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3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Parable about Isolation March 11 2004
An unnamed narrator tells us he's about to embark on a quest to visit the Orient but he must, he explains, get his scooter repaired so he waits in a sort of limbo at pastoral campsite on the edges of a small town that is lorded over by the imperious Mr. Parker, a capitalistic patriarch who is at the center of all the town's commerce. Mr. Parker has a lovely daughter who arouses our narrator's senses but merely titilates him. One mishap after another makes the narrator feel obliged to stay longer in the town even though he keeps reminding us--and himself--that he wants to break free and begin his exotic travels. His major impediment to leaving, he would have us believe, is Mr. Parker, a brutal, intimidating man who demands that the narrator do all sorts of chores and odd-jobs for him, but gradually we realize that the narrator is afraid to adventure out of his comfort zone and would rather live in the relative prison of Mr. Parker's campsite tent, with its severely limiting rules, than inch his way into the flux of the vital, real, outside world. Thus the novel's theme is the conflict between our need to branch out and challenge ourselves vs. our tendency to roll up into the fetal position and die a spiritual death in our tiny world of comfort and familiarity. This theme is further explored in Mills' subsequent novel Three to See the King.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Some very odd jobs indeed . . . Sept. 6 2001
There?s something about British humor that no other English-language literature will ever be able to supplant. The narrator -- whose name we never learn -- is a young odd-jobs-man who is presently on holiday with his motorbike and tent in the Lake District. It?s late summer, he?s been at the campground a week, and he?s about to depart, when Tommy Parker offers him a bit of temporary employment painting the front gate. One thing leads to another, and the narrator finds himself responsible for painting a flock of rowboats, cutting firewood (on loan, as Mr. Parker seems to have rented him out), spending his evenings at the local pub (where he?s recruited for the darts team), and being drafted by 15-year-old Gail Parker to do her homework. But money almost never changes hands. Everyone in the area knows everything about everyone else -- including him, he discovers. And then Mr. Deakin, the milkman disappears into the lake while helping locate the new mooring raft, and the narrator finds himself with the milk route, as well. The story is perfectly deadpan, in a very sly, droll way, and the effect is cumulative and almost Hitchcockian -- especially the last page! Even though one might get annoyed with the narrator for allowing himself to be so thoroughly taken advantage of, this is a most delightful yarn.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Strange but intriguing. June 14 2000
Strange story about a young man who decides to take a short camping trip before heading off to explore India. However, while he's camping, the campground's owner asks him if he'd do an odd job in exchange for the camping fees he owed. Soon that odd job is leading to even ODDER odd jobs and before he knows it, he's moved in and started working full-time. But something about the whole thing feels really strange. First, there's all that green paint. Then there's a convenient death. This book really held my attention -- in fact, I read it in one sitting -- but I was disappointed in the ending. It almost seemed like Mills was on a strict deadline and just had to stop working when he got to the end of it, whether he was done with the story or not. At the same time, something about the novel's tone makes me wonder if he didn't do that on purpose just to disappoint the readers. Some kind of satire of contrived sinister-ness? Hard to say, but I'm definitely intrigued and will look for his earlier novel, The Restraint of Beasts.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A Deadpan Trip To Purgatory June 1 2000
By A. Ross
Without a doubt, this is a modern masterpiece. An unnamed narrator on a camping holiday in England's Lake District gets entangled in an extended Kafkaesque morass. What starts as a simple trade of painting a gate in exchange for a week's free camping turns into what looks to be a lifetime in purgatory thanks in great part to the narrator's own weakness of character and the town's perpetual barter economy. One menial job in trade begets another as he gets further and further immersed in the small town's weird male culture (there are only two females in the whole book: the Lolita-like daughter of his boss, and the captain of a darts team from another town). Like many of us, the narrator has grand plans (he's saved up to take a trip on the Orient Express), but falters in the execution. This everyman nature is makes him an extremely appealing and yet frustrating character. It's a deadpan, darkly humorous book, somewhat akin to one the Coen Brothers' films. Just to give a taste: someone drowns in the lake while with the narrator and his boss. Once they realize he's drowned, that's it-there's no more mention made of him, the authorities are never called, etc. Don't even get me started on the groceries. Whether you read this straight, or as some kind of allegorical work, it's enjoyable.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A very spooky unnerving read Oct. 5 1999
By A Customer
The only reason that I didn't give this 5 stars is because it is quite similar to 'Restraint of Beasts' although this is really much eerier as the plot centres around a single character 'stranded' in the countryside instead of the 3 characters in Magnus's first book. Therefore, I was more worried the character in this novel. There he is, having spent his holiday so far at camp site that I took to be in the Lake District, on the last week of the 'season' and he is happy to while a few morre days of solitude before continuing on his travels, hopefully to India. He is such an easy going person that he is only to help the owner of the camp-site out by painting a gate. This is actually his point of no return. The owner has a spooky daughter who lets him do all her homework and get the gold stars to go with it. He does get 'sort of' accepted in one the local pubs and even gets as far as making the darts team, only to get himself barred when he fails to turn up for an away game. Of course this was a match that he was really looking forward to and as far he knew he had noted the date correctly. The one time where he does try to leave, the weather is bad that his motorbike packs up and he 'rescued' by the person that has become his boss and landlord. As I'm writing this, I now regret not giving the book 5 stars as it has really preyed on my mind since I read it [all in one sitting]. Please please read this. It is not the sort the of book I would usually pick and I'm also often put off by the author being nominated for the Booker Prize' as Magnus Mills was for his debut novel. Believe me, he is far far better than any other new novelist around. I hope that if I am ever in the Brixton area waiting for a bus that he is the driver.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars A book in which nothing happens
I love the way in which Mills describes very little of the people in the book. Every image which comes to mind is our own creation. Read more
Published on April 4 2001 by pete Lopeman
2.0 out of 5 stars A Protagonist Perhaps More Sinister Than His Boss
I agree with the other reviews, but only up to a point. That point is the ending, in which the poor, put-upon kick-me-Charley sudddenly turns sinister. Read more
Published on Feb. 20 2001
4.0 out of 5 stars Held My Interest
I really didn't feel that they was much of a plot to this story but what surprised me is how I was able to read it during one weekend and it actually held my interest. Read more
Published on Feb. 19 2001 by Deborah Di Gioia
4.0 out of 5 stars A NAGGING CONSCIENCE...
In echoing the title of Erich Maria Remarque's novel, All Quiet on the Western Front, Magnus Mills has deepened and darkened, quite considerably, the meaning and metaphor of his... Read more
Published on Sept. 24 2000 by DENNIS TEARLE
4.0 out of 5 stars A window into the world of the odd-job man
It is a good book, but not for those that like a 'beginning, middle and end' to their fiction. Think of it as a few chapters from the narrators' life and you will get the idea. Read more
Published on Aug. 17 2000 by Down loads
1.0 out of 5 stars Must've been in the sleeping car
I did not like this book. As far as the plot goes, it's about a guy that's on vacation in the Lake District of England who gets roped into doing odd jobs, lets himself be... Read more
Published on March 6 2000 by FireSign
Magnus Mills is a genius for creating anti-heroes we care about and love and remember so well. He did it in Restraint of Beasts and does it again in his latest effort. Read more
Published on Oct. 1 1999 by M. JEFFREY MCMAHON
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