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3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)

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Book by St.John, Madeleine

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars On Being Dumped and Being Dignified June 6 2002
In contrast to an American character, who might wallow in self-pity, eat Haagen-Das and plot revenge, Nicola takes the high road when unceremoniously dumped by Jonathan, her live-in lover of five years. Deeply shocked, she maintains her love for him and her belief in herself through the process of finding out what happened, why he's asking her to leave, and accepting the outcome of that process.
Madeleine St. John uses realistic and often witty dialogue between peripheral characters to demonstrate how the break up of two people can have an effect on almost everyone they know. Although she writes with a light touch, she explores the relationship dynamics between four other couples while giving play to the fragility of any love relationship. The Essence of the Thing is a quick and entertaining read, but it could not be described as shallow by any stretch of the imagination.
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5.0 out of 5 stars amazing April 30 2002
I'm sure that whoever reads the book will want to encounter Ms. St John in person. She's great in depicting character's psychology - so much as we think it's our best friend(s) she's writing about. Certainly great book to read - truthful, sincere and catching...
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3.0 out of 5 stars Too much dialogue, not enough plot July 30 2000
Madeleine St. John has a great ear for dialogue, there's no doubt about it. It's a good thing, too, because "The Essence of the Thing" is carried along primarily on the strength of the characters' dialogue. The novel is a kind of case study of the break-up; when Jonathan unexpectedly ends his relationship with live-in lover Nicola, we see the devastating (and ultimately liberating) effect this has on her. Anger, grief, denial, bargaining and acceptance - yes, all these stages of loss are here, explored in great talky detail. While I can appreciate the quality of the writing - believable and natural dialogue that flows is incredibly hard to do! - the novel's heavy reliance on conversation to explore Nicola's psychological state ultimately cripples it. I was frustrated by the slow pace; I found the short chapters and frequent shifts in time choppy; lengthy conversations without immediately knowing who was speaking or when sometimes confused me; and by the middle of the book, I grew impatient with Nicola's insistence on continuing to love and moon over a man who was clearly a jerk. That said, however, there was something engrossing about the book that kept me reading until the end and I plan to check out more of this author's work.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Frighteningly true to life.... Dec 26 1999
By Sarah
The Essence of the Thing captured the modern relationship between a man and a woman. It explored what happened as the relationship disintegrated, leaving one partner in shocked disbelief and emotional pain. What I loved about the book was that it showed so clearly the idiosyncrasies of the human personality and how the quality you think you love most about a person ends up being the very thing that drives you apart. It leaves you slightly unsettled and thinking. Read it.
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The book sets out to be impressive but along the way it somehow disappoints. The plot seems to drag on endlessly with the characters continously sulking and mulling over their problems! All in all, it is still enjoyable as a light read with little depth and character development.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Good Book! Oct. 6 1999
By A Customer
I think it's a good book but not 2 gr8 cuz it's sometimes confusing....I mean, the story with all those conversations and stuff are just confusing. But after all, if it's not a good book, I won't stop reading till the end. Oh, one more thing. I found this book is kind of hard to read. Some, or even many words are out of my understanding although I didn't bother to look them up. So I'll recommend it to those who will look up the dictionary when they come to a new word!
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3.0 out of 5 stars Too lightweight to be considered serious literature Sept. 19 1999
By A Customer
Madeline St John's "The Essence Of The Thing" tells the story of how Nicola copes in the aftermath of an unexpected breakup with her live-in boyfriend Jonathan. The premise of the plot is so basic in terms of human experience that anybody reading it is going to instantly relate to the personal trauma and the feeling of pain and incomprehension that take hold of Nicola and yes, even Jonathan. The novel's main strengths lie in the honesty and simplicity of St John's writing. Except for those who might dismiss it as a mildly feminist tinged "woman's book" in which the male characters are either cads or morons (not counting the gay Philip), readers might derive casual reading pleasure from this very small book about a commonplace experience of the heart. But as serious literature, it doesn't quite stack up. The insights offered by St John aren't particularly deep or enlightening. Structurally, the novel is also one-dimensional, making no attempt to raise or explore more complex issues on life and love. I am amazed that such a small novel was even considered deserving of a Booker Prize nomination. The selection committee must have seen something special in it which I didn't. Either that or 1997 was a year which spawned a poor crop.
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