- Paperback: 234 pages
- ISBN-10: 0786706791
- ASIN: B000HWZ1GO
- Package Dimensions: 8 x 5.4 x 0.7 inches
- Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces
- Average Customer Review: 18 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #7,623,045 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Essence of the Thing: A Novel Paperback – Bargain Price, August 31, 1999
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It all starts when Nicola returns home from a quick trip to buy cigarettes. The man she lives with, whom she loves, with whom there has never been any trouble - well, he calls her into the living room and awkwardly says "..I've decided - that is, I've come to the conclusion - that we should part." And so, over the course of the next 250 pages or so we find out how they came together, a little about their friendships and families, and wonder - will they get back together?
The book is well paced - not an extraneous sentiment or heavy handed attempt to TELL only to SHOW and to come to understand Nicola's decision at the end. It is a wonderfully written, sad, heartbreaking, sometimes funny, look at breaking up. The enormity of what has happened is all there, definitely, but with deft wrods and scenes.
This was shortlisted for the Man Booker - the first book by an Australian woman to have that honour.
Nicola is a 30ish Londoner living with a lawyer named Jonathan. She fully expects that they will marry, but one day she walks into their flat and Jonathan tells her coldly that he has decided they must part. He seems surprised that she is devastated by this.
The rest of the novel follows her and Jonathan's reaction. Despite her friends' advice, Nicola still feels devastated by the breakup, and still feels in love. But she slowly disconnects. She leaves the flat, which was originally hers but which she can't afford to keep. She moves in first with married friends, then with friends of these friends who have a little girl and a spare room. She applies for a job she has no belief she can get. At the same time Jonathan only slowly tells anyone, despite visiting his parents for a weekend and being given his mother's engagement ring to give to Nicola. He is shown realizing that his shirts aren't magically getting ironed, and that he misses other aspects of Nicola's presence. There are also some very witty scenes with Nicola's various friends -- lots of supple and clever and believable conversation. The final resolution is fairly predictable, though aspects are (wisely) left open ended. As I said, I liked it.