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The Origin of Species Paperback – Deckle Edge, Mar 30 2009

3.1 out of 5 stars 10 customer reviews

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Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 496 pages
  • Publisher: Anchor Canada (March 30 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385663617
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385663618
  • Product Dimensions: 16 x 2.7 x 23.5 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 476 g
  • Average Customer Review: 3.1 out of 5 stars 10 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #332,721 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description


“Ricci’s masterstroke to date. This novel does so well, on so many levels, that it’s hard to know where to begin tallying up the riches. . . . An ambitious, thrilling novel that resists encapsulation and takes not a single misstep . . . it is also bitterly, achingly funny.”
Toronto Star

The Origin of Species is a profoundly moving novel that lovingly creates a world of flawed but very real characters.”
Winnipeg Free Press

“An entertaining and emotionally rewarding read, this book will transport Nino Ricci to further heights of literary stardom and could well overtake his first, Lives of the Saints, as his signature work — much as the original Origin of Species did to the career and life of Charles Darwin.”
Ottawa Citizen

About the Author

Nino Ricci was born in Leamington, Ontario, to parents from the Molise region of Italy. He studied English literature and creative writing at York University and Concordia University, then Italian studies at the University of Florence. He has taught literary studies and creative writing in Canada and abroad. He now lives in Toronto, and is a past president of the Canadian Centre of International PEN.

Nino Ricci’s first novel Lives of the Saints garnered international acclaim, appearing in fifteen countries and winning a host of awards, including Canada’s Governor General's Award for Fiction and the Books in Canada First Novel Award, and England’s Betty Trask Award and the Winifred Holtby Prize. Lives of the Saints formed the first volume of a trilogy that was completed by In A Glass House and Where She Has Gone, which was shortlisted for the Scotiabank Giller Prize for Fiction. The trilogy was adapted for a miniseries starring Sophia Loren, Sabrina Ferilli, and Kris Kristofferson.

Ricci’s 2002 novel Testament was the co-winner of the Trillium Award and was shortlisted for the Commonwealth Prize for Canada and the Caribbean and the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize. It has been published in several languages around the globe and was a Times Literary Supplement Book of the Year.

In 2006, Ricci was named the inaugural winner of the Alistair MacLeod Award for Literary Achievement. His most recent novel, Giller-nominated The Origin of Species, was published in September 2008.

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Alex Fratarsomething is a self-absorbed, intelligent, unmotivated, promiscuous, pompous twentysomething who needs to grow up. Over the course of this book he does. Nino Ricci somehow makes all the introspection interesting and makes us care about what happens to this unappealing character, even somehow getting us to identify with him.

Frankly, though, if it weren't for the flashback to the Galapagos about 1/2 to 2/3 of the way through the book, this would be a disaster. This interlude which accounts a trip to the Galapagos some 6 years before the other events of the book casts a different light on everything else and makes Alex's problems seem a little more reasonable. Also, Esther, the girl suffering from MS helps pull Alex out of his self-absorbed stupor and makes his final adjustments believable.

A little on the long side - probably too long but it's good enough otherwise to be forgiven.
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Format: Hardcover
I love Nino's writing but this book completely disappointed me. Characters are introduced briefly and then suddenly reappear later with much greater importance than you would have predicted (sending you searching back to see if you missed anything). The title character makes one bad decision after another which I guess is the point of the story, but his thought processes (explained in far too much detail I think)often don't make sense. It's like the horror movie where the person should not go down into the basement but they do so the movie can continue. I just felt the author spent too much time explaining what the reader was supposed to get out of different events where he could have saved a couple of hundred pages and let the reader come to their own conclusions. I just thought his other works, Lives of the Saints and Testament flowed beautifully, were concisely written and let me get lost in the story. in Origin of Species I continuously felt I was reading the first draft of a novel written by someone with too many ideas and characters going in too many directions.
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Format: Paperback
Twenty-six-year old grad student, Alex, is going through a tough time. After two years he’s still struggling to nail down his dissertation theme and deal with unresolved relationship issues. He’s sought a thesis supervisor and a therapist for his personal problems, but neither man is that helpful. Afraid that his life will be a total failure, Alex flounders in his attempts to turn things around.

I had high expectations for this book. After all, it’s a Governor General’s award winner written by a man who’s already won many prestigious awards. Unfortunately, the novel fell flat for me. I’ve spent most of my adult life reading Canadian literature and literary magazines from accomplished writers who occasionally use academic settings. To my recollection, most of them have made academia seem tediously eccentric, petty, political, and above all boring. I realize that many authors come from this background and write what they know with confidence and authenticity. But that doesn’t mean it will make interesting reading, even for those of us familiar with academic environments. I was hoping this book would break through and create a new perspective on the worn out eccentric, embittered professor angle and academic snobbery, but it didn’t.

Set in Montreal in the mid 1980’s, shortly after the Chernobyl disaster, there’s also a fair amount of political discussion surrounding the Anglophone/Francophone debates which is again was more annoying than interesting. On the plus side, the angst Alex feels about past and present relationships and his future in general is something readers can probably relate to. Although the lengthy backstory sections were unnecessarily long, the scenes set in the Galapagos were so vividly described, in a negative way, that I’m glad I have no plans to ever go there. Personally, I wouldn’t have chosen this book as a GG award winner, but as you know, prizes and preferences are completely subjective.
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Format: Paperback
Alex Fratarcangeli, the protagonist of Nino Ricci’s The Origin of Species, works on a Ph.D. proposal that could change literary academics: he chooses to analyze literary texts in the light of Darwinism. As its title suggests, the novel is about Alex’s relationship to the life of Darwin and his seminal The Origin of Species. On the road, he lives through various failed romantic relationships and tries to learn what it means to be a father. This journey culminates in the production of a Ph.D. proposal that I believe to be both fascinating and potentially revolutionary, if academia takes these ideas seriously. In Ricci’s fictitious 1980s Montreal setting, academia does not.

Having achieved an MA in Victorian Studies, Alex pursues his Doctorate and is assigned Jiri Novak as his supervisor, a man with a troubled past. He has an idea about what he wants to explore, but he struggles to come up with the revelation that will tie his thesis together: kind of like the way I am currently searching for my Master’s research essay topic. Not even Jiri, however, can deny the simplicity and revolutionary potential in Alex’s work, even if the institution of academia finds Darwinism a tough pill to swallow.

What emerges is the argument that narrative is older than humankind. As Darwin’s discoveries about evolution once put humans in their not-so-special place in the animal kingdom, so does Alex’s thesis put all of literature in perspective with biology. To paraphrase Ricci, narrative is not the hallmark of human self-consciousness, but a path to it, a journey in itself.

The masked booby of the Galapagos presents its mate with a series of gifts that indicate the male’s desire to give the female a life of happiness. This, and interactions like it across the animal kingdom, prove that “happily ever after” is a story that goes beyond the human.
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