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Oxygen by Andrew Miller (2001)

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I found this to be an interesting book. Lots of different sorts of people, including what I thought was a reasonable portrayal of gay men. I suppose if anything there were indeed too many of these unconventional characters and situations, in the sense that the books I like most are the ones in which I can identify myself or imagine myself placed in the situation. In this case the dying mother was perhaps the feature which allowed me a measure of identification. Anyway, even those situations which were well outside the range of my normal experience seemed to be presented well and kept my interest all the way through. It's my first Andrew Miller book, and I think I'll put his other works on my wishlist and see what they're like. ( )
  oldblack | Feb 28, 2016 |
Miller effortlessly writes some of the most aesthetic descriptions I've read in a while without bogging down the narrative. ( )
  David_Berlin | Apr 27, 2011 |
This literary novel was shortlisted for the Booker Prize, and it’s easy to see why. Four interrelated characters, each facing a personal transition, struggles to find his or her way. Through separate first-person narratives, we come to know each one and the subtle and interesting ways that they know each other and the people closest to them. Alice is facing death as her grown but rootless sons struggle to understand who is the Loser and who the Winner in the family circle. Far away in Paris, a Hungarian artist struggles to free himself from the guilt of his wartime past. Each character is beautifully and sensitively drawn, and each journey is ultimately hopeful, but best of all, these people are capable of surprising themselves, their loved ones and the reader. ( )
  kambrogi | Nov 18, 2010 |
Alice is dying and her two sons come to stay. One son is a faded Hollywood success, the other is struggling to work on a translation of a play. These characters are separate and lonely within the family. This story is linked to that of Lazlo, a Hungarian playwright. All the characters are looking for redemption. ( )
  Tifi | Jun 25, 2010 |
A matriarch succumbs slowly to cancer, providing a focal point for a family crisis. Miller's account of disparate lives, and how we're all bound by life and tragedy, is coolly dispassionate and well-written, but I found the Hungarian section not very engaging. ( )
  GerhardH | Mar 3, 2010 |
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Book description
In the summer of 1997, four people reach a turning point: Alice Valentine, who lies gravely ill in her West Country home; her two sons, one still searching for a sense of direction, the other fighting to keep his acting career and marriage afloat; and Laszlo Lazar, who leads a comfortable life in Paris yet is plagued by his memories of the 1956 Hungarian uprising. For each, the time has come to assess what matters in life, and all will be forced to take part in an act of liberation - though not necessarily the one foreseen.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0340728264, Paperback)

In Andrew Miller's third novel, Oxygen, the award-winning author of Ingenious Pain offers an intense, claustrophobic tale of parallel lives, of regret and redemption.

A family reunion of sorts is underway in the summer of 1997 for Alice, a newly retired, long-widowed schoolteacher, dying of cancer at her home in the English countryside. Gathered at her side are her two sons: Alec, a myopic, indecisive translator, and the more gregarious Larry, an unemployed TV soap star whose glittering U.S. career is about to take a nosedive into the shabby territory of porn films, so he can stave off bankruptcy and hold on to his disintegrating marriage. The counterpoint to this scenario is Laszlo Lazar, Hungarian exile and feted playwright, whose latest work, Oxygen, Alec is translating. Lazar, who has a comfortable existence in one of the more fashionable Paris quartiers, seems to possess everything that Alec does not: critical success, a loving partner, a longstanding circle of artistic friends. Yet Lazar is tormented by memories of the 1956 uprising and a comrade he feels he betrayed. When a political splinter group asks him to undertake a mysterious mission, he seizes his chance to atone for the past.

Shifting between a quintessentially English idyll, the carousing bars of Paris, the physical and emotional aridity of California, and a Budapest of the past and present, Miller skillfully evokes his characters' stories and their common theme--the liberation of self--even if the end result is self-destruction. He writes compassionately of the terminally ill Alice, clinging to the last vestiges of life, the last agonizing breath: "Was that the last to go? Certain gestures, reflexes, a way of cocking the head or moving the hands in speech?" He reminds us that human beings have choices, even in despair, and he provides a suitably ambiguous ending to round off a wise and engrossing novel. --Catherine Taylor, Amazon.co.uk

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:24:06 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

"In a house in the English countryside a woman in her sixties, Alice, is dying. In the garden, her younger son is working on the translation of a play by a celebrated Hungarian playwright, Lazlo Lazar