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Submarine by Joe Dunthorne
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Submarine (2008)

by Joe Dunthorne

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Oliver Tate, Submarine's hero, or perhaps anti-hero, observes his life through the lens of a number of teenage obsessions: his parents' marriage, the collection of words, his girlfriend and sex. Submarine does not have a plot in the traditional beginning-middle-end sense, rather this is Oliver's view of the world and it is told in his voice, at times sardonic, at others times sharply introverted and difficult to understand.

Oliver is Submarine's greatest asset, but also its weakness. He is astute about some of the world around him and his observations are peppered with humorous barbs: "In the Karma Sutra, the penis becomes the lingam and the vagina becomes the yoni. These words will add a certain mystical resonance, like very poor lighting, to the congress."

Yet in other ways he is unpleasant, irrational, cruel and it can be difficult to wish well of him, or even pay attention. At these times the book flounders, unpropelled by plot, tied by a lead character who is puzzled and immune from the life around him.

Still, Submarine remains witty, biting and, in its own way, charming. ( )
  laphroaig | May 2, 2011 |
Fifteen year old Oliver Tate is a boy obsessed. He is equally obsessed with his parent’s failing marriage (and lack of sexual activity) and learning new words from the dictionary. Another obsession is losing his virginity—and soon. Though he finds himself entwined in a relationship with the eczematous and occasionally pyromaniacal Jordana, his precocious awkwardness eventually isolates him from her.

Oliver is at times callous and detached as he takes a clinical view of those around him. This makes him a tough character to like in those moments. Luckily there are more moments throughout the novel Submarine in which Oliver reveals the awkwardness and anxiety of adolescence allowing him to become relatable to readers. This is a very darkly funny novel. ( )
  audramelissa | Oct 27, 2010 |
Review from Badelynge
Maybe if Joe Dunthorne's Submarine had clothed its covers with far fewer off the mark testimonials, I would have been a little more forgiving in my judgment of this book. But for the sake of balance alone somebody has to pooh-pooh all the best thing since Catcher in the Rye statements. To live up to such statements Oliver Tate (our narrator) would have to seem like a real character - but he never does. Maybe he was never meant to. Submarine sort of lives in a skewed reality not far removed from a post watershed episode of My Family. Other times it's hard to believe Oliver's ramblings are anything other than the voice of the true author, Joe Dunthorne. To be fair the first chapter was ok. It seemed quite light, quirky, with some pretty clever lines: 'Depression comes in bouts. Like boxing. Dad is in the blue corner.' Unfortunately that line was the last of them and even that one had been wasted on a cover quote. Are there any truths uncovered in this book, other than suggesting that 15 year olds aren't always as right as they think they are? Back to those pesky testimonials. No, no, no. 'Adrian Mole for adults, with a much more complicated protagonist, truer to life and infinitely funnier' Big Issue. I think somebody should go back and read the Adrian Mole books again, because this couldn't be further from the truth if Oliver Tate had written the quote himself. ( )
1 vote Finxy | Apr 6, 2010 |
Submarine by Joe Dunthorne has a strong voice. The narrator, Oliver, a 15 year old boy in Swansea Wales, only child of an eccentric couple having marital troubles, has an interesting outlook on the world and his life. Throughout a coming of age year in his life, we hear of his interactions with his school mates, his parents and the girl who he has his first sexual encounter with.
Oliver is very concerned with his parent’s marriage which he sees is failing. His mother is intrigued with a former flame who has breezed back into her life offering excitement and enlightenment. Oliver obsessively follows this budding relationship and tries to sabotage it. What he succeeds in doing is throwing more light on his parent’s marriage which shows up all the ways that the couple have been pretending that “nothing is wrong”.
When I started reading the book the style of writing grated on me. The author wrote Oliver’s thoughts as Oliver thought them and they sounded and felt jumbled and I wasn’t sure if I could finish the book. After reading and becoming involved in the story for several more chapters I finally started to enjoy Oliver’s unique way of expressing himself but I never could completely relate to him. Sometimes I liked Oliver and he charmed me and other times I could not understand his reasoning or motivations and l felt repulsed by him.
I am glad that I persevered with this book. I know that Oliver’s voice will stay with me and continue to intrigue me. I may revisit him again at a later date. ( )
  cassiopia_cat | Sep 15, 2008 |
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Meet Oliver Tate, 15. Convinced that his father is depressed ("Depression comes in bouts. Like boxing. Dad is in the blue corner") and his mother is having an affair with her capoeira teacher, "a hippy-looking twonk", he embarks on a hilariously misguided campaign to bring the family back together. Meanwhile, he is also trying to lose his virginity - before he turns sixteeen - to his pyromaniac girlfriend Jordana. Will Oliver succeed in either aim? Submerge yourself in "Submarine" and find out...

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Oliver Tate, a precocious fourteen-year-old boy growing up in Swansea, Wales, is determined to accomplish all of his goals, from losing his virginity before his fifteenth birthday to uncovering the secrets his parents, neighbors, and girlfriend might be hiding.… (more)

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