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Paradiseby A. L. Kennedy
"It wouldn't be fair to give away how A.L. Kennedy's Paradise ends, but in this case the journey, not the destination, is the main point. Kennedy, a professed teetotaler, has crafted a horrifying rhapsody to the ghastly splendors of addictive drinking. Her narrator, a misanthropic Scottish screw-up named Hannah Luckraft, may drift in and out of coherence, but one thing is always clear to her: 'I do love liquids.'" Laura Miller, Salon.com (read the entire Salon.com review)
Synopses & Reviews
From one of Britain's most acclaimed novelists, a comic but terrifying love story about two alcoholics alternately battling and embracing their addiction, and each other.
Everything in Hannah Luckraft's life is tinted amber: her dreary job selling cardboard boxes; her strained relations with a beloved younger brother, who is about to give up on her; and especially her incipient relationship with Robert, a man who understands what it is to drink. They become constant companions, and she drinks up his tender affection with the same soul-ravaged thirst she brings to her search for paradise — the paradise of self — annihilation, a reprieve from the howling loneliness and difficulty of waking life. Together and then alone, she and Robert spiral through the beauty and depravity of a love affair with alcohol and with each other. From Scotland to Montreal, and onward, Hannah travels beyond her limits, beyond herself, in search of the ultimate altered state, the place where she can be happy: her paradise.
No one writes with greater intelligence about the human predicament, about the comic dilemmas of consciousness and the mind divided against itself, and no young writer brings a greater gift of language to our concurrent pursuits of debasement and ascension. Paradise is a novel of dark extremes, rich in emotion — Kennedy's most gripping and immediate work of fiction yet.
"When a dull neighbor asks Hannah Luckraft what she does for a living, Hannah can barely refrain from answering honestly: 'Oh, a little theft, monstrosity, credit-card fraud, and my hobbies include giving blow jobs to unpleasant men while I'm semi-unconscious. I also drink a lot.' With her fifth novel, Kennedy proves herself — again — to be a master of extracting searing beauty from patently ugly truths. Awash in whisky, 30-year-old narrator Hannah is the consummate professional screwup: she drinks with ferocity and harbors no pretenses about her self-destructive impulses or their horrendous consequences. Her wry, wary commentary has no right to be anything but gut-wrenchingly sad, yet her savage wit and chilling self-awareness transform even unspeakable misery into something howlingly funny. Blacking out becomes 'master[ing] the art of escaping from linear time,' rehab is reduced to 'being slapped down into a grisly ring of pink Naugahyde armchairs and made to discuss [our] personal lives with a dozen emotional vampires' and paradise itself is revealed to be 'an untouched bottle and the man who loves me, the man I love.' Of course, Hannah knows that happiness can't last, so when a charming drunk named Robert stumbles into her life, her bed and her head, no one dares to hope for a happy ending. Their thirst for oblivion, sobriety and oblivion again is the story of paradise found and lost a thousand times over. 'How it happens is a long story, always,' but rarely is it so jaw-droppingly good as this." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"There's humor amid the horror...a sublime pathos balanced by a gritty realism, in which Kennedy continually astounds the reader with her language." Booklist
"Kennedy...is a risk-taker, and her fiction often succeeds in inverse proportion to its formal smoothness and symmetry. It rambles, and it's a downer. But there's a real kick to it." Kirkus Reviews
"By turns funny and poignant, tender and annihilating, her prose has undeniable power, yet it sometimes appears to be at odds with her story and often undermines its verisimilitude..." Los Angeles Times
"In this tour de force, which exceeds even her stunning Original Bliss, Kennedy exposes the sad blend of hope, loneliness and lust that can bind one refugee from dreary everydayness to another." Newsday
"What makes Paradise a remarkable novel is the quality of the prose and the profound humanity that Kennedy injects into her characters, Hannah above all." Milwaukee Journal Sentine
"A stunning depiction of alcoholism, as funny as it is sad, as ironic as it is romantic....You...won't find finer prose than this anywhere in English." Seattle Times
"Kennedy styles her prose with depth and with an eye for unusually clear turn of phrase....Paradise is a rare achievement." Denver Post
"This is a wiser, braver, and sweeter work than we have yet seen — Kennedy's greatest achievement to date." Boston Globe
About the Author
A. L. Kennedy lives in Glasgow. She has received many prizes for her work, including the Somerset Maugham Award, the Encore Award, and the Saltire Scottish Book of the Year Award.
A. L. Kennedy's Indelible Acts, Original Bliss, So I Am Glad, Everything You Need, and On Bullfighting are available in Vintage paperback.
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