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The Essence of the Thing por Madeleine…
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The Essence of the Thing (original 1997; edição 1998)

por Madeleine St.John

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1816114,847 (3.58)16
Nicola only went to buy cigarettes and upon returning finds a stranger in her apartment. He looks like her live-in boyfriend, Jonathan, but he can't actually be the dependable known quantity whom Nicola loves that goes by the name of Jonathan. Can he? Before Nicola stands a man who is strong and adorable just like the old Jonathan, only this one is no longer hers!This sad tale of love gone south still has its funny side. You have either to laugh or cry when you see, as acutely and elegantly as St John captures it here, the things women will do to hold on to love, and the things men will do to escape it."St John's intelligence transforms a simple story into a much larger commentary on love and loss." - Mademoiselle"The Essence of the Thing grabs the reader's sympathy and attention from the startling first pages and doesn't let go." - Newsday"A brisk, sophisticated, and artful narrative" - New York Times Book Review… (mais)
Membro:ahk1657
Título:The Essence of the Thing
Autores:Madeleine St.John
Informação:Harpercollins Pub Ltd (1998), Paperback
Colecções:A sua biblioteca
Avaliação:***1/2
Etiquetas:fiction, contemporary, british

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The Essence of the Thing por Madeleine St.John (1997)

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Mostrando 1-5 de 6 (seguinte | mostrar todos)
Given that St John is one of those Australians who leave and declines ever to come back, I was in an uneasy state whilst reading Women in Black. Is the satire affectionate or spiteful? One might assume the latter. And yet, thinking enough of it to try another, The Essence of the Thing set in the London in which she spent most of her adulthood, it is evident that she does have the necessary sympathy for her subjects to keep the reader onside.

rest is here: https://alittleteaalittlechat.wordpress.com/2016/12/31/women-in-black-and-the-es... ( )
  bringbackbooks | Jun 16, 2020 |
"That was Nicola’s marmalade, and they were not now in a shared-marmalade situation. He knew he’d been right in principle, in essence: it was just the mundane details which took a bit of getting used to. Too bad about the marmalade. The balance between bitter and sweet was the essence of the thing."

It’s a typical day. Nicola pops out of her Notting Hill flat for some cigarettes and returns to a stranger. Her boyfriend Jonathan is telling her something she can’t understand, saying that he has made a decision. He has come to a conclusion: they have to part. He doesn’t want to talk about it, about why, and wants Nicola to move out unless she wants to buy him out of their co-owned flat. He’s a lawyer, she’s, well, not. So she has no choice.

"Having been cast out by him, she now found – as she had found before – that she was capable only of speaking and acting, even to a degree apparently of feeling, like a stranger. But struggling, terrified and helpless, a loving and trusting Nicola shrieked in anguish from the depths of this stunned and frozen stranger."

But Nicola still isn’t over her shock. She wants an explanation. Of course, who wouldn’t? But most of all she wants things to go back to the way they used to.

"She had thought her tears were all shed. She had assured herself that once the ironing was done, and the evening had fallen, and Jonathan had returned, and she and he had talked, properly talked, to each other, everything would be normal again. Normal and nice. They would be a normal, nice couple again, and could make amicable arrangements again, and accept amicable invitations, as normal…"

Madeleine St John tells Nicola and Jonathan’s story in punchy chapters, making this a quick read. And while the main storyline is a heartbreak, the support Nicola receives from her good friend Susannah (and her accommodating husband Geoffrey and precocious son Guy) is so full of warmth and, at times, humour. This was, for me, a great read filled with great writing and observations about relationships. However, while I quite liked Nicola and her friends, Jonathan just seemed so cold, so heartless, so the type of guy who would give a dead fish handshake. There wasn’t much – if at all – to like about him, he seemed to be written quite one-sidedly that the reader has no choice but to not like him. Well at least that’s what it was like for me.

“The Essence of the Thing, is probably her masterwork: “a further chapter”, as one of the characters remarks, “in the gruesome, yet frequently hilarious saga of the island people who had given the planet its common language and virtually all its games”.”

- Madeleine St John’s obituary in The Independent

This review was first posted on my blog Olduvai Reads ( )
  RealLifeReading | Jan 19, 2016 |
This book is a very well written, empathetic, wise book. The chapters are very short (2-3 pages), and largely composed to provide a sharp sense of the emotions of the main characters, and associated friends and family.

'The Essence of the Thing' was published in 1997, but the themes are ageless, and I don't think I've ever seen, read or heard a more articulate 'rationale' behind why a man would 'dump' his lover than what this book provides (I'd recommend the story to readers of all ages, but it provides a particularly good early life lesson for the hetrosexual women in their 20's).

