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After You'd Gone Paperback – May 2 2012

4.7 out of 5 stars 41 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Headline (May 2 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0747268169
  • ISBN-13: 978-0747268161
  • Product Dimensions: 13.1 x 2.6 x 19.7 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 200 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars 41 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #175,358 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description

From Amazon

Like a pointillist painting, Maggie O'Farrell's fine debut After You'd Gone is, from one perspective, formless--short vignettes, told from multiple points of view and in multiple voices, that are somewhat puzzling on their own and apparently have no connection to each other. Ultimately, however, these elements merge into a coherent and moving portrait of a young woman's journey toward a life-threatening crisis.

In London, one cold day in late autumn, Alice Raikes impulsively boards a train home to Scotland. Shortly after joining her two sisters in the Edinburgh train station, she sees something "odd and unexpected and sickening" in the station's restroom that causes her to immediately flee back to London. Later that evening, while walking to the grocers, Alice broods over what she has seen, then abruptly steps into oncoming traffic. As she lies comatose in her hospital bed, a swirl of voices and images gradually reveals her past--her parents, especially her mother, Ann; her beloved grandmother, Elspeth; her two sisters, so unlike her, both physically and temperamentally; and John Friedman, whom she loved and lost--and hints at her precarious future.

The unnamed spectacle of the opening washroom scene resurfaces in Alice's semiconscious haze and its eventual elucidation comes as less of a shock than a confirmation of all we have learned about her tumultuous existence. Sharply observed details of everyday life and language, original and telling figures of speech and deftly handled plot twists reach a moving climax, while subtly raising the question of whether the objects of Alice's affection--and the sources of her agony--were worth enduring. --Alex Freeman

From Publishers Weekly

Like a pointillist painting, this fine debut is, from one perspective, formless--short vignettes, told from multiple points of view and in multiple voices, that are somewhat puzzling on their own and apparently have no connection to each other. Ultimately, however, these elements merge into a coherent and moving portrait of a young woman's journey toward a life-threatening crisis. In London, one cold day in late fall, Alice Raikes impulsively boards a train home to Scotland. Shortly after joining her two sisters in the Edinburgh train station, she sees something "odd and unexpected and sickening" in the station's restroom that causes her immediately to flee back to London. Later that evening, while walking to the grocery store, Alice broods over what she has seen, then abruptly steps into oncoming traffic. As she lies comatose in her hospital bed, a swirl of voices and images gradually reveals her past--her parents, especially her mother, Ann; her beloved grandmother, Elspeth; her two sisters, so unlike her, both physically and temperamentally; and John Friedman, whom she loved and lost--and hints at her precarious future. The unnamed spectacle of the opening washroom scene resurfaces in Alice's semiconscious haze, and its eventual elucidation comes as less of a shock than a confirmation of all we have learned about her tumultuous existence. Sharply observed details of everyday life and language, original and telling figures of speech and deftly handled plot twists reach a moving climax, while subtly raising the question of whether the objects of Alice's affection--and the sources of her agony--were worth enduring. Foreign rights sold in seven countries.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
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From the opening pages, it is clear that Alice is suffering from a double whammy of traumatic heartache but we don't know why. The novel unfolds in an interesting fashion of perspective changes and flashbacks, deftly handled, to reveal, piece by piece, the history, love story, secrets and tragedy that defines Alice and explains her emotional state and suicidal behaviour. O'Farrell's writing is superb. I was deeply drawn in. Alice is an intense, complex character that is rendered fully dimensional. I do, however, have a couple of niggling complaints about the novel that resulted in lowering it from a 5 to a 4 star rating: 1) There was some immature melodrama involved with the love story; it seemed jarringly out of place and irritating 2) I had to reread the first few pages and the last few to try to figure out what was happening. I understand that the beginning was meant to be mysterious, but it was the mechanics of how Alice saw what she saw that was so confusing--through a mirror on a hand dryer in a Superloo (large public washroom, I'm assuming), with two teenagers fooling around in the stalls. Even after finishing the novel, I wondered, how did Alice see what she saw? While the ending, in theory, was perfect for this novel, the way it was written threw me. But, overall, it was a good read and I will seek other titles by the author.
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Format: Paperback
This was the first novel I had read by O'Farrel and it was a page-turner! I could not put the book down. It was a moving story of human relationships and loss. After I finished the book, the story remained fresh in my mind for weeks. I don't think I will forget the characters in the book for a long while. I had to wait several days before I could pick up another book.
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Format: Paperback
Alice Raikes is a woman in love who has recently suffered a terrible tragedy. Alice travels to Scotland to see her sisters Kirsty and Beth, and almost immediately returns to London where she steps into the traffic and is taken to hospital in a coma.

`Life's cruel like that - it gives you no clues.'

What happened in Edinburgh that caused Alice to return to London? Was she hit by the car by accident, or was it a suicide attempt? Why would Alice want to commit suicide?
The novel opens with Alice's accident, and then circles back through her life to shed light on Alice, her mother and grandmother and others important in her life. The story as Alice's life is suspended in a coma: her present is the focal point; her future is unknown; and her past is unpacked so that we readers - and her family members - can fit together all of the pieces of Alice's life thus far.

`The tiny mathematics of human life.'

As we make the journey through Alice's life it becomes clear that there are parts of it not known to Alice herself. Alice's mother holds a number of the keys, while her grandmother's influence was also important. Events are related out of their chronological order and this requires us readers to be especially attentive in order to make sense of Alice's life.

`What are you supposed to do with all the love you have for somebody if that person is no longer there?

I enjoyed this novel although sometimes I found myself impatiently wanting to move beyond the past in order to know what would happen next. In short, I had become intrigued by Alice's life and wanted to move more quickly to fit together the various pieces of it.

This was the first novel written by Ms O'Farrell, and the third one that I've read. I've enjoyed each of them.

Jennifer Cameron-Smith
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Format: Paperback
"The day she would try to kill herself..." is a strong opening sentence for any book. In Maggie O'Farrell's novel the first sentence implies a question that will loom large over the entire narrative and drives its drama. The prologue then sums up a bizarre day for Alice Raikes: on an whim, it seems, she takes the train from London to Edinburgh; meets her two sisters at the station there and, after a brief visit to the washroom, turns abruptly around and, with no explanation, takes the next train back. The day ends with the heroine stepping off the kerb into the rush hour traffic... and landing in a coma in hospital.

From then on Alice's life, her relationships to friends, parents, sisters and grandmother unfold in flashbacks as experiences through different levels of her mind's consciousness. These are enriched and complemented by the recollections of other members of the family as well as an omniscient narrator. The epigraph "the past falls open anywhere" couldn't be a better description for the novel's imaginative structure. And indeed it does open at different times, switching scenarios as well as narrators. Yet, despite the jumping timelines and different perspectives on past events and experiences, the reader does not lose the thread. The story always returns to its anchor in the present when family members assemble around Alice's bedside or in Alice's London house. Difficult relationships and ongoing tensions come to the surface, centering around Ann, Alice's mother. Long simmering family secrets are slowly revealed... The main characters are very well drawn in all their complexity and societal backgrounds. The glimpses the reader gets over time, fit together eventually into solid portraits.
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