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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
4.0 out of 5 stars An extraordinary book about an extraordinary man April 28 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 A truly impressive debut by Jackson Sept. 18 1999
By A Customer
Mick Jackson's debut, a part fictional novel based on the life of the Duke of Portland, is one of the best novels I have read this year. It's written in the style of a mystery - the secret is unveiled only in its final pages - and told through the eyes of the protagonist via his journal entries and those around him. Jackson is a brilliant writer - his prose is sharp, witty and even poetic in places and he has that rare ability to hold you spellbound and on knife's edge as you partake in the unraveling of the mystery. There are hints along the way but the secret is preserved right till the very end. A small criticism - I found the middle section dealing with the Duke's hypochondria a little long and slow. This trips up the natural velocity of the plot which otherwise moves briskly along. As if to compensate for this minor hiccup, Jackson's prose tightens up again as he gives a truly unnerving account of the final stages of the Duke's physical breakdown. The sharpness and pinpoint accuracy of this descriptive passage makes your stomach queasy and your knees want to buckle. Jackson's writing is deceptively simple but it hits you right between the eyes. Beautiful. Stay tuned. You will hear and read alot more of him. In the meantime, enjoy this wonderfully sad and terrific novel.
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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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4.0 out of 5 stars Beautifully written April 20 2000
I chose to read this book mainly because it had been nominated for the Booker Prize although I know this does not always guarantee a good read.I have to say that I was not too excited about the subject matter before I began reading it and I expected the storyline to be a little silly.However,I am now a devoted Mick Jackson reader due to the beautiful prose throughout the book.I was enthralled by the adventures of the Duke and he made me laugh,cry and even squirm while reading.I agree with the reviewer below however, regarding the hypochondria section-it tended to be quite slow-moving,so I'm only giving it 4 instead of 5 stars.The first half of the book,though, is wonderful and this alone makes it worth buying.The ending,although a little contrived,truly shocked me and I can't get it out of my mind.I look forward to more work from Mick Jackson.
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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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1.0 out of 5 stars Over-rated June 8 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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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars underground man
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... Read more
Published on Dec 24 2002 by Lisa
4.0 out of 5 stars A Bizarre Divergence From Reality
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. Read more
Published on July 15 2002
5.0 out of 5 stars Dear Diary... I'm Insane.
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... Read more
Published on May 27 2002 by Akethan
5.0 out of 5 stars read this book
Jackson's novel about the eccentric Duke of Portland is one of the finest pieces of fiction I have read. Read more
Published on July 20 2001 by "taliesun"
4.0 out of 5 stars Silly wonderful
I cannot easily recall a narrator by whom I was so engaged and charmed. A lovely look at and through an old man struggling with more than his quite agile, though off-kilter, mind... Read more
Published on Jan. 9 2000
5.0 out of 5 stars Gripping narrative written with a razor sharp pen!
Thumbs up for Mike Jackson's debut novel. It is hard to believe that this book did not receive wider acclaim. The plot is highly engaging, and the writing style, distinctive. Read more
Published on Sept. 13 1999
4.0 out of 5 stars Poetic, imaginative, unique -- a work of art!
I enjoyed this character study very much. The first person narrative is poetic -- the words of a sensitive, intelligent, highly imaginative man. Read more
Published on Aug. 1 1999
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