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Kensington Gardens: A Novel Hardcover – June 13, 2006

4.0 out of 5 stars 1 customer review

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The "tycoon hermit of children's literature," Peter Hook, kidnaps the child star of the upcoming film version of his hero's adventures Jim Yang: The Movie. The book is constructed as a confession foisted by Hook on the bound and drugged child star Keiko Kai, one that reels back through Hook's life story. Hook's parents were an emblematic '60s couple: his mother, Alexandra Swinton-Menzies, was a modish scion of the aristocracy; his father, Sebastian Compton-Lowe, was the leader of a cult band, the Victorians; the mysterious death of a brother, Baco, unfolds as Hook's confession reaches its end and relates to the deaths of Hook's parents. All of this took place before Hook's childish eyes, through which we also see, in the style of the Sgt. Pepper album cover, celebrated '60s people. Into this mix, Fresán, an Argentina-born, 10-novel veteran making his debut in English, inserts the life of Peter Pan's creator, J.M. Barrie (of whom there is a statue in London's Kensington Garden), Barrie's nonsexual cuckolding of Arthur Llewelyn-Davies and his slow takeover of the Llewelyn-Davies family. Unfortunately, Barrie's story threatens to do the same thing with Fresan's novel. Fresan has things to say about childhood, the '60s, history, death and youth, but he does not successfully imagine a character to hang them on. (June)
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From Booklist

Fresan's debut in English (his nine other books haven't been translated) is the monologue of Peter Hook, pseudonymous author of a hit series of children's novels featuring time-traveling boy bicyclist Jim Yang. Its audience is the actor chosen to star in the first Jim Yang movie. He is bound and gagged, abducted to hear the harangue and join Hook in out-the-window flight a la Peter Pan. Hook's discourse interweaves his life as the early-orphaned son of aristocratic English musicians who participated in the 1960s British rock efflorescence, and the life of J. M. Barrie, creator of Peter Pan. The themes are childhood, time, and nostalgic obsession. The supporting cast of Hook's life consists of famous real people, and the people and events of Barrie's life are only subtly embellished for dramatic purposes. Barrie proves much more interesting than Hook, and Barrie's era much more interesting than the swingin'-London sixties. The rhetorical variety and popular-cultural acuity Fresan gives Hook are pretty spellbinding, amply compensating for an utter absence of plot. Ray Olson
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux; 1st edition (June 13, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374181012
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374181017
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,599,954 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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If you buy this book, approach it with the realization that you are reading a novel written in the style of Spanish fiction, not American or British fiction. This book is more closely aligned with Gabriel Garcia Marquez' Hundred Years of Solitude than anything to do with our Peter Pan. It is a novel of great disourse and discursive wanderings on philosophical ideas about death, identity, creativity and more. It should be read slowly. You should know that it will take time, that you can't (or shouldn't) hurry through it. There IS an actual story and plot and things to be revealed, but they are only part of the whole. I enthusiastically recommend this book for anyone with time, patience and the ability to lose him/herself in the long, winding sentences of Spanish fiction.
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