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The Underground Man [Paperback]

Mick Jackson
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Nov. 7 1997
The Fifth Duke of Portland was known as "The Underground Man". This fictionalized story of the last six months of his life is told through his notebooks and the accounts of those who knew him. The Duke built a series of tunnels beneath his home and a series of dumb waiters to carry him around.

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Product Description

From Library Journal

Through a fictional journal, Jackson constructs a portrait of William John Cavendish-Bentinck-Scott, fifth Duke of Portland (d. 1879), a prodigious eccentric best known for the elaborate network of tunnels he built beneath his estate. The duke is portrayed as a repressed hypochondriac, an old man morbidly curious about the workings of his body and mind. During the months encompassed by the novel, he grows increasingly obsessed with the fleeting bits of memory that intrude upon his ruminations and hint at some horrific, long-buried secret. A prime example of the psychological bent of the contemporary British neo-Gothic novel, this first novel from a British filmmaker and teacher of creative writing explores the darker fringes of consciousness. A subdued, though peculiarly compelling, tale.?Lawrence Rungren, Merrimack Valley Lib. Consortium, Andover, Mass.
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Booklist

Jackson bases his novel on stories told about the eccentric fifth duke of Portland, who died in 1879. The title refers to the elaborate network of tunnels the duke had built beneath his Nottinghamshire estate--20 miles of tunnels large enough for him to traverse in a horse-drawn carriage. But the tunnels are only one manifestation of the duke's oddball behavior. He's a hypochondriac with what seems like hundreds of different obsessions. At first, the duke appears to be nothing more than a harmless crackpot, partly because entries from his own journal provide the vehicle for most of the narration. But gradually the duke's account of himself grows more disturbing. Jackson also supplies us with other voices--the whole troop of servants and helpers who respectfully carry out the duke's wishes and serve his meals and keep the estate running while he goes off on his weird tangents. These other points of view help the reader see how truly out of touch with reality the duke is. Jackson constructs his tale with skill, so the duke remains human and moving throughout, despite his madness. Mary Ellen Quinn --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
4.3 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
1.0 out of 5 stars Over-rated June 9 2003
This book is tripe.
I bought this book when first published because of an interest in Welbeck Abbey. I normally wait for paperback editions to be issued before buying. This time I put my trust in the fact that the book had been nominated for a major book prize. Anyone thinking this is anything like good writing must be very easily pleased. For this codswallop to be nominated for a literary prize is astounding!
The book is drivel.
It is the worst written book I have read for 40 years (when I stopped reading "Janet and John"). I only bothered to finish it just to see if it was as badly written all the way through. The only redeeming feature is the low page count.
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4.0 out of 5 stars An extraordinary book about an extraordinary man April 29 2003
The book is based on the life of William John Cavendish Bentinck-Scott, the Duke of Portland and a resident of Nottinghamshire, England. The Duke of Portland was one of Victorian England's most famous eccentrics, who built a series of underground tunnels large enough for carriages and horses, that enabled him to move around his vast property. Although some of the book is based on facts, Mick Jackson admitted to have taken downright liberties in writing it.

The novel enfolds in the form of journal entries by the duke himself, and is supplement of various neighbours, servants and service men's accounts of Your Grace. The plot develops around the Duke's observations of the world around him, his somewhat hypochondriac obsession with his body, the steadily degeneration of his mind and his search for something missing in his life. It is drawn to a shocking and somewhat bizarre climax in the end of the novel.

It is beautifully written tragic and comic novel, with a character and plot that won't easily be forgetten.
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5.0 out of 5 stars underground man Dec 25 2002
By Lisa
one of the most compelling and interesting books i have read in a very long time. the ending was so bizarre and satisfying - never would have even guessed anywhere near to what actually happened. I felt as if I was in the tunnels with the main characters, in the bed when he was being served his unusual meals and felt the loneliness the underground man endured. fabulous book.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A Bizarre Divergence From Reality July 15 2002
By A Customer
Mick Jackson expertly crafts an intriguing, captivating, and altogether beautifully-represented world within the Duke's mind, resulting in a novel that's extremely enjoyable.
However, my only complaint would be the fact that the apparent 'mystery' is not strong until the conclusion, and hardly seems like a mystery at all until it is finally uncovered.
Regardless, 'The Underground Man' will have you laughing, feeling sympathetic, even squirming; and I thoroughly recommend it.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Dear Diary... I'm Insane. May 27 2002
By Akethan
Just finished reading Mick Jackman's THE UNDERGROUND MAN. He creates a tremendous and quick story to describe the life of the quirky, eccentric Duke of Portland in England in the mid-1800's. It's great language, and many interesting ideas explored - eccentricities, anatomy, trepanning, phrenology, bits of everything seem to work their way into the Duke's journal.
Nicely done with some WAITING FOR GUFFMAN-like asides delivered by his staff, neighbors, etc. on how they perceive the Duke as he slowly drifts away from their reality.
Good read.
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5.0 out of 5 stars read this book July 20 2001
Jackson's novel about the eccentric Duke of Portland is one of the finest pieces of fiction I have read. Told through the voice of the Duke, Jackson indulges in the Dukes eccentric viewpoint and gives The Underground Man a sense of humor and humanity - and later terror - which few works of prose can claim. Despite the books brevity, the character of the Duke is strongly developed, and his deteriorating sanity self-evident through the diary entries.
In brief, The Underground Man was a thoroughly entertaining book, and should be read by all.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Well done, and certainly different July 4 2001
This is an interesting book, about the type of truly eccentric and driven man that can only have been produced by the Victorian aristocracy. It is an interesting mixture of the main character's journal (which is by far the majority of the text) and the observations of the local people and staff on his estate.
It is certainly a fascinating and richly detailed account of what would be considered at any time chronic eccentricity bordering on madness - the endless underground tunnels and odd eating habits alone are enough to convince you of this, but what I feel is a small weakness of the novel is that there is simply not enough external observations of the Duke. Those observations by the house-keeper and the footman etc are little gems of insight, but they are too few.
The prose itself is beautiful, and once again invokes the feeling of the time wonderfully. It is a fine novel, well worth a read.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Quirky Novel with A Stunning Style Oct. 4 2000
By A Customer
Mr Jackson has given his main character a startling and original voice--follow along as the Duke ruminates about everything--the stars, his bowels, his parents's tombs, and the strange floating boy who dogs his footsteps. Interwoven with the Duke's narration are first person accounts from people who interact with him; most of these succeed, but not all of them are completely believable. Still, they give an important counterweight so that the reader isn't completely enclosed in the Duke's strange world. I do feel that the Duke's realization of the identity of the floating boy to be a little obvious and down to earth for a book that is none of these things, but that's a minor point. Can a book be both pathetic and hilarious? Sure it can, in Mr. Jackson's capable hands.
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