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Mountains of the Moon: A Novel Hardcover – July 5, 2012

4.4 out of 5 stars 10 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


“Merciless and penetrating . . . a difficult and disturbing novel, a wormy nightmare pitched between hard covers. If there are Stieg Larsson-like moments, they emerge from a prose style that owes more to William Faulkner and Cormac McCarthy. Ms. Kay’s utterances here are colloquial, bumpy, bordering on stream-of-consciousness. They often seem to be scratched onto a can with a rusty nail. . . . An unsentimental yet intensely moving portrait.”—Dwight Garner, The New York Times

“Like William Faulkner’s famously demanding novels . . . multiple readings would be needed to pick up on everything Ms. Kay is doing, but even on my first time through, Mountains of the Moon was one of the most challenging and impressive novels I’ve read all year.”—Sam Sacks, The Wall Street Journal

“Imaginative, playful and fresh . . . Because of the book’s theme of overcoming a tragic past, it may appeal to fans of Stieg Larsson. It will also be of interest to those who enjoy experimental fiction, unique voices and prose that intertwines with a story’s landscape.”
Huffington Post

“Compulsively readable . . . It’s the inimitable voice that Kay has worked out that makes Louise’s journey unforgettable, checkered with personal touches and a timbre of defiantly playful happiness that belies the deep sadness of her circumstances and the hard-boiled content of her flight from disaster to freedom. The novel’s impressive air of feminist noir and hard-knock psychological realism are merely molehills that the unusual (and personal) prose promotes to the scale of mountains.”—Publishers Weekly

“Like Stieg Larsson’s audacious heroine, Lisbeth Salander, Kay’s Louise Alder possesses an uncanny resourcefulness and spot-on survival instincts. . . . This is a remarkable novel on many levels, not only for its charismatic lead but also for debut novelist Kay’s complex plot, which repeatedly cuts back and forth in time, and multifaceted prose, which ranges from the fractured syntax of Louise’s childhood to the cinematic language of her African sojourn. A searing, soulful affirmation of the human spirit.”Joanne Wilkinson, Booklist (starred review)

“A striking debut. Imagination can blossom in the grimmest environment is one lesson of Kay’s appealing, often painful first novel, which captures the creative language and irrepressible spirit of Lulu King. . . . A wild, sometimes disorienting but impressively crafted novel.”—Kirkus Reviews

“An extraordinary debut . . . This is a novel about one woman’s struggle for existence, both physical and psychological, and in spite of the desperate subject matter it is above all a triumphant, uplifting expression of an individual’s capacity to transcend the brutality and ugliness of everyday life and create something unique and magnificent. . . . There’s a sense of having experienced something genuinely unforgettable. . . . A bold, unsettling, uplifting novel. Read it. Then read it again.”—The Guardian

“An extraordinary and quite brilliant first novel . . . The writing is wonderfully inventive, encompassing grim reality and wild, romantic fantasy, and the true magic lies in the way the author manages to present the fragments as a funny, charming, beautiful whole.”—The Times (London)

“I. J. Kay’s remarkable story waits like a lion in the savannah, sharp-toothed and patient. . . . The reward is Kay’s fiercely distinctive voice, and descriptions of lyrical intensity. . . . Kay’s character feels everything across many registers, rendering her experience as a vivid polyphony, much of it painful, much beautiful. Even the descriptions of physical violence have a dark poetry in them that brings to mind an elemental writer such as Cormac McCarthy. For above all, in this novel as in McCarthy’s work, it is language that redeems.”—Sylvia Brownrigg, Times Literary Supplement

“An astonishingly enjoyable debut novel . . . The trust that our resourceful heroine will always survive is what allows us to take pleasure in her ingenious ways of doing so; the same pleasure, of watching a female victim turn the tables on her persecutors, which has made the Stieg Larsson trilogy so popular. There are thriller elements that add suspense to this very literary fiction. . . . Mountains of the Moon does everything that novels can do, and does them in a very original way.”—The Observer (London)

“Unputdownable . . . A singular, vividly resonant novel whose humanity will thrill, delight and engage readers. Kay writes with clarity and ease; the sheer lucidity is irresistible.”—The Irish Times

“A riveting novel, both disturbing and entertaining, with twisted low-life characters rivalling any created by Martin Amis or Nicola Barker.”—The Spectator

