Umbrella by Will Self

63%

7 Critic Reviews

The narrative switches perspectives without warning and sometimes in the space of a single word.
-NPR

Synopsis

"A brother is as easily forgotten as an umbrella."—James Joyce, Ulysses

Radical and uncompromising, Umbrella is a tour de force from one of England’s most acclaimed contemporary writers, and Self’s most ambitious novel to date. Moving between Edwardian London and a suburban mental hospital in 1971, Umbrella exposes the twentieth century’s technological searchlight as refracted through the dark glass of a long term mental institution. While making his first tours of the hospital at which he has just begun working, maverick psychiatrist Zachary Busner notices that many of the patients exhibit a strange physical tic: rapid, precise movements that they repeat over and over. One of these patients is Audrey Dearth, an elderly woman born in the slums of West London in 1890. Audrey’s memories of a bygone Edwardian London, her lovers, involvement with early feminist and socialist movements, and, in particular, her time working in an umbrella shop, alternate with Busner’s attempts to treat her condition and bring light to her clouded world. Busner’s investigations into Audrey’s illness lead to discoveries about her family that are shocking and tragic.
 

About Will Self

See more books from this Author
Will Self is the author of numerous books of fiction and nonfiction. He also writes for newspapers and magazines, and appears regularly on television and radio. He lives in London.
 
Published January 8, 2013 by Grove Press. 417 pages
Genres: Literature & Fiction, History. Fiction
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Critic reviews for Umbrella
All: 7 | Positive: 4 | Negative: 3

NY Times

Below average
Reviewed by Judith Shulevitz on Feb 22 2013

With ideas like these bombarding and contorting its prose, “Umbrella” is not an easy book to understand.

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NY Times

Above average
Reviewed by Dwight Garner on Jan 17 2013

The effect of this powerful but stilted novel is that of having an umbrella taken from you. You’re left to stand in the acid rain.

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Guardian

Above average
Reviewed by Sam Leith on Aug 18 2012

Umbrella is not, be warned, altogether easy going: 400 pages of unbroken stream-of-consciousness dotted across three time frames, leaping jaggedly between four points of view, and with barely a paragraph break, let alone a chapter heading.

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Guardian

Good
Reviewed by Mark Lawson on Aug 10 2012

The tale of the awakened patients is, though, miraculously captivating and, in Umbrella, receives another magnificent reimagining.

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NPR

Below average
Reviewed by Annalisa Quinn on Jan 10 2013

The narrative switches perspectives without warning and sometimes in the space of a single word.

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The Economist

Good
on Jan 05 2013

...with “Umbrella” he has managed to write an experimental novel that is also a compassionate and thrilling book—and one that, despite its difficulty, deserves to be read.

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AV Club

Good
Reviewed by Noah Cruickshank on Jan 14 2013

Modernism fans will be glad to see a current author who so strongly captures the form pioneered by Proust, Virginia Woolf, and William Faulkner, and Umbrella only falls short by comparison with those classics.

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Reader Rating for Umbrella
55%

An aggregated and normalized score based on 35 user ratings from iDreamBooks & iTunes


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