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Shipwreckby Louis Begley
Synopses & Reviews
A mesmerizing novel of deception and betrayal from the acclaimed author of Wartime Lies and About Schmidt.
John North, a prize-winning American writer, is suddenly beset by dark suspicions about the real value of his work. Over endless hours and bottles of whiskey consumed in a mysterious café called L'Entre Deux Mondes, he recounts, in counterpoint to his doubts, the one story he has never told before, perhaps the only important one he will ever tell. North's chosen interlocutor — who could be his doppelgänger — is transfixed by the revelations and becomes the narrator of North's tale.
North has always been faithful to his wife, Lydia, but when one of his novels achieves a special success, he allows himself a dalliance with Léa, a starstruck young journalist. Coolly planning to make sure that his life with Lydia will not be disturbed, North is taken off guard when Léa becomes obsessed with him and he with her elaborate erotic games. As the hypnotic and serpentine confession unfurls, we gradually discover the extraordinary lengths to which North has gone to indulge a powerful desire for self-destruction.
Shipwreck is a daring parable of the contradictory impulses that can rend a single soul — narcissism and self-loathing, refinement and lust.
"Shipwreck is at once a classic, even Jamesian novel of character and a highly erotic, very grown-up modern thriller — in other words, another triumph for Louis Begley." Washington Post Book World
"[A] brilliant exposition of the way authors can use the material of their lives to create brilliant fiction." Publishers Weekly
"[T]he high-class trappings can't mask the fact that this tawdry story can be heard daily, and with considerably more flair, on The Jerry Springer Show. Airless, humorless, and overly mannered..." Booklist
"[L]ess than satisfying....Too bad the other characters, particularly the women, aren't nearly as well drawn [as the protagonist]. North may be shipwrecked, but Begley's left the ladies at sea. (Grade: B-)" Entertainment Weekly
"Overworked to the point of caricature: Like Woody Allen, Begley sets his scenes largely by dropping names...but his characters never become credible in their own right. The story ends up feeling stagy and faked." Kirkus Reviews
"[Begley] leads the reader along cleverly, magnetically. His long paragraphs and absence of quotation marks, though slightly unsettling, don't hamper an absorption in the details, which in the end add up astonishingly." The Oregonian (Portland, OR)
"Mr. Begley displays his perverse gift for riveting attention despite the unsympathetic, unyielding nature of the man he describes. Although there is an essential banality to the story he tells here, the reader is apt to be hooked." Janet Maslin, The New York Times
"Compellingly and compulsively told...[North's] obsessive self-awareness, like a mirror, catches our attention and holds it fast." The Los Angeles Times
"Dazzling....So enthralling that the temptation is to let a thousand glowing adjectives bloom....Will pin readers to their chair right up to the final page....The ending is a tour de force." Boston Globe
"This predictable, curiously prurient tale — Begley's athletic bedroom scenes seem not so much experienced by the narrator as peered at by the reader — is dished up, over many hours, to an anonymous listener in a bar, apparently as a kind of Ancient Mariner Blue Plate special." The New Yorker
"With this beautiful, haunting novel, Louis Begley has given us an exquisite record of one captain's internal strife as his ship looks poised to go down." Seattle Times
Written as a hypnotic and serpentine confession, Shipwreck is a mesmerizing novel of deception and betrayal from the acclaimed author of Wartime Lies and About Schmidt.
About the Author
Louis Begley lives in New York City. His previous novels are Schmidt Delivered, Wartime Lies, The Man Who Was Late, As Max Saw It, About Schmidt, and Mistler's Exit.
What Our Readers Are Saying
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