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Wild Abandon: A Novel Hardcover – January 3, 2012
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Blaen-y-Llyn, founded by Don and his wife, Freya, among others, is a commune dedicated to a natural way of life. Though once a thriving community of like-minded individuals, membership has dwindled over the years, and now even Patrick, one of the founding members, has left to escape Don’s controlling nature. With Freya thinking of doing the same, Don’s marriage is faltering as well. In search of stability, his teenage daughter, Kate, escapes to college, but living with her boyfriend’s family isn’t the haven of normalcy she was hoping for, and she left her beloved younger brother behind in her hasty exit. As all of the characters come to terms with the reality of their lives and relationships, a story unfolds that is about midlife crises, adolescent dramas, and self-discovery. With well-developed characters and a dark humor reminiscent of that in his first novel, Submarine (2008), Dunthorne delivers hilarity and heartbreak while redefining the essence of normality in this story about what makes a family and what makes a family dysfunctional. --Cortney Ophoff
Praise for Wild Abandon
“[Contains] one of the funniest, most poignant kids I’ve run across in fiction…Wild Abandon had me pestering my wife with favorite lines till she promised to read it.” - Ron Charles, The Washington Post
“He’s an elegant, accessible, and interesting comic novelist, whose work, I suspect, will provide a great deal of pleasure to a great number of people for many years.” – Nick Hornby, The Believer
"[R]ichly plotted and peopled"--Entertainment Weekly
“Populated by flawed, occasionally exasperating, lovable and, above all, thoroughly imagined characters, Wild Abandon is about what happens to children when parents become consumed by their beliefs...A terrific novel." – Nick Hornby, The Guardian, “Best Books of the Year”
“Think Juno or Bottle Rocket, then read [Wild Abandon]… This novel could be charming and silly, but Dunthorne infuses it with a wry, dark humor that builds to a nearly terrifying conclusion… Complicated, realistic, and unsettling” – Library Journal
“With well-developed characters and a dark humor reminiscent of that in his first novel, Submarine (2008), Dunthorne delivers hilarity and heartbreak while redefining the essence of normality in this story about what makes a family and what makes a family dysfunctional.”--Booklist
“A fresh perspective on modern culture, peppered with colorful dialogue.”--Kirkus
“Manages to be both tender and biting . . . Wild Abandon never lapses into parody, because [Joe] Dunthorne doesn’t scrimp on the small moments that make a character light up. . . . Truly laugh-out-loud hilarious.”—The Independent on Sunday
“Has you wincing on [the protagonist’s] behalf, page after page-turning page . . .Dunthorne does himself proud. [He draws] characters with real staying power.”—The Evening Standard (London)
“Full of finely nuanced details and a restless comic energy . . . builds to a fine apocalyptic climax.”—The Guardian
“Wild Abandon is a very funny novel, but it’s not quite a comic one. . . . There’s a pathos here too. . . . From The Tempest to The Beach, everybody loves the tale of a flawed Utopia. [Wild Abandon] subverts the genre without even seemingly trying to. And it’s hilarious. What’s not to like?”—The Times
“[Dunthorne is] the British Dave Eggers.”—GQ
Top customer reviews
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Freya and Don Riley have lived in a commune-type community in the English countryside for many years, since they co-founded "the community" with two other friends. Their two children, Kate and Albert, have been raised living the philosophies their parents have instilled in all residents. But things are starting to change. The community is on a decline, down to a skeleton crew. Kate has enrolled in school for the first time and is hoping to get into college, and she has come into contact with "regular" students and cafeteria food for the first time. Albert has fallen under the influence of another resident's end-of-the-world philosophies. And Freya is tired of it all, especially her husband. Wild Abandon follows the Rileys and their friends through all of the changes and the chaos that results.
At its heart, this is a book about change--how we need it, how we crave it, but how we resist it at every turn. Dunthorne has created some very dynamic characters, but in an effort to give each flaws, he sacrifices their appeal. While the characters may exhibit behaviors you might expect from individuals who haved lived for so long on a commune, many of them veer into truly uncomfortable territory, which turned the book for me. There's no doubt that Dunthorne is a really talented writer--and I'm considering reading his earlier book, Submarine--but I found this book ultimately unsatisfying because of the behaviors of many of its characters. Bummer.
But then the writer takes us into the banal backstories of his characters rather than a real focus on the conflicts facing them in the here and now. As his ambitions diminish, so too does his prose, almost as if it's not worth celebrating the descriptions of the marginal adult characters. Had we stayed always on the kids, in their world now, it might have been more enjoyable. Who knows? I was fascinated by the setting of the novel on a commune but maybe that was unfair of me -- the author seems to be after an examination of dynamics a bit more broad than that. Trouble is, his adult characters are broad, too, if not stupid.
Most recent customer reviews
Did I love the entire aspect of a novel centered around a commune? Most certainly. Did Joe Dunthorne carry out such an aspect rather well? Yes.Read more