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The Winner of Sorrow Paperback – February 1, 2009

3.0 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Irish poet and filmmaker Lynch's first novel is an engaging fictional account of the life of the little-remembered 18th-century English poet William Cowper. Told primarily in flashback, Lynch introduces Cowper as an old man, plagued by self-loathing, sickness and hallucinations. His formative years are marked by the death of his mother and early inclinations toward poetry, contemplating the taste of words. Along with the major figures in Cowper's life—the charismatic Rev. John Newton, real-life author of Amazing Grace; John Johnson, Cowper's young cousin; and Mary Unwin, the love of his life—Lynch also lends Dickensian detail to minor characters, using them skillfully to provide an orbiting view. Lynch takes a serial approach, managing to take readers by surprise in every short chapter, whether terrifying (as in the height of Cowper's hallucinations) or hilarious ([p]oetry and puking were hardly ideal companions). This curious novel captures the sad poet from all angles, reimagining his life in a gracefully sprawling epic. (Feb.)
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Review

"At once moving, instructive and slyly funny, that rare thing, a recuperation of a poet by a poet." --John Banville

"If you want the low-down and high-down on the delicate, brutal reality of a poet's life, you must read The Winner of Sorrow." --Paul Durcan

"An exceptional Irish writer." --Thomas Kilroy, Irish Independent
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 363 pages
  • Publisher: Dalkey Archive Press; First U.S. edition (February 1, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1564785211
  • ISBN-13: 978-1564785213
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1.1 x 7.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,459,021 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Paperback
While looking for another book in my local library, my hand fell on "The Winner of Sorrow," proving that serendipity is the best method of selecting things to read.
I wish this book had received more attention, though I can understand why not. A fictional retelling of the life and times of 18th century English poet William Cowper. Zzzzzzz. What would one say to excite the market? That Cowper's work was highly popular in its day? That he was a precursor of Wordsworth, Shelley & Co? That some of his phrases, namely "God works in mysterious ways," remain commonplace? That a few of the weighty anthologies of English poems contain one or two of his works? That he was a pal and sometimes collaborator on hymns with the priest who wrote "Amazing Grace?"
The blurbs on this site tell the story; no need for me to go into it, except for this observation: Lynch has created a memorable character. His Cowper has a personality that is often found in life, but rarely as the title character of a novel. He stands for all brilliant but ineffectual, self-centered, seemingly humble men whose inaction and indifference poison the lives of those around them, mostly the women who are infatuated with him. He is a taker. And though he is also insane, he is not insane enough to escape regret.
Lynch turns Cowper's life into a magical conveyance to another time. His insights and brilliant prose style create vivid mental images. He performs the service that serious readers ask of novelists: fool me with your art into discovering the truth about the Big stuff: god, love, death and life with its poles of torment and ecstasy.
This was Lynch's first novel. He said in an interview posted online that he had long admired Cowper's work and spent five years researching and writing the book.
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Very hard to make head or tail of it.
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