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Umbrella by Will Self
  

Umbrella

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Shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2012.

Radical in its conception, uncompromising in its style, Umbrella is Will Self's most extravagant and imaginative exercise in speculative fiction to date.

Sir Peter Stothard, Chair of Man Booker Prize 2012 judging panel, on Umbrella...

'Will Self's Umbrella is about a misdiagnosed woman in a north London mental hospital, her family and her doctor. As has been noted in most reviews, it comprises almost 400 pages without paragraph breaks or chapter divisions. Self aims his remarkable mind and literary technique at many subjects that drew other writers in this Man Booker year - the tricks of age and memory, the limitations of technology, the city as a metaphor. This novel is both moving and draining. The judges placed Umbrella on the shortlist with the conviction that those who stick with it will find it much less difficult than at first it seems.'

If you like Will Self you might also like to read books by Matt Thorne, Tobias Hill and Alexei Sayle.

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Synopsis

Umbrella by Will Self

A brother is as easily forgotten as an umbrella. James Joyce, Ulysses Recently having abandoned his RD Laing-influenced experiment in running a therapeutic community - the so-called Concept House in Willesden - maverick psychiatrist Zack Busner arrives at Friern Hospital, a vast Victorian mental asylum in North London, under a professional and a marital cloud. He has every intention of avoiding controversy, but then he encounters Audrey Dearth, a working-class girl from Fulham born in 1890 who has been immured in Friern for decades. A socialist, a feminist and a munitions worker at the Woolwich Arsenal, Audrey fell victim to the encephalitis lethargica sleeping sickness epidemic at the end of the First World War and, like one of the subjects in Oliver Sacks' Awakenings, has been in a coma ever since. Realising that Audrey is just one of a number of post-encephalitics scattered throughout the asylum, Busner becomes involved in an attempt to bring them back to life - with wholly unforeseen consequences. Is Audrey's diseased brain in its nightmarish compulsion a microcosm of the technological revolutions of the twentieth century? And if Audrey is ill at all - perhaps her illness is only modernity itself? And what of Audrey's two brothers, Stanley and Albert: at the time she fell ill, Stanley was missing presumed dead on the Western Front, while Albert was in charge of the Arsenal itself, a coming man in the Imperial Civil Service. Now, fifty years later, when Audrey awakes from her pathological swoon, which of the two is it who remains alive?

Reviews

'In these culturally straitened times few writers would have the artistic effrontery to offer us a novel as daring, exuberant and richly dense as Umbrella. Will Self has carried the Modernist challenge into the twenty-first century, and worked a wonder' John Banville

'Umbrella is his best book yet ... It makes new for today the lessons taught by the morals of Catch 22, Slaughterhouse Five, The Tin Drum, also Marquez's Chronicle of a Death Foretold Alasdair Gray Self has never been shortlisted for the Booker, but Umbrella is such a linguistically adept, emotionally subtle and ethically complex novel that this could and should be his year' Guardian

'A tour de force ... Despite the bleakness of the message, by the end you are filled with elation at the author's exuberant ambition and the swaggering way he carries it all off, and then a huge sense of deflation at the realisation that whatever book you read next, it won't be anything like this' Daily Mail

'A dazzling feat of imagination and structure: a sprawling, lyrical, stream-of-consciousness narrative that squares up to modernism and brings it kicking and screaming into the 21st century ... stomach-lurchingly ambitious' Observer

'The reader is snagged on moments of brilliance and, most thrilling of all, left to make her own connections' Daily Telegraph

'Umbrella is a magnificent celebration of modernist prose, an epic account of the first world war, a frightening investigation into the pathology of mental illness ... must be recognised as, above all, a virtuoso triumph of emotional and creative intelligence' Spectator

'Kind of amazing ... It may not be his easiest, but I think this may be Will Self's best book' Sam Leith, Observer

About the Author

Will Self

Will Self is the author of three short-story collections, The Quantity Theory of Insanity (winner of the 1992 Geoffrey Faber award), Grey Area and Tough Tough Toys for Touch Tough Boys; a dyad of novellas, Cock and Bull, and a third novella, The Sweet Smell of Psychosis; and four novels, My Idea of Fun, Great Apes, How the Dead Live (shortlisted for the Whitbread Novel of the Year 2000) and The Book of Dave.

Together with the photographer David Gamble, he produced Perfidious Man, a sideways look at contemporary masculinity. There have been three collections of journalism, Junk Mail, Sore Sites and Feeding Frenzy. Will Self has written for a plethora of publications over the years and is a regular broadcaster on television and radio. His latest work is a collection of pieces entitled Liver: A Fictional Organ with a Surface Anatomy of Four Lobes.

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Book Info

Publication date

16th August 2012

Author

Will Self

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Author's Website

www.will-self.com
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Publisher

Bloomsbury Publishing PLC

Format

Hardback

Categories

Literary Fiction
All Shortlists and Winners
eBook Favourites
eBook Favourites


ISBN

9781408820148

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