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Close to Hugh by Marina Endicott

Close to Hugh

by Marina Endicott

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274402,159 (3.64)9
  1. 00
    Requiem by Frances Itani (LDVoorberg)
    LDVoorberg: Both books have a male protagonist who is an artist and is dealing with the ghosts of his childhood. Both Canadian.

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Showing 4 of 4
Wow, this book was exquisitely written. It was the writing: the oozing emotion out of simple words, phrases, the poetry, the raw-ness of the characters, that pulled me through this book. Not a light piece, but something to be chewed and tasted and thoroughly explored. There's so much insight and accurate portrayal of love and life and the awkwardness of being human to make this book profound. So many characters, but their integration (even though the teens are more like university students) as a community is well portrayed. Walk into this world: it is heavy with emotion, but well-written.
Recommended for art and theatre lovers, too. ( )
  LDVoorberg | Dec 3, 2017 |
I agree with the two previous reviewers: I, too, have mixed feelings about this book. I loved Hugh and the way the author really brought him to life. Hugh is a middle-aged man trying to be a good son to his dying mother, and a good friend to his extended family and friends. Each has their own challenges and Hugh's relationships are so very real.

I found there was a little too much going on in one week, with kids running off to Toronto and adults following them to help out. No one seemed to ever think of actually parenting these kids...they were more like older brothers or sisters to the teens.

Other than that, a good story and a very enjoyable read. ( )
  LynnB | Sep 23, 2016 |
i am still processing this read, unsure about what i think/feel.

there was much i liked (loved!), but there were also some things that made it hard for me to really get into a good flow with the story. so i am going to think on this a bit more to see if i can gather some more coherent thoughts. i do adore marina endicott, so i want to give her and the novel their proper dues. :)

the likes:
• hugh
• ivy
• ruth
• the setting (peterborough, ontario)
• the contrast of the cluster of mid-life artists with the young/student group
• some wonderful, perfect moments about life, its complexities, acceptance, grief, loss, and love
• how hard 'regular' life is for everyone - you never really know what people are dealign with
• the empathy endicott conveys (and which i hope other readers will feel and appreciate!)

the bumpy things
• della
• ken
• gerald
• newell
• ann
• burton
• jamie, & his brother (ivy's ex)
• the lack of depth or information offered in some characters &situations, deeply contrasting the perfect moments
• possibly too much going on
• the really insular nature of the adult group

i feel like the book is going to sit with me for a while, so this rating may get bumped up. i also feel like this book has excellent potential for award consideration, so i will be interested to see how it fares, later this year. ( )
  Booktrovert | May 7, 2015 |
I received a copy of this from the publisher via Netgalley.

A week in the life of Hugh, a gallery-owner, whose mother (Mimi) is dying in the hospice. The plot revolves around a drama masterclass being held at the local high school, which is being run by Newell, Hugh's foster-brother, and Newell's boyfriend, Burton, whom Hugh hates. Ivy is an actress, also in town to facilitate the masterclass and she and Hugh immediately fall in love. The cast of characters, all of whom are tightly connected, include Della, a foster-sister to Newell and Hugh, Ann, a girlfriend of Hugh's from decades before, Ruth, who informally fostered Hugh, Della and Newell, and their various teenage sons and daughters, who are attending the class.

Hugh falls 15+ feet off a ladder at the beginning of the week and struggles with a constant headache and complicated feelings for his mother. Della and her husband, who are celebrating 30 years of being together, almost break up and there are other love triangles/pairings, most importantly the love Newell feels for the teenage Orion, which threatens Burton.

Things I liked:

Ivy and Hugh - a couple who meet, like each other, express this liking and have a supportive, loving relationship which enhances each of their lives.

The Newell/Hugh/Orion triangle, which explored the meaning of love, loyalty and obligation.

Hugh in general - a man with honour, who lived up to his obligations.

Ruth - a very well-drawn, instantly recognizable character.

Things I liked less:

The limited cast and scope of action was a bit claustrophobic at times.

I often found the Della sections impossible to understand.

I just wanted Hugh to open his mail/check his messages/plan more than 5 minutes ahead. ( )
1 vote pgchuis | Apr 25, 2015 |
Showing 4 of 4
Giller-nominated writer Marina Endicott’s newest book combines artistic personalities and codependent relationships to dramatic effect....It’s a sprawling group, and plots are occasionally lost and secondary characters can feel like ciphers. When Endicott homes in, however, she draws a powerful connection between the adults and their teenage kids (and their friends), all weighted by the past and reluctant to move forward. The younger ones are paralyzed by the fear of testing their talent in the bigger world; the elders, by the sobering realization that there might not be many more reinventions left in their lifetimes.

A nominee for both the Scotiabank Giller and the Governor General’s literary prizes for previous books, Endicott likes to dig into big themes, such as the importance of art and the meaning of goodness. Close to Hugh turns on the idea that the very forces that provide stability — your hometown, your family, your loyalty to friends — can also stifle you, and that those closest to you may be blind to who you really are. ...At its core, though, Close to Hugh is deeply sympathetic to the human condition. Early on in the novel, Hugh falls from a ladder, jarring his aging body — an insult even more than it is an injury. But Endicott’s promise is this: As long as we have life left in us, it’s always possible to get back up.
Reading a new novel by Marina Endicott, I am often reminded of the work of the late Carol Shields, the casually understated depth of her talent....With her new novel Close to Hugh, Endicott returns to the contemporary domestic drama that characterized Good To a Fault (which was shortlisted for the Giller Prize in 2008), following the vaudeville-age setting of The Little Shadows (itself longlisted for the Giller in 2011). It’s a powerful, rewarding novel, if occasionally problematic, circling around issues of love, loss, friendship, family and community....Readers might also have some difficulty with the sprawling nature of Close to Hugh, at least in the early stages of the book. The opening of the novel is somewhat forbidding, with the introduction of a daunting number of characters, whose relationships and interweavings only slowly emerge, and a barrage of stylistic approaches and points of view. It’s unclear whether it’s a matter of Endicott taking a bit of time to find her stride, or if it just takes the reader a while to adjust, but there comes a point, relatively early on, when the novel seems to open up, to allow the reader wholly into this world....Close to Hugh cuts far deeper, peeling back pretensions and facades in pursuit of those fundamental human truths so dear to Endicott, and to Shields before her.
Marina Endicott’s oddly original and charming new novel, Close to Hugh – following the success of Good to a Fault and The Little Shadows – inhabits a particular geography involving a series of staircases...She writes beautifully about teenagers: “Ivy loves girls at this age, girls going wild, going like roller derby girls, each one a firecracker, a graceful, mad bacchante flying toward you in a violent swirl of eyes and arms.” Her use of technology and social media expands the possibilities of narrative ....I haven’t mentioned plot, mostly because plot is not quite the point. Close to Hugh feels more like a play than a book in its compression of time and space, connections illuminated between characters to create a web in the gossamer sense, in that connections are sometimes barely visible until they shimmer. The novel isat its best when the reader feels at the end of a ribbon...At other times, the connections are more manufactured. A misunderstanding between Hugh and his friend about her errant husband is elided through artificially unfinished sentences.

Elsewhere, there is too much explanation, although “too-muchness” is to be expected in a novel nearly 500 pages long. It seems as though Endicott has faced a similar challenge as one of her characters – how do you fit the whole wide world into a single piece of art?...Rich with adjectives, the novel addresses huge and general questions about the meaning of life and the universe with remarkable specificity. “We are tiny, unknowable, unimaginably unimportant, far from everything, only close to each other,” one character observes, which on a macro level is the point of Close to Hugh but, as the novel demonstrates, is also totally wrong. Because of how art itself brings the world into startling, vivid focus, and suddenly every little thing has meaning after all.
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Deep in fall, // my neighbour -- // how does he live, I wonder? --Basho
for Will and Rachel // everything always is
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0385678606, Hardcover)

Close to Hugh takes an exuberantly existential look at youth and age, art and life, love and death over one week in the world of gallery-owner Hugh Argylle.
On Monday, a fall from a ladder leaves Hugh with a fractured vision of the pain—dying parents, shaky marriages, failure of every kind—suffered by those close to him. His friends are one missed ladder-rung from going under emotionally, physically, and financially.

Somebody’s got to fix them all. And it probably has to be Hugh.

Meanwhile, beneath the adult orbit, bright young lives are taking form: the sons and daughters of Hugh’s friends are about to graduate from high school and already floating away from the gravitational pull of their parents. As complicated bonds form and break in texts and ticks on multiplying media, the desires, terrors, and revelations of adolescence are mirrored in the second adolescence of the adults.

With insight and mastery, Endicott creates surprising parallel worlds. Her ear for the cadences and concerns of two generations gives us both sets of friends on the cusp of reinvention. And as always in Endicott’s multi-layered fiction, below the surface tragicomedy lies something profound: a rare and rich perspective on what it means to fall and rise and fall again—and what in the end we owe to those we love.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 02 Jul 2015 12:41:10 -0400)

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