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The Petty Details of So-and-So's Life [Paperback]

Camilla Gibb
4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Aug. 12 2003
With her second novel, The Petty Details of So-and-so’s Life, award-winning and celebrated author Camilla Gibb probes the bruises of family with humanity, hilarity, and a keen eye for the grotesque to deliver one of the most anticipated books of the year.

A startling and ambitious novel, as funny as it is poignant, The Petty Details of So-and-so’s Life tells the story of Blue and Emma Taylor, who, despite an almost telepathic connection, respond to the sudden disappearance of their explosive father in remarkably different ways. Emma sets off in pursuit of a new family, and discovers a sense of belonging in the most unexpected places. Burly, tattoo-stamped Blue, haunted by the brutal, disparaging voice of their father, embarks on a cross-country search for the elusive parent. Emma and Blue share a most intimate connection, one forged in the secret worlds and wordless communications of childhood. As they grow, they discover the limits of the language they share.

Camilla Gibb’s debut novel, Mouthing the Words, won the 2000 City of Toronto Book Award, and has been published in twelve countries. Camilla is one of two Canadian authors named to the Orange Futures List, compiled by the Orange Prize jury to celebrate twenty-one promising writers to watch in the new century.

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English-born, Toronto-raised, and Oxford-educated Camilla Gibb won heaps of praise and a Toronto Book Award for her debut novel, Mouthing the Words, which told a harrowing yet humorous tale of an abused girl growing up. For her sophomore effort, the curiously titled The Petty Details of So-and-so's Life, Gibb is back on familiar ground but with double the trouble. This novel follows the dysfunctional childhood and subsequently twisted adulthood of siblings Blue and Emma. When their dad gets fired from his job as an architect, he goes haywire, imagining he's an inventor, though he can't get anyone else to believe in his ideas. Eventually, he takes off, leaving the kids to fend for themselves as their to mother sinks further into alcoholism.

While Emma seeks a surrogate family, Blue goes in search of his dad--and unfortunately for Blue, he occasionally succeeds in finding him. Each encounter with his father, a nasty piece of work, pushes Blue further down the path of self-destruction. Emma, meanwhile, fares better in her struggle to overcome the burdens of her personal history. Though leavened with less of the humour of her first novel, Gibb's tracing of Blue and Emma's separate paths allows her to explore how two children can respond quite differently to the same situation, and the "petty details" of their lives are often wondrously weird. --Nigel Hunt --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


“An astonishing novel replete with the amazing possibilities of survival, reunion and letting go.” -- The Globe and Mail

“Gibb is surely one of the most talented writers around. . . . She can do funny, she can do sad, she can do sex. I suspect that there is little that this wonderful woman cannot do.” -- The Times (London)

“Gibb has an impressive gift for tart description. . . . Her depictions are seductive: each is so sordid you can’t help but be fascinated . . . bursting with ideas and insight.” -- Vancouver Sun

“Camilla Gibb is developing a reputation for sharp, coruscating narratives of dysfunctional families. . . . [This is a] funny, twisted, heart-breaking novel.” -- The Independent (UK)

“Gibb’s literary masterpiece inspires us to reflect on our own lives.” -- Hamilton Spectator

Praise for Mouthing the Words:
Mouthing the Words rings with an authority rarely found in first novels. By dint of Gibb’s lush, visceral prose, Mouthing the Words persuasively charts one woman’s journey back to wholeness.” -- The Washington Post

“Gibb’s debut novel is both gut-wrenching and gut-busting. Ridiculously good for a first novel.” -- NOW Magazine

“Gibb scales her story small, twists her sentences into prickly, unsentimental assaults and ends up with a portrait of terrible, comic humanity.” -- The New York Times

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gripping Jan. 3 2004
This book grabbed me from the beginning until the end. I could not put this book down because of Gibb's intelligent prose, hard wit, humour, imagery and fragile characters. The characters are so well-defined and crafted, I easily became enmeshed in their lives for what was too short a time period. I was so gripped by this book, my husband couldn't wait to read it. If you loved Anne-Marie MacDonald's Fall on Your Knees, you will fall for this character-driven drama that takes you behind-the-scenes of dysfunctional family life and into the hearts and minds of characters that beg to be loved. My only complaint about Petty Details is that it was 100 pages too short. Gibb herself is fascinating. I was so intrigued by her writing, I wanted to learn more about her and was not surprised to learn she has a PhD in social anthropology but pursued a career in writing. Smart choice.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Life is Petty Aug. 21 2003
The Petty Details of So-and-so's Life, by Camilla Gibb
If great writing ultimately exposes the true condition of human existence - no holds barred, then Camilla Gibb's stunning novel, The Petty Details of So-and-so's Life, succeeds on a grand scale. One needn't search this book for those sought after kernels of truth - they are all abound...the good, the bad and the really funny.
The book is about the painful and lonely struggle of two essentially abandoned siblings, Emma and Blue Taylor, bound together on both a psychic and emotional level that is as inspiring as it is heartbreaking. But is shared pain enough to support them on their quests to emerge from the ruins of Dysfunction? Ms. Gibb's characters lead the reader on a hard-edged journey of the picaresque that explores the two rather disparate roads taken. Emma battles to succeed in the comfort of upper class life - the right man, the nice house and a promising academic career. Meanwhile, Blue, the tattoo artist, discovers meaning - at least for a while, but in a far less respectable venue. How does strip-joint sound?
But the haunting echoes of their past are never far away; Deranged Dad wastes away in the junkyard, pathetically clinging to delusions of grandeur and mom is an ex-hippie who personifies all of the failed ideals of the Peace and Love Generation. Everybody has skeletons in their closets, but what do you when yours are out on the loose? Welcome to a day in the life of the Taylor kids.
Gibb's writing is clear and crisp, with hilarious bits strewn throughout the novel. Let's face it - sometimes pathetic is just plain funny, it's also a nice break from the intensity of a novel that never lets down. Petty Details is the voice of the disaffected, the disenfranchised, the is the voice of humanity.
David Hamburg
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I love this author! July 26 2003
By A Customer
This novel is fantastic! I read it in 5 hours. Talk about not being able to put a book down.
The characters feel like people you know, or at least want to know. The author says things that I've thought, and puts those thoughts into words, beautiful words. The details 'petty' or not, are fabulously told.
I only hope Camilla Gibb keeps writing!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beauty in the details Aug. 14 2003
By A Customer
From their youth to their young adulthood the main characters, had to suffer through horrible family relationships and experiences, and yet they salvage from this and from each other, what they can in attempts to find comfort and love.
Their lives are told as a collection of details – little events and stories that shaped who they were and how they would cope.
The characters always seem to be on the verge of overcoming their history and regardless of the misfortune they experience, they strive to continue. Really that is what the sum of life is.
I thought it was wonderfully written and poetic. I grew to love the characters and I didn’t want it to end. I highly recommend this novel.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Buy this Book! Aug. 27 2003
By A Customer
A compelling read...dark, moody and memorable.
Camilla Gibb is a gifted writer.
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