The Society of Others
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This review is provided by bookgroup.info.
This extraordinary novel by William Nicholson (better known as the playwright responsible for Shadowlands and co-screenwriter of Gladiator) is a surprise from start to finish.
The narrator is a young man, passive to the point of inertia, whose motto is 'Life is hard and then you die'. He spends his time in his bedroom doing nothing - really nothing at all - until a pigeon gives him a sign that he should get away. This sets him off on a Kafkaesque journey where he is hurtled from violence to danger and back again via a cast of strange characters. His wry and, at times, very funny commentary reveals his personality (which is actually quite lovable) and its development along the way.
It is a philosophical and spiritual journey and I have to admit that, as someone with a profound distrust of religion, I was tempted to put the book down as soon as the G word was mentioned. I had to remind myself that I read because I want to know what other people have to say and to keep my mind open. I'm glad I did because ultimately it's a thought-provoking book that calls for an oblique and humane perspective on the world. It also engendered a very lively discussion amongst our group.
Sarah Broadhurst's view...
Renowned childrenâs author has written his first adult novel that he describes as â€œa thriller about the meaning of lifeâ€. It stars a normal teenager with no direction, no ambition and no motivation who sort of falls into hitch-hiking round Europe. With no destination, he goes wherever the lorry driver is going enduring the manâs philosophical chat along the way. Borders are crossed and suddenly we are in very foreign territory indeed, a dangerous, frightening Kafka-esque place and our teenager walks into a nightmare. Reading it is like receiving a sharp punch in the stomach. A staggeringly impressive work.
Comparison: Bernhard Schlinkâs The Reader, Jim Crace, J M Coetzee.
Similar this month: Yasmina Khadra, William Sutcliffe.
The Society of Others by William Nicholson
He has nowhere to goâ€¦so he goes there. An alienated young man can see no meaning in life. He doesnât even see the point of getting out of bed in the morning. To escape from his family he decides to set off on a hitchhiking adventure around Europe, and is picked up by a friendly lorry driver with an unusual interest in philosophy.
The journey takes him through a violent and Kafkaesque nightmare to a destination that changes his life.
Browse inside this book
â€˜Thrilling in every respect, but also hypnotic, fast-moving and intellectually challenging...Quite staggeringly goodâ
â€˜ It entertains us while it reflects with great profundity on the human condition â€¦one of the best novelists aroundâ
Piers Paul Read Spectator
'A baffling, staggering, grandly ambitious work . . . quite remarkable'
'Nicolson describes it as 'a thriller about the meaning of life' and that's pretty accurate...A genuinely thought-provoking read'
Mail on Sunday
About the Author
Publication date2nd May 2005
More books by William Nicholson
Author 'Like for Like'
PublisherTransworld Publishers Ltd
CategoriesModern & contemporary fiction (post c 1945)
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