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Observatory Mansions: A Novel Paperback – February 5, 2002
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“A sublime take on the Gothic horror novel, an endearing love story…and a triumphant argument for how brilliant the novel can still be.”–Detroit Free Press
“Readers who complain there’s no originality left in the world should visit Observatory Mansions.”–USA Today
“A funny, sad, and provocative novel.”–The Washington Post Book World
“Observatory Mansions is a strange and beautiful book. . . . That this is a first novel is a wonder.” —The Memphis Flyer
From the Inside Flap
Once the Orme family's magnificent ancestral estate, Observatory Mansions is now a crumbling apartment complex, home to an eccentric group of misfits. One of them is Francis Orme, who earns his livelihood as a living statue. When not practicing "inner and outer stillness," Francis steals the cherished possessions of others to add to his private museum. The other tenants are equally as odd: his mother and father, who haven't interacted in years; a man who continually sweats and cries; a recluse who prefers television to reality; and a woman who behaves like a dog. When Anna Tapp arrives among them she stirs their souls, bringing long forgotten memories to the surface-and arousing fears that this new resident intends to provoke a metamorphosis.
Reminiscent of Beckett, Ionesco, and Millhauser but startlingly original, Observatory Mansions is also unexpectedly beguiling. Upon its publication in England, it was a literary sensation, and John Fowles called it "easily the most brilliant fiction I've seen this year."
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The narrator is a sweet, gentle soul, highly observant, highly sensitive, and prone to stealing things -- little knick-knacks, small sentimental objects, at least for the most part! -- that he adds to his own personal museum of personal memories.
He is also tending the family estate, a dusty old home that has been split into apartments, and which is sitting in the midst of a city growing rapidly around it.
A young woman moves in, and ... oh, you know. Upside-down it all goes. But gently. Smartly. Observationally.
But there is brutality as well. A quiet gothic brutality, a masochistic indifference which appears from time to time, between different characters under different circumstances. There is always this soft, dark reminder that sometimes memories have prices.
The plot is simple, but the sentiments throughout are complex. The observations into human nature are remarkable, and the climax near the end is actually quite moving. It's a slightly odd book, call it quirky, but I loved every moment of it.
A group of eccentric misfits live in the apartments known as Observatory Mansions. Mysterious Anna Tap shows up and changes their lives forever.
Funny, sad, brilliant. Remarkable book.
To know the story line, read the Amazon description. To know the real story, you have to live it. Unlike any book I have ever read, I was astounded at the author's ability to keep the characters "in character" throughout the book. Sustaining their personae while advancing the story shows an unusual talent.
While you can sometimes see what's coming you don't want to - it's far better to just let it happen. Carey even made the book the right length - long enough to develop the story without added filler to reach a certain length.
I will be looking forward to reading more from Edward Carey!