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Umbrella Hardcover – August 16, 2012


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Hardcover, August 16, 2012
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Product Details

  • Hardcover
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC; First Edition edition (August 16, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1408820145
  • ISBN-13: 978-1408820148
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 1.5 x 6.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #5,258,064 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Oh, I'm not just complaining because this is hard to read.
Jenny
If I had read a review I wouldn't have purchased this book, but bought because in was a nomination for the Booker Prize.
nightowl
Like a dance it weaves characters, time,places ,prose and song into a strange ,yet compelling tale.
Kindle Customer

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

62 of 66 people found the following review helpful By Ripple on October 4, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition
Will Self's "Umbrella" spans a century taking three interwoven strands. One features Audrey Dearth, who in 1918 is a munitions worker who falls ill with encephalitis lethargica, a brain disease that spread over Europe after the Great War rendering many of its victims speechless and motionless. She is incarcerated in Friern hospital where, in the early 1970s a psychiatrist, Zach Busner wakes her from her stupor using a new drug. In the final thread, in 2010 the asylum has closed and the now retired Busner travels across north London seeking the truth about his encounter with his former patient. While that sounds like a fascinating story in its own right, be warned. Self's approach is ambitiously modernistic making this a very heavy going tome even by Self's standards.

Stream of consciousness books can be challenging but good, non-linear books can be confusing but illuminating. Taken together though they are a mess that no amount of clever word play can rescue.

The narrative is a stream of consciousness epic that doesn't break for silly ideas like chapters, or even many paragraphs, most of which last for two or three pages each. Similarly there is no chronological development or discernable structure and time frames and points of view are spliced together, often within the same paragraph. Most of us don't have the luxury of endless hours in which to read and have to fit reading in around life, necessitating putting a book down at some point. Quite where you are supposed to do this in "Umbrella" is a bit of a mystery. Although picking the book up again was more of a challenge than putting it down.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Jenny on May 21, 2013
Format: Hardcover
I slogged through this in order to say I had read all of the Booker shortlist before the award was announced, for once. Let's make one thing clear - without that compelling reason, I would not have kept with it.

There is a difference between difficult writing and good writing. I personally think Will Self careens toward difficult without giving a thought to the reader. Oh, I'm not just complaining because this is hard to read. I get many of the references and imitations, I just didn't think they were necessary to do all at once. As Self himself said on page 86, "simply wishing the madness away won't make anyone regain their sanity."

First of all, you have the obvious comparison to Ulysses by James Joyce. In fact, just in case you dared to miss the comparison, he starts with a quotation from Ulysses - "A brother is as easily forgotten as an umbrella." This quotation comes back to haunt the reader towards the end of the story, but I won't ruin that particularly moment for the two other readers who will make it that far.

Ulysses has something very important that Umbrella does not - variety. It morphs between storytelling styles and points of view, with a rise and fall that keeps the reader interested. Umbrella goes FULL SPEED AHEAD with no chapters, no paragraphs (maybe a few indented starts), no dialogue signs, no breaks. Characters have dialogue and internal thoughts in the same breath, and italicized words aren't one or the other but are frequent throughout the book. There are three time periods covered by the novel but you never know where you are. Is an event being remembered or narrated? Are we moving linearly or going back and forth? Who are all these people? Ha.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Laurie MacDiarmid on February 28, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I have no problem with a modernist narrative in the style of Joyce's Ulysses. But Joyce's narrative seemed to follow more recognizable rules or patterns, allowing a reader to figure out more quickly the "rules" of the game. This reading experience is made even more maddening, in my experience, by what seems to be frequent textual mistakes (missing letters, strange symbols inserted instead of letter combinations -- ff becoming, for instance, [). At first I thought this was part of Self's game, but later began to suspect that this layer of difficulty had somehow been added during the Kindleizing process. So far, I can't track down the source of the problem, other than the schizophrenic nature of the narrative, to the software on my various machines (iPad, Kindle, computer, Amazon cloud, etc.). Instead, I can only complain about it here, and suggest that it is par for the garbled course of this perceptive nightmare.
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26 of 34 people found the following review helpful By Kindle Customer on September 21, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
An amazing novel from this quirky and brilliantly able writer, Will Self.Surely the winner of this years Man Booker 2012.
It is a challenging read from beginning to end ,having no chapters, but emerging in a constant stream of consciousness. Like a dance it weaves characters, time,places ,prose and song into a strange ,yet compelling tale.
I advise reading a book review first maybe, to get some idea of the story line before you start. Unless, that is , you enjoy an intellectual challenge .Also, keep at hand a medical dictionary to help with the psychiatric terminology.Even my kindle dictionary balked at some words.
Busner,a psychiatrist ,newly arrived at Friern mental asylum in North London,a rambling victorian monstrosity, comes across a patient called Audrey Death.Born in the 1890's, she fell victim to the 'sleeping sickness'- encephalitis lethargica at the end of the first world war.Discovering other such cases within the hospital, Busner attempts to bring them back from their catatonic state.In doing so , we are swept back to the first world war into the experiences of Audrey and her two brothers Stanley and Albert. The story is expressed through the eyes of these main characters .It swings without warning from one to the other ,and spans 50 years. an amazing writing feat. wonderful in its comlexity. masterfully done.
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