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The Underground Man Paperback – May 1, 1998

4.5 out of 5 stars 24 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Mick Jackson makes films. It's no surprise, then, that his first novel, The Underground Man, should be so economically told, the action evoking a mise en scène. The novel takes the form of journal entries interspersed with eyewitness accounts from servants and neighbors. The "Underground Man" portrayed in the novel, William John Cavendish Bentinck-Scott, the Duke of Portland and a resident of Nottinghamshire, England, is mightily eccentric; the man was real (1800-1879), as was his eccentricity. Historical fact: the Duke commissioned eight tunnels on his estate. Present-day fact: if you walk the estate today, you see the skylights--2' in diameter and 4" thick. But why did he build them?

In the last few days of the Duke's life, eccentricity burgeons; madness follows. The reader learns that his odd view of the world was shaped by early tragedy, the full truth of which is withheld until the last few pages.

The Underground Man is that most delectable blend of fact and fiction, one in which the intriguing details of a real life are richly explored through imagination. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Through a fictional journal, Jackson constructs a portrait of William John Cavendish-Bentinck-Scott, fifth Duke of Portland (d. 1879), a prodigious eccentric best known for the elaborate network of tunnels he built beneath his estate. The duke is portrayed as a repressed hypochondriac, an old man morbidly curious about the workings of his body and mind. During the months encompassed by the novel, he grows increasingly obsessed with the fleeting bits of memory that intrude upon his ruminations and hint at some horrific, long-buried secret. A prime example of the psychological bent of the contemporary British neo-Gothic novel, this first novel from a British filmmaker and teacher of creative writing explores the darker fringes of consciousness. A subdued, though peculiarly compelling, tale.?Lawrence Rungren, Merrimack Valley Lib. Consortium, Andover, Mass.
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books (June 1, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140274375
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140274370
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.5 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.9 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,140,304 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Lesley West on July 4, 2001
Format: Paperback
This is an interesting book, about the type of truly eccentric and driven man that can only have been produced by the Victorian aristocracy. It is an interesting mixture of the main character's journal (which is by far the majority of the text) and the observations of the local people and staff on his estate.
It is certainly a fascinating and richly detailed account of what would be considered at any time chronic eccentricity bordering on madness - the endless underground tunnels and odd eating habits alone are enough to convince you of this, but what I feel is a small weakness of the novel is that there is simply not enough external observations of the Duke. Those observations by the house-keeper and the footman etc are little gems of insight, but they are too few.
The prose itself is beautiful, and once again invokes the feeling of the time wonderfully. It is a fine novel, well worth a read.
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By A Customer on September 18, 1999
Format: Paperback
Mick Jackson's debut, a part fictional novel based on the life of the Duke of Portland, is one of the best novels I have read this year. It's written in the style of a mystery - the secret is unveiled only in its final pages - and told through the eyes of the protagonist via his journal entries and those around him. Jackson is a brilliant writer - his prose is sharp, witty and even poetic in places and he has that rare ability to hold you spellbound and on knife's edge as you partake in the unraveling of the mystery. There are hints along the way but the secret is preserved right till the very end. A small criticism - I found the middle section dealing with the Duke's hypochondria a little long and slow. This trips up the natural velocity of the plot which otherwise moves briskly along. As if to compensate for this minor hiccup, Jackson's prose tightens up again as he gives a truly unnerving account of the final stages of the Duke's physical breakdown. The sharpness and pinpoint accuracy of this descriptive passage makes your stomach queasy and your knees want to buckle. Jackson's writing is deceptively simple but it hits you right between the eyes. Beautiful. Stay tuned. You will hear and read alot more of him. In the meantime, enjoy this wonderfully sad and terrific novel.
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Format: Paperback
Just finished reading Mick Jackman's THE UNDERGROUND MAN. He creates a tremendous and quick story to describe the life of the quirky, eccentric Duke of Portland in England in the mid-1800's. It's great language, and many interesting ideas explored - eccentricities, anatomy, trepanning, phrenology, bits of everything seem to work their way into the Duke's journal.
Nicely done with some WAITING FOR GUFFMAN-like asides delivered by his staff, neighbors, etc. on how they perceive the Duke as he slowly drifts away from their reality.
Good read.
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By A Customer on April 20, 2000
Format: Paperback
I chose to read this book mainly because it had been nominated for the Booker Prize although I know this does not always guarantee a good read.I have to say that I was not too excited about the subject matter before I began reading it and I expected the storyline to be a little silly.However,I am now a devoted Mick Jackson reader due to the beautiful prose throughout the book.I was enthralled by the adventures of the Duke and he made me laugh,cry and even squirm while reading.I agree with the reviewer below however, regarding the hypochondria section-it tended to be quite slow-moving,so I'm only giving it 4 instead of 5 stars.The first half of the book,though, is wonderful and this alone makes it worth buying.The ending,although a little contrived,truly shocked me and I can't get it out of my mind.I look forward to more work from Mick Jackson.
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Format: Paperback
The book is based on the life of William John Cavendish Bentinck-Scott, the Duke of Portland and a resident of Nottinghamshire, England. The Duke of Portland was one of Victorian England's most famous eccentrics, who built a series of underground tunnels large enough for carriages and horses, that enabled him to move around his vast property. Although some of the book is based on facts, Mick Jackson admitted to have taken downright liberties in writing it.

The novel enfolds in the form of journal entries by the duke himself, and is supplement of various neighbours, servants and service men's accounts of Your Grace. The plot develops around the Duke's observations of the world around him, his somewhat hypochondriac obsession with his body, the steadily degeneration of his mind and his search for something missing in his life. It is drawn to a shocking and somewhat bizarre climax in the end of the novel.

It is beautifully written tragic and comic novel, with a character and plot that won't easily be forgetten.
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By A Customer on July 20, 2001
Format: Paperback
Jackson's novel about the eccentric Duke of Portland is one of the finest pieces of fiction I have read. Told through the voice of the Duke, Jackson indulges in the Dukes eccentric viewpoint and gives The Underground Man a sense of humor and humanity - and later terror - which few works of prose can claim. Despite the books brevity, the character of the Duke is strongly developed, and his deteriorating sanity self-evident through the diary entries.
In brief, The Underground Man was a thoroughly entertaining book, and should be read by all.
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