he has been revealed to himself. He is too guileless to see that Mortimer is a total cynic whose bloodless disdain for other people enables him to manipulate Josh's hero-worship. Enter Audrey, Simon's lonely sister, who has amateur acting ambitions, and Marion, Audrey's poor young relation who lives on the estate. When both women fall for the beautiful Josh, the stage is set for Simon's own act of manipulation to begin a chain of events that wreak disastrous results. Unsworth masterfully creates voices for his two narrators -- Josh's is rustic, earnest, and gullible, while Simon's is effete, alienated, and precise. Perhaps the most disturbing aspect of this story is that even after violation and mayhem, Josh and Simon retain their respective innocences.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 23, 1998
Format: Hardcover
A good, brief novel for readers who like texture and ominous mood better than plot. Chapters are alternately in the voice of a voyeur (observant by definition), and a slow witted handyman (maddeningly blind to reality until the end) who is exploited by a malevolent third character. Overt and covert sexual exploitation dominates relationships here.
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