Book - 2012
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"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.
Publisher: New York : Grove Press, 2012
ISBN: 9780802120724
Branch Call Number: F SEL
Characteristics: 397 p. ; 24 cm


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Jan 11, 2015

A challenging book to read, Self has pulled off a Ulysses-like feat of technical brilliance, while constructing a surreal commentary on war, mental illness, and shifting perceptions. Not recommended for anyone looking for a straightforward plot.

Jane60201 Aug 05, 2013

As others have said, this is a challenging read, reminiscent of James Joyce. There are times when I was totally lost and others when I was blown away by the author's evocative use of description. These gems made it worthwhile.

May 28, 2013

The author obviously went to great effort to write this novel, but there is no reward for the reader.

ChristchurchLib Feb 19, 2013

Shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, this stream-of-consciousness novel follows a psychiatrist at a mental hospital in London in 1971. At the same time, we are treated to an account of one of his patients, an octogenarian who's been institutionalized - and catatonic - for 50 years after contracting encephalitis lethargica. His efforts to treat her and glimpses of her youth during a short reawakening alternate with flashbacks to the lives of her brothers and flash-forwards to the doctor in 2010. A complicated read adorned with "snippets of dialects, stylistic flourishes, and inventive phrases loose with meaning" (Publishers Weekly), Umbrella is "mesmerizing" (Boston Globe).
Fiction A to Z Newsletter February 2013.

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