“A valorous and magnificent novel.”—Samantha Harvey, author of The Wilderness

About the Author

I. J. Kay studied creative writing in England, where she earned an MA with distinction. She has lived in both the UK and West Africa. This is her first novel.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Viking (July 5, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0670023671
  • ISBN-13: 978-0670023677
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.5 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #273,204 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Mountains of the Moon is very well written. The dialogue is clever, unique, and at times very witty. The character portrayal,especially that of the heroine is brilliant. She is lovable and brave and you can't help cheering her up and onwards and even cheer when she takes her revenge on the people who made her chilhood hell.I would like to say I gave this book five stars and sent it to all my friends. Unfortunately it was utterly spoilt for me because it wasn't written in sequential order but bounces around all over the place from childhood to pre jail to post jail so much so I became totally confused at times to where I was in her life. I don't know whether or not to blame the editing but I did get to the end with certain relief. Sometimes writers try to be too clever in presenting a story. It would have been enough to tell the story without the convoluted time frames. I finished reading Mountains of the Moon feeling frustrated and let down somehow. I may recommend this book with reservations.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Stunning. Heartbreaking. Innovative. I rarely write reviews since most of what I read is dreck and not worth the effort, but this novel reminds me what literature can be. It's a fiercely challenging story with a heroine I can't get out of my head, and, yet, totally unputdownable. There may be times you're not sure what's going on or who's talking. GO WITH IT. It's all in service of a higher intention. If you like your beach reading lite and airy, walk away now, this ain't for you. No room for narrative spoonfeeding here. But if, like me, you don't mind having to work a little harder for your reward, if you crave compelling characters, attitude, inspired storytelling and creative languaging, you might finish Mountains of the Moon and immediately start again from the beginning to see if you missed anything. I'm already dying to know more about I.J. Kay's next book.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I J Kay - three consecutive letters of the alphabet. It is an odd pseudonym but in this long and interesting novel I realised that the author has a thing about names. The main character has a new name for each stage of her life and other characters often have more than one name by which they are known. Luckily the book has a `cast of characters' list at the beginning and I found myself referring back to it on a regular basis. The book is structured with the headings of a musical performance - an overture, three acts, a finale and an encore - but despite many snatches of tunes scattered in the text the point of this arrangement remains obscure.

Young Lulu has dysfunctional and abusive parents. Her father Bryce is often absent and when he is home he is physically violent to Lulu, her mother and baby brother. Another brother, Phillip, has gone to live with his own father in Wales to escape the cruelty, so Lulu and baby Graham bear the brunt of their father's anger once Bryce has beaten his wife senseless. Lulu's mother, off in her own world, both fears and loathes authority figures. She keeps Lulu out of school, spends her days banging on the piano singing old show tunes, and after each severe beating by her husband tells the police everything is fine. She berates Lulu whenever the girl seeks help from outsiders. Police and social workers predictably fail the children and their mother, so the cycle of trauma and violence is perpetuated.

Lulu escapes into a fantasy world of Africa, inspired by a book that her grandfather Bill passes on to her. Waste ground near her house becomes the Masai Mara and she dreams of scaling the Mountains of the Moon. She builds a walkway in the treetops near her home and escapes there to a world high above the one where she suffers.
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By Georgiana on November 17, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I felt so lucky to come across this book because great books like this are so hard to find.
For me, it's the full package of what I look for in a book.
I love that the style is innovative. It seems like a lot of people found it hard to follow.
However, it was not hard for me.
Instead, I relished it and thought that it added to the pace of the book making it terribly difficult to put down.
Especially, the style was pivotal to the character's voice, evolution, and psychological insight.
I also look for books that are about troublesome lives and relationships.
This is a book about a hard life.
It can be seen as disturbing or more so (what I love about it) as raw and keen.
I feel like the people that could truly appreciate this book are the kind that have also
been through difficult times and especially a hard childhood.
(Although I know it's not exclusive to that, it's just how I feel)
For me, this is why I love this book, it was cathartic in a way that
it put into words the insights that come along with severe circumstances like that in the story.
The author does not literally spell out these "insights" but rather trusts the reader to catch them
as she carefully unfolds the life story of the character.
The character would not be of the personality to sentimentalize her story, instead she gives us
her story straight and yet also in a guarded way that you have to understand the underlying meaning.
It is in this raw portrayal that does not go into melodrama, that the character shines through.
She does not ask for sympathy. She unravels her story and leaves it to you to understand or not.
I think this book is also a great example of how to do an open-ended ending.
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