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Paperback The Hide Book

ISBN: 0393316327

ISBN13: 9780393316322

The Hide

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Format: Paperback

Condition: Good

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Book Overview

This early work by the Booker Prize-winning author Barry Unsworth chronicles one of his literary obsessions the corruption of innocence and forms it into a compelling contemporary narrative set in the rambling, overgrown grounds of an English estate. There, relying on his rich sister Audrey's beneficence, Simon obsessively digs a secret system of tunnels from which to spy on others. When Josh, a good-looking naif, becomes a gardener at Audrey's home,...

Customer Reviews

2 ratings

Intelligent psychological thriller

One step forward, two steps back for the haplessly intertwining lives in this absorbing novel. Alternating sections by the narrators create a nice rhythm between two very different kinds of innocence. Simon, the etiolated upper-crust neurotic whose widowed sister owns the estate on which the story takes place, is innocent in the sense that he has removed himself from human intercourse, preferring a life of passive, though acute, observation that prevents him from acquiring sophistication or social graces. Though educated, he is so out of touch with human society that he practices what he will say before speaking, consciously uses hand gestures to simulate a liveliness he does not possess, and is easily nonplussed by others. He literally is most at ease alone in a hole underground. Josiah, the naïve and slow-witted young gardener, is innocent in that he lacks the ability to discern motive or character in others and is inexperienced in the ways of the world. He is completely taken in by Mortimer, a slightly older man with an authoritative presence and an impressive-sounding vocabulary, who has a knack for restating Josh's simple sentiments so that Josh feels he has been revealed to himself. He is too guileless to see that Mortimer is a total cynic whose bloodless disdain for other people enables him to manipulate Josh's hero-worship. Enter Audrey, Simon's lonely sister, who has amateur acting ambitions, and Marion, Audrey's poor young relation who lives on the estate. When both women fall for the beautiful Josh, the stage is set for Simon's own act of manipulation to begin a chain of events that wreak disastrous results. Unsworth masterfully creates voices for his two narrators -- Josh's is rustic, earnest, and gullible, while Simon's is effete, alienated, and precise. Perhaps the most disturbing aspect of this story is that even after violation and mayhem, Josh and Simon retain their respective innocences.

Disturbing tale of disturbed minds

The Hide, told from two different, but equally disturbed viewpoints, chronicles the small lives of the twin narrators, Simon and Josh. Simon, who lives on a palatial estate with his sister and the shell-shocked housekeeper, Marion, has secretly dug tunnels beneath the grounds. These tunnels-- his hide-- are both for hiding himself from a confusing and vicious world, and to take voyeuristic peeks at his surroundings-- especially the woman in the next house who has a penchant for housework in flimsy garments. Josh enters the household as a gardener when Simon's sister, Audry, decides in her unilateral way that the estate needs upkeep. Josh finds himself both disturbed by these odd hermits on the enormous estate and slowly attracted to Marion. Simon, for his part, is appalled and terrified of Josh-- a stranger, and worse, a gardener who has access to the grounds and may discover his hide, to say nothing of seeing Simon sneaking in and out of all his secret spots in the overgrown hedges.The book is entirely engrossing, yet disturbing and sad. Everyone in the book seems broken in some way, limping through life in an unaware, self-piteous sort of rut where nothing ever happens. They are reflexive-things happen TO them, they are not capable, it seems, of exerting any force in their worlds. Simon is obsessed with his tunnels and spying, and in the process of spending so much time alone and underground, has no clear idea how to deal with other adults. Because of this, he does some startlingly childish pranks that he promptly regrets. He is perpetually tongue-tied and overanalytical of every social situation, almost always saying the wrong thing at the wrong time, all the while longing to escape to his secret subterranean realm.Josh is a meek, lost, confused little Cockney who only seems to have a will of his own-- small and fragile as it may be-- when he is not hanging about with his best friend Mortimer. Mortimer, who is older and much more assured, can bend Josh to his will as easily as wrapping picture-hanger wire around his finger. Josh seems to know this and often vows NOT to tell Mortimer EVERYTHING that happens on the estate-- to keep some secrets to himself or save them for later-- only to have it easily prized out of him within moments of meeting Mortimer. Throw this gaggle of sad, wizened-soul creatures together in one large, overgrown estate, toss in the oh-too-human drive for companionship and sex, mix together (the contents will separate at first), and let stand until a rickety triangle between Marion, Josh and Audrey forms and you have the basic recipe for this astonishing book.
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