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35 of 38 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Big family saga minus the cheap melodrama
T C Boyle's Pen/Faulkner Award winning novel "World's End" looks like a daunting read. It's after all over 450 pages long and boasts a cast of characters that spans several generations and makes Tolstoy's "War and Peace" seem like a cosy family drama. It's hard work initially figuring out who's who and this is complicated by Boyle making us jump...
Published on February 17, 2001

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29 of 38 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The Pieces Don't Fit
Here's what you get with this one. You get a narrative about an aimless twenty-year old of Dutch descent in late sixties, upstate New York. He's conflicted and anxious for reasons he can't understand, not to mention that he sees ghosts. He loses his foot in a motorcycle accident at the site of an historic Indian marker. You also get a narrative about his mother and...
Published on November 22, 2005 by Paul McGrath


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35 of 38 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Big family saga minus the cheap melodrama, February 17, 2001
By A Customer
This review is from: World's End (Contemporary American Fiction) (Paperback)
T C Boyle's Pen/Faulkner Award winning novel "World's End" looks like a daunting read. It's after all over 450 pages long and boasts a cast of characters that spans several generations and makes Tolstoy's "War and Peace" seem like a cosy family drama. It's hard work initially figuring out who's who and this is complicated by Boyle making us jump backwards and forwards alternating between the 17th and 20th Century, but once you get into a groove, it's no sweat. "World's End" is a multigenerational family saga with all the pyrotechnics you'd expect but Boyle expertly skirts and avoids melodrama. The themes of real estate, power, race, class and betrayal are worked to their fullest and the effect is nothing short of stunning. All quite old fashionedly powerful stuff except for Boyle's quirky sense of humour (eg, Walter van Brunt's accidents) that nudges the novel somewhere left field. Boyle's own empathy for the hippy movement of the 1960s also lends an authencity to the "present day" developments. The novel is really about Walter's search for his mysteriously missing black sheep of a father, Truman - an enigma till the end - and as he drives himself and others crazy discovering his past and how the histories of three feuding clans are inextricably bound by blood, hatred and deceit, he comes face to face with the shocking truth that in three hundred years, nothing changes and humanity is powerless against the forces that threaten to engulf them. Boyle is a great storyteller. His prose is exotic, colourful, always compelling and a joy to read. Reading "World's End" takes commitment and dedication but the reward makes it all worthwhile. This is one novel nobody who loves serious literature should miss. Highly recommended.
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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars shed his grace on (some) of thee, September 12, 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: World's End (Contemporary American Fiction) (Paperback)
Boyle shows us with breathtaking style how the powerful stay powerful and the powerless stay powerless. By writing about the same two families in both the 17th and the 20th centuries and spelling out in shattering detail how little changed their social relations are, Boyle gives the American Dream a good dope slap. Anyone who finds this book boring or hard to follow needs to stop watching so much television and get an attention span.
Boyle was one angry young writer and I think his venom has ebbed somewhat over the years, which is a good thing for him personally, but might cost his writing. I stopped reading him at _Road to Wellville_, which I thought was silly, but after hearing a recent interview with him about _Riven Rock_, I may try to catch up.
I think that _World's End_ is his best book because it is about his hometown. Maybe he has lived in southern California long enough now to write about that area and its people just as well.
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29 of 38 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The Pieces Don't Fit, November 22, 2005
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This review is from: World's End (Contemporary American Fiction) (Paperback)
Here's what you get with this one. You get a narrative about an aimless twenty-year old of Dutch descent in late sixties, upstate New York. He's conflicted and anxious for reasons he can't understand, not to mention that he sees ghosts. He loses his foot in a motorcycle accident at the site of an historic Indian marker. You also get a narrative about his mother and father in the late forties who take part in what is seen by the locals as a communist rally, and that has tragic results for both of them. Lastly, you get a narrative about his forefathers in 17th century New York, the most important plot-wise of whom loses HIS foot in an accident.