I've also read Madeleine St John's 'The Women in Black' and the style is very similar - you understand the characters without getting too close, the reader is told only information relevant to the immediate story, there is absolutely no excess in words or writing (there was just one line in the whole book that jarred, otherwise I thought it word perfect).

One thing that surprises me is that the author is not better known in Australia, as she is very talented. ( )
  tandah | Aug 14, 2011 |
If any more proof was needed that smoking is bad for you, it can be found in the opening chapter of this novel. Nicola is perfectly content with her perfectly average life when she pops out to buy cigarettes one evening. When she returns, her live-in lover drops a bombshell with the callous words: “I think we should part”. As if that wasn’t bad enough, he suggests she should move out of their home in London’s Notting Hill and announces that he has organised for the bank to conduct a valuation the coming Monday. Ouch! Thus begins Nicola’s journey to try to rebuild her life and discover “the essence of the thing” that apparently led to the end of a relationship she thought was functioning just fine.
It’s a deceptively simple plot, yet anyone who has been dumped from a great height with little or no warning will feel an itch in their palms as they fight the urge to strangle the giant prat. Not only has the irritating Jonathan changed his mind about Nicola, he’s bought into her flat and now she can’t afford to buy her half back so she has to move out. The shock of not being loved anymore on top of the shock of being homeless is more than enough to contend with but then there’s Jonathan’s incomprehension that she is hurt or in any way put out by his change of heart. The heartache and bafflement she feels are so accurately portrayed that it almost hurts to read the words.
Australian-born Madeleine St. John uses realistic and often witty dialogue between peripheral characters to demonstrate how the break up of two people can have an effect on almost everyone they know. Although she writes with a light touch, she explores the relationship dynamics between four other couples while giving play to the fragility of any relationship. So skilful is she that I even felt sorry for the hapless Jonathan.
St John wrote only four novels before her sudden death of emphysema at 64 in 2006. Her first novel, The Women in Black, is to be made into a film shortly, directed by Bruce Beresford. Beresford was one of a star studded cohort at Sydney University that included St John, Germaine Greer, Robert Hughes, John Bell and Clive James. She was the first Australian woman to be short-listed for the Booker Prize in 1997 for her third novel, The Essence of the Thing. Reportedly a very private person, she was said to be gobsmacked when told of the nomination, but I am not surprised at all by the kudos.
I adored The Women in Black - so much that I gave several copies to friends for Christmas last year. I packed this in my handbag yesterday on my way to meet friends for lunch. I arrived early at the restaurant and started it immediately I sat down; I almost resented having to close it when my lunch companions arrived. It was Friday peak hour and pouring with rain when I headed home. The normal twenty minute drive from one side of Brisbane to the other took just on two hours but the time passed quickly because I was reading this every possible second of the way. I finished it sitting in the car in the garage, reading by the cabin light. That is definitely the sign of an engrossing book! ( )
1 vote Jawin | Mar 6, 2010 |
All in all a pleasant, easy read. A story of a break up. Simple language (which for me is always a good sign), it isn't difficult to fall into the pace of the book, as the author leads us through subsequent stages of Nicola's emotional state.
I've spent a nice evening with the book, but it is not something I would care to reread. Nor does it really raise any questions I could spend time pondering about . ( )
  joe_saltears | Oct 28, 2008 |
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Madeleine St.Johnautor principaltodas as ediçõescalculated
Braam, SuzanneTradutorautor secundárioalgumas ediçõesconfirmado

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Nicola was standing in the doorway when Jonathan began to speak: she hadn't had time to even take off her coat. It was a cold spring evening: one still needed a coat out of doors after dark.
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Nicola only went to buy cigarettes and upon returning finds a stranger in her apartment. He looks like her live-in boyfriend, Jonathan, but he can't actually be the dependable known quantity whom Nicola loves that goes by the name of Jonathan. Can he? Before Nicola stands a man who is strong and adorable just like the old Jonathan, only this one is no longer hers!This sad tale of love gone south still has its funny side. You have either to laugh or cry when you see, as acutely and elegantly as St John captures it here, the things women will do to hold on to love, and the things men will do to escape it."St John's intelligence transforms a simple story into a much larger commentary on love and loss." - Mademoiselle"The Essence of the Thing grabs the reader's sympathy and attention from the startling first pages and doesn't let go." - Newsday"A brisk, sophisticated, and artful narrative" - New York Times Book Review

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