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Edinburgh: A Novel [Paperback]

Alexander Chee
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Nov. 9 2002
Twelve-year-old Fee is a gifted Korean-American soprano in a boys' choir in Maine whose choir director reveals himself to be a serial pedophile. Fee and his friends are forced to bear grief, shame, and pain that endure long after the director is imprisoned. Fee survives even as his friends do not, but a deep-seated horror and dread accompany him through his self-destructive college days and after, until the day he meets a beautiful young student named Warden and is forced to confront the demons of his brutal past.

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Product Description

From Booklist

If a story about child molestation could ever be beautiful, this first novel comes very close to that unusual mark. Fee is a 12-year-old soprano in a boys choir in Maine. The choir director, however, is revealed to be a malicious pederast, who selects favorites from the choir and subjects them to frequent sexual abuse. The pain that Fee and his friends endure while growing up with this horrible fact, even after the director is imprisoned, is almost unfathomable. But Fee gets through it, although the dread stays with him all his life--through his self-destructive college days and as he courts a succession of lovers. Years later, as he begins teaching at a prep school, he encounters a beautiful student named Warden, the son of Fee's former choirmaster, who knows nothing of his father's deeds. Confronting this student, Fee is forced to contend with the demons of his boyhood and the very way he has lived his life. A spectacular, gripping, and gut-wrenching tale. Michael Spinella
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Alexander Chee's work has appeared in Interview, Big, Out, and in the anthologies Boys Like Us, Loss Within Loss, Men on Men 2000, and His 3. He teaches at the New School.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
I AUDITION FOR the Pine State Boys Chorus on an afternoon at the end of November in the year I am twelve years old. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
4.7 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars An interesting first novel.... Oct. 14 2003
By Eric K.
Edinburgh explores the story of a boy named "Fee," his life as a child and later that of an adult. I was very engrossed in the first 2/3 of the book which focused on Fee growing up, his devasting experiences to him as a child, and those to his friends. It was disturbing, yet intriguing, to see how he dealt with the trauma and experiences. However, the next part of the book took a bit of jarring turn as the point of view immediately switched to another boy. Although I understand the reasoning behind it, I was a bit distracted having to suddenly see "the story" from another viewer. In the last section, it returns to Fee's POV as an adult. Again, it was a bit jarring to switch POVs again, but at least I was familiar with this one. I think it somewhat made me lose interest in the characters and I couldn't wait for the story to end. Don't get me wrong, it was a great build-up of a story the first 2/3 of the book, so I recommend reading it -- I just wish it had a similarly interesting finish. And although the author's disposal of quotation marks was a bit distracting as well to see where conversation began and ended, I see this as a writing style that Chee is shooting for.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Chee Rocks.... Sept. 2 2003
This book is one of the best books I've read in a long time. I have to say, though, that the first review by Publishers Weekly should not be included here. The reviewer got several major details of the book wrong (Fee's absent father was also a child molester? His father was not absent, nor a child molester!) and seemed not to have actually read the book. Unbelievable.
Anyway, I was deeply touched by this novel. I felt that Chee was not afraid to get to the heart of things, and because he had the courage to enter where no one should enter, I also had courage to follow him. I love how the prose is internal, no chit-chat, just the hard, dark lines of the inside of the mind. It's as if Chee was so committed to his characters, the integrity of his characters, that he allows them to live and speak for themselves and create their own narratives. I forgot that I was reading a novel, I forgot that I was reading something crafted. I was inside the tunnel of Fee's (and Warden's) mind and saw glimpses of my own soul. I wept several times during this read. I will read everything this man has ever written...
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5.0 out of 5 stars An Ingeniously Conceived Modern Myth Oct. 30 2002
Alexander Chee's first novel is the tale of a demon fox who is finally captured. Aphias Zee or Fee is an American of Korean and Scottish descent. In early age Fee's grandfather tells him the tale of Lady Tammamo, a fox who fell in love and, after being ridiculed by the community after her husband's death, engulfed herself and her husband's body in flames. He believes himself to be a fox in the shape of a man. Greek mythology informs his destiny as well, subtly setting the stage upon which the events of his life play. Yet, above the decorous theatre is a profoundly human story of Fee's experience growing up in Maine and, along with eleven other boys, suffering sexual abuse at the hands of a Boys Chorus instructor named Big Eric. Sex and suicide surround Fee through his entire adolescence and teenage years. He learns somehow to survive with the elements of creation and death orbiting him constantly, but it is an empty sort of existence for him. Passion is expended on lovers he doesn't care for. The guilt of his former instructor attaches itself to him as he discovers quickly that he is a homosexual himself. His natural desire is tragically intertwined with the other's perversity. His first love, Peter, becomes for him a distorted mirror image of all he is not: blonde, straight and freed by death. Thus, he embarks on an endless struggle to merge with this image, to fall into it, be devoured and emerge cleansed by flame. Despite surviving (barely) through college, making close friends and finding a lover, Bridely, who he marries in a commitment ceremony, Fee is unable to escape from his past and the conception of his own destiny militated by his demon fox spirit. He is paired finally with a spectre from the past and the mirror image he longed to meld into. Read more ›
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4.0 out of 5 stars A cautionary tale Sept. 2 2002
"Edinburgh" is a deeply moving novel about the damage inflicted by a child molester to the lives of his victims. It seemed to me to examine how actions have repercussions beyond the immediate - how the past is carried around within people, and how it can influence and compromise individual day-to-day moral behaviour. In those senses, although "Edinburgh" is no doubt a "gay novel", the themes Chee explores are also universal ones. The book is far better and more interesting than many other novels because of that breadth of vision.
It would give the plot away too much to go into more detail, other than to say that the author's writing style is often a challenge to read: events are frequently referred to obliquely or alluded to rather than described directly. Once you get used to this, the emotional effect is created by a feeling of close proximity to events rather than by stark realistic descriptions of them.
The overall feel this novel gave me was one of trying to understand human failure and the effects of such failure, and by doing so, to attempt to learn.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars A Lambda Award winner for good reason.
An emotionally devasting work of fiction. Alexander Chee is a writer of extravagant talents. Not since "The Hours" have I had to read through so many tears. Read more
Published on Dec 27 2003 by I. Sondel
5.0 out of 5 stars Every word is a masterpiece
I loved this book. You can take any page from it and just that one page alone is a masterpiece. Chee writes like a poet, but he has the talents of a storyteller. Read more
Published on Aug. 24 2003
5.0 out of 5 stars Gifted New Author
Chee has a refreshing new/modern style of writing which evokes his generation and his youth. He communicates feelings and angst like it has rarely been done before. Read more
Published on Jan. 5 2003
5.0 out of 5 stars a novel with a great surprising story and engaging language
I would like to recommend this book without giving any of the plot away. The author is Amerasian and in this book he has mixed East and West, an Eastern myth within the form of a... Read more
Published on Dec 3 2002 by Larry Mark MyJewishBooksDotCom
5.0 out of 5 stars A Fine First Novel Beautifully Written
I suppose Mr. Chee had no way of knowing this novel would be so topical given the current child molestation scandal in the Catholic Church. Read more
Published on July 2 2002 by H. F. Corbin
5.0 out of 5 stars Artfully written and hurriedly devoured
Creeping toward the uncomfortable, Edinburgh exposes the taboo of pedophilia. This is a story of defeat, numbness, loss, love, revenge, and pinching reality. Read more
Published on May 21 2002 by "mathewkl2"
5.0 out of 5 stars A difficult review to write
This is a wonderful, very intense novel, that left me quite stunned at the end of it, which is why this could be a difficult review to write. Read more
Published on May 16 2002 by Simon Cross
5.0 out of 5 stars A stunning debut by a thoroughly unique talent
There is a joy in discovering new novels by fresh young writers that compares favorably with the elation of returning to the works of the masters. Read more
Published on March 17 2002 by Grady Harp
4.0 out of 5 stars A Survivor's Story
'Edinburgh,' is an exceptional debut novel by Alexander Chee that tells the story of a gay Korean-American youth, Aphias Zhe, nicknamed Fee, who survives sexual abuse by his choir... Read more
Published on March 5 2002 by Laure-Madeleine
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