Intermingled in these narratives are the stories of those who interacted with our twenty-year old and his family--primarily a wealthy Dutch family and the local Indian tribe--and all those in the present story are descendants of those in the past. In general, the wealthy family is cruel, the regular family is cowardly and the Indians are oppressed. Oh. And there are a number of striking--if not improbable--coincidences between past and present of a kind similar to the amputated foot thing.

This really isn't as confusing as it sounds, although it helps that there is a two page list of principal characters at the beginning. You may find that you don't have to refer to it after every page, but refer to it, you will.

They're all pretty good stories, though, and despite the obvious forays into magical realism Boyle mostly keeps it real. The characters are distinctive and he is very good at maintaining narrative tension. It is one of those books in which you find you regret that a chapter has come to an end, only to become completely immersed within a few pages of the next.

But as engrossing as all of these stories are individually, they really don't mesh as a whole, and that, in a nutshell, is the problem with his novel. The twenty year old learns that his father, who abandoned him, acted despicably. When he finally confronts him, late in the novel, he is told that it has to do with what happened in 1690. In 1690 their ancestor acted despicably also, but why? In the face of adversity, this heretofore rather fierce character, without reason or warning, suddenly gives up.

Early in the novel, our twenty-year old is told a legend of the land on which they all now live. Before the white man ever came, an Indian tribe--fictionally named--was dominated by the Mohawks. To appease a fierce Mohawk who'd appeared among them, they presented him with the chief's beautiful daughter. Later, and to their horror, they found that the Mohawk had killed this girl and was in the middle of making a meal of her.

So maybe that's the point. The land was cursed from the very beginning. Or maybe it was the kid's family that was cursed, for acting like cowards. Or maybe it is the white man in general that is cursed, for treating the Indians abominably. Something is cursed, in any event, and it's really not clear that the kid's confrontation with his father at the end resolves it in any way.

Maybe it's just the book. It was published pretty early in Boyle's career and it's possible that as a young writer he simply bit off more than he could chew. One of his later works, Drop City, is more focused, and a richer experience as a result. World's End is a good effort, but Boyle is a far better writer now.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars local and universal, April 3, 2002
This review is from: World's End (Contemporary American Fiction) (Paperback)
This book is all about the struggles of mankind. In a way it is about class struggles, family struggles and life through the generations, but it doesn't read that way. It comes off as a great depiction of two notable dutch families in the hudson valley. It has engaging characters which keep a sort of continuity through the generations. Very well done, and especially interesting if you are dutch, live in the hudson valley region in new york, or have other ties to colonial america or earlier.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars T.C. Boyle's finest work., March 19, 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: World's End (Contemporary American Fiction) (Paperback)
Having, over the years, enjoyed T.C Boyle's numerous short stories in "The New Yorker," I recently picked up a few of his novels, including: "Water Music," a hysterical, bodice-ripping romp through 18th century England, and that too-proud nation's declaration of ownership over every tract of land it's countrymen set foot in -- even when their explorers are speared to death by natives; "The Road to Wellville," another very funny (and historically significant) statement on America's obsession with all things healthy, and finally, Boyle's watershed work, "World's End." Many readers and reviewers toss off Boyle as a simple satarist -- and they do have a valid, if simple, argument. But with "World's End," Boyle reaches beyond stereotypes and puts his language-drunk prose to it's best purpose, creating a vivid cast of credible, and complex, multi-generational carachters -- many with GOOD points, as well as bad. This novel is fairly dripping with history, languidly lapsing from the 1600s to the 1960s and back, prompting smiles, laughter and the occasional fit of anger. "World's End" is no simple satire. It's a fully drawn, breathing work of literary art. It became my favorite novel by page 5, and I am anxious to read it again, once I've been through the rest of the Boyle canon. (NOTE: of his short stories, "Filthy With Things" is a particular favorite of mine; it must hold some significance for T.C. as well, being the final work in his recently released anthology.)
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10 of 13 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Fighting one's food, November 12, 2004
This review is from: World's End (Contemporary American Fiction) (Paperback)
This book is like crab. Crab? Yes, crab. Each taste is delicious (that is, deliciously well written). However, like getting at the tantalizing crabmeat, getting through the book is a fight. I don't like fighting my food and I did not enjoy fighting this book. Except for the struggle by Walter to find and understand his father Truman, I was constantly confused regarding the characters and their relationships. It was ultimately worth it, but only marginally. I think I should have started with another T.C. Boyle instead of this one, as other reviewers have suggested.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant, February 16, 2006
This review is from: World's End (Contemporary American Fiction) (Paperback)
The only other T.C. Boyle book I have read is Tortilla Curtain. I didn't really care for that one, and don't often give an author a second chance (there are a million books to read and I only have so much time). I'm glad I made an exception for World's End. The characters were brilliantly written, I bought into most of them completely. I really wanted Walter to get his act together, but wasn't disappointed that he didn't. I have a weakness for endings that don't get completely resolved (probably why I prefer movies from other countries), and this definitely was one of them. Give it a shot, you'll be glad you did.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Oh Father, Where Art Thou?, August 26, 2008
By 
Daniel Myers (Greenville, SC USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: World's End (Contemporary American Fiction) (Paperback)
This book is an extreme rarity in that I don't have a strong feeling for it as a whole, one way or the other. Clearly, Walter's search to understand his father is the best part of the book. Unfortunately, a rather skewed atavism with historical circumstances dumped on the reader in shovelfuls comprises the greater part of this work. It seems to me that if you're going to handle atavism, you need to do it with a great deal of subtlety (Conrad, Faulkner and, especially, John Cowper Powys come to mind.) But if there's one thing not to be found here, it's subtlety. The historian in me sympathizes with Walter at the late-sixties rock concert, where, "In fact, there were few who had any grasp at all that history had preceded them." But the sort of history Boyle offers here is too gimcrack and off-the-cuff to serve as a replacement for lack of knowledge. In fact, if there is a lesson to be learnt about history here it is NOT, "Those not aware of the past are doomed to repeat it." It is rather, and emphatically, "You are doomed to repeat the past whether you are aware of it or not." Boyle and his character Walter seem confused at times as to whether they want to be history professors or hipsters or existential heroes. The end result is none of the above. There is also the quibble of sloppy writing, several instances of which I could cite, but when Boyle has Walter rise to his FEET while in Barrow, it becomes exasperating.

I fail to understand this mediocrity after Water Music, which is a great, erudite, comic novel that I wouldn't hesitate recommending to anyone. But, then, to whom is this book dedicated? "In memory of my own lost father" Seen in this light, the work becomes at least excusable, if not really understandable. I hope Boyle laid his personal demons at least partly to rest regarding his paternity with this book. He's a truly great writer.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars My favorite book, September 1, 2004
This review is from: World's End (Contemporary American Fiction) (Paperback)
World's End is by far my favorite novel. The depth and extent of the characters is overwhelming. Boyle couldn't have done a better job bringing this story to life. Every twist and every turn kept me on the edge of my seat craving more with each page. I may have taken me two read through before everything truly sunk in, but that just shows how deep this novel truly is. I would (and have) recommend this book to anyone.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars T. C. Boyle's, February 7, 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: World's End (Contemporary American Fiction) (Paperback)
This is the best contemporary novel I've read. I loved everything about it. The characters were engaging, the writing was rich in detail, the atmospheres of the different time periods covered were palpably real. I found this book captivating and moving in such a way I've encountered only with Twain, Steinbeck, Dostoyevsky and Bulgakov. A motley list, but good company to be in nonetheless.
Simply put, I can't recommended this book highly enough. If I could give it six stars, I'd give it seven.
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World's End (Contemporary American Fiction)
World's End (Contemporary American Fiction) by T. Coraghessan Boyle (Paperback - July 20, 1990)
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