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on April 18, 2004
The plot of The Unburied intrigued me so much that I started reading this book as soon as I bought it. At first, I thought the writing was quite imaginative. Charles Palliser has a rather vivid and compelling imagination. But as I continued to read I noticed that this novel lacked plot and characterization. There are so many dead ends and unimportant pieces of information that I felt lost. I don't always have problems with miscellaneous information, but it appears that the clues and so-called twists were thrown in for no reason other that to lengthen the book. At the end, I ended up closing the book with the intention of never opening it again. The writing is too disjointed to be enjoyed. Disappointing...
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on January 21, 2004
I discovered The Unburied in the sale table at my local bookstore and decided it looked interesting. I found it one of the most fascinating books that I have read this year. I do enjoy reading books that are set in the Victorian era and this was an exceptional example. I took my time reading it because I wanted to lose myself in the language and the wonderful characterization. Mr. Palliser knew whereof he wrote. I felt confident that I was getting a true picture of an English cathedral town of the period with all the petty conflicts between inhabitants. I am a fan of historical mysteries, but many of them do not pay a lot of attention to historical accuracy. Not so in this case. I could almost smell the scent of ancient buildings, old books and manuscripts and coal fires! I look forward to reading the Quincunx.
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on October 23, 2003
This is an awesome book! Just finished reading this novel and have nothing but praise for it. It is a first rate mystery but literarily superior to most of that genre. It's themes deal with evil, deception, motive, human character, perception, guilt, and most importantly - the "unburied dead". All puzzling elements are elegantly revealed. Any book that has you going back to reread passages just for the joy of it is a winner.
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on September 23, 2003
In October 2002 I started reading The Unburied after picking it up, along with The Quincunx, from a local bookstore...deciding to indulge in the thinner, double spaced Unburied before I dived into Quincunx, and get a taste for the author. Like another reviewer here, I read perhaps 150 pages before I put the book down. It didn't seem to be going anywhere...and was dryer than the bones of a corpse uncovered in the second half of the book.
In September 2003, I picked the book up again, and gave it another chance...and read it in four days.
There are far too many plot twists to reveal in fully reviewing this book...plot twists that unfold like a stone wrapped in a blanket; the soft, fuzzy layer that we put over events too painful to deal with peeled away to reveal the coarse, jagged stone of truth underneath.
The storyline: Edward Courtine arrives in a small Victorian town at the behest of his boyhood school chum, Austin Fickling, after more than twenty years of separation. Courtine arrives with dual purposes; that of reviving his friendship with Austin and finally laying to rest a two-decade old embroilment between them involving Edward's young wife....but not what you would think; and to search the library of the Cathedral that Austin teaches at for an ancient manuscript which might shed new light, and possibly disavow previously documented stories of Alfred the Great, Courtine's favored historical figure.
Austin extends this invitation for unscrupulous reasons; hinted at by his late-night meanderings through the darkened streets and back alleys surrounding the Cathedral and nearby houses in the Upper and Lower 'Close' as they are called.
Courtine is drawn to an old inscription, purportedly shedding light on another mystery of the town; that of the rivalry, fight, death, and disappearance of two figures from the town's history involved in the restoration of the Cathedral long ago.
Further enhancing the cloak of gloom and doom already loured over the town is another murder, that of one Mr. Stonex, who resides in the house next to the stone bearing the inscription that Courtine reads....only minutes after Courtine and Fickling finish having tea with the man, a notorious recluse who only opens his doors three times per day, to allow the entrance and exit of his housekeeper, and to take his evening meal.
All of these plotlines are woven together in a 400 page treat which invites comparisons to Umberto Eco and other scholarly authors. Charles Palliser manages to tell a breathtaking tale of murder and duplicity; of grief and despair; of horrors of the body and the mind; and not once was it all too graphic, or at all undigestible.
Charles Palliser has created a dark, gloomy Victorian mystery with The Unburied....well worth the time to read...even if it takes other readers longer than the four days it took me.
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on March 6, 2003
The story is a whacky, weird book that a lot of people would enjoy.I would say that a lot of people can relate themselves to the main characters of this book.The way people's minds want to go figure out a problem or they are just so curious about something they want to go figure it out.The main character's name is Julia and she has some dreams about a strange character,who haunts her in her dreams.But she recognized the background of where the strange being was at in her dreams. It was where she grew up,in Little Rock,Arkansas.
I could relate to Julia because she wants to go see if this thing is real and that's propably what I would have done.My favorite part of the story is where Julia finally gets to confront the strange being and wait...I will let you read it for yourself to find out what happens.
I liked the book because it is not at all predictable.This book makes you want to read more and more untill you get to the end.I heard on the downlow that there is going to be a sequel to this book.
I would recommend this book to almost everybody but I would say about 14 and up should read this because it's pretty hard to follow.Some parts were a little gory so I would say mostly males should read this book.
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on February 5, 2003
An interesting mystery that took a while to pique my interest. It wasn't until I read the last sentence that I realized how Palliser managed to successfully keep his readers on their toes, while revealing nothing. I literally went back and re-read passages again and I felt duped like Courtnine himself. I agree with most readers that it takes a while to get into this book and the several layers of story-telling and past and present-day characters became difficult to follow. My advice: don't give up. The ending will surprise you and make it worthwhile.
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on January 5, 2003
More than a simple Victorian pastiche, The Unburied is something of a conversation between eras and viewpoints in the tradition of A.S. Byatt and Umberto Eco. Clearly out of his depth historian/narrator Dr. Edward Courtine effectively shares his interest in the past of the English cathedral town of Thurchester even as academic skullduggery, past betrayals, and ghost stories swirl about him.
For a timid academic, Courtine makes a surpringly charismatic protagonist, his account inadvertently making clear his limitations as professor and detective as events outpace him, his historical excursions into Thurchester's past fascinating, and his hinted upon past with old school chum Austin increasingly intriguing.
The Unburied stumbles only toward the end, where it devolves into a fairly straightforward murder mystery, the solution of which is far less interesting than our narrator, who is abandoned in a surprisingly ineffective use of the Wilkie Collins' tradition of using multiple narratives to wrap up a mystery.
But despite the lackluster wind-up, this is an atmospheric and entertaining story, using styles of another era to great effect.
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on May 28, 2002
I wanted to like this book. I really tried to. I liked its atmosphere -- it was almost like M.R. James, or the ghost stories of Benson or Arthur Conan Doyle. It also had something going for it that I admired: it had no graphic sex scenes, no gratuitous bad language. It was written as a good Edwardian storyteller might, and it was extremely well written, so far as the actual prose. Where Palliser goes wrong is that he tries to juggle stories set in three periods (actually, four, but the meat of the book has three): the immediate, Victorian story; a tale of Alfred the Great, conncted with a manuscript the hero is searching for; and a mystery set in the time of the English civil war. All fascinating periods. Unfortunately, the stories are integrated by clumily and at length through interminable dialogue scenes. And the three, in the end, simply aren't well integrated (especially the English civil war theme). Furthermore, Palliser goes off on tangents. For instance, there's a pointless discussion early on between two characters on Christianity, and I suppose the hero's point of view is Palliser's (though I don't know him and don't know this to be a fact). Like most non-Christians when presenting a fictional argument between a Christian and a non-Christian, the Christian starts of petulant and ends up hypocritical; and he never argues from orthodoxy, and seems to have the weakest grasp on what he believes (which may be true of most American Christians, but it also helps the author undermine that faith without actually learning anything about it that might give him positive responses). There's little action, which is a shame, because the book has a great setting. He has good characters, a good setting, three good stories ideas in which to run parallel themes, and a good handle on the English language . . . and yet it never gels. Nor does it seem particularly creepy. A minor caveat: the murder takes too long to happen, and, as a spoiler, the murderers are never well integrated in the plot, either. Now, one of my favorite writers, the extremely atmospheric John Dickson Carr, sometimes took his time about having the actual murder, but he did it with pinache, and he never introduced characters from the outside to do it. Overall, this book never quite ends up as the sum of its parts.
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on May 20, 2002
I usually can't stand mysteries but Charles Palliser's "The Quincunx" seemed too good to pass up...and it was. So, I was really eager to read "The Unburied," even though it took me some time to get around to doing just that. I found that "The Unburied" is a very different mystery than is "The Quincunx." While "The Quincunx" was filled with fast-paced adventure and intrigue, "The Unburied" is definitely a 19th century "drawing room" mystery. A lot of this book even takes place in the drawing front of massive fireplaces, during tea, etc. It is a setting that fits the novel and the story told perfectly.
The trouble with "The Unburied," for me at least, is that it can't seem to decide exactly what it is. At first, it seems to be a very Gothic ghost story. Dr. Edward Courtine is an academician who travels to the British town of Thurchester to visit an old friend. In an overly-long opening exposition (one in which I nearly discarded the book), Courtine learns of a 200 year old murder and of a ghost that is said to still haunt Thurchester. Okay, I thought, good. I like ghost stories, as long as they're told with skill and panache.
Courtine however, wasn't as interested in the ghost (or in the fact that the people of Thurchester were acting in a very odd manner) as he was in tracking down a lost book on Alfred the Great. At this point, I felt my interest begin to sag a bit, but still, I thought, perhaps the lost book had something to do with the ghost. Palliser is a clever writer and I thought he would certainly tie the two together...eventually.
"The Unburied" is a book with more red herrings and false clues, more twists and turns than an Alpine mountain pass and this isn't always good. Not only do we have the 200 year old murder to think about, Palliser gives us a fresh murder to entice and confuse us. Is "The Unburied" about the 200 year old murder and the ghost that is said to haunt Thurchester or is it about this recent murder? The answer is really both and neither. If that makes no sense to you, you'll just have to read the book to find out why.
I liked "The Unburied" overall, but I think Palliser made it a little too ponderous, a little too difficult. There's a little too much "telling" in this book and not quite enough "showing." And I think it was a bit overly-long. Even 19th century readers got tired of so much expository material.
If Palliser wanted to write a book that returned the reader to the 19th century English "drawing room" mystery, he certainly succeeded. This a book that is very Victorian in flavor and in pace. I really didn't mind this slow pace...I like atmosphere and "The Unburied" simply abounds with rolling fog, gaslights and things that go bump in the night. What I didn't like was the fact that Palliser left so many questions unanswered and led us down so many false trails that we began to lose sight of the real one.
If you're a reader who loves a good mystery, who loves a mystery in which it's impossible to figure everything out, and if you have the patience to wade through many red herrings and false starts, then "The Unburied" might be perfect for you. But if you need something a little faster-paced and if you need all the questions answered at the book's end, it might be best to pass on this one even though it is very well-written.
I know several people have compared Palliser with Umberto Eco. This is unfair to both authors, I think, as both are very original in style and content. And really, Palliser is nothing at all like Eco! Eco is far more cerebral than is Palliser. Palliser, whose writing is just as good, writes more for the "everyday" reader than does Eco.
Overall, I liked "The Unburied," but I did get impatient with Palliser (and with Courtine) at times, and I did want to know about that ghost!
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on April 10, 2002
Palliser achieves a densely plotted novel in "the Unburied." Set in Victorian England, the main plotline chronicles Dr. Courtine's efforts at solving a Christmastime murder mystery in a sleepy Wessex college town. However, bound up within this is a closely intertwined ghost story (which is something of a murder mystery in and off itself). However, the real theme of the novel is Courtine's own journey of self-discovery, starting with his re-acquaintance with an old college chum and then on through his own halting investigation.
The novel is densely plotted, and it requires some focus to keep all of the details ordered. You learn something new about the novel's historical background, a character, or some event on every single page. If you like novels so thick that you need a fork to get them down, then this novel is for you.
I have read this author's work being favorably compared to Umberto Eco's. I disagree. The two authors share a propensity to write about academics, and love their esoteric details, but Palliser's work is not so relentlessly academic and philosophical. I love Eco, but acknowledge that his work is not fully accessible even for brainy types. Palliser is generally more approachable. I would put him on a par with Arturo Perez-Reverte.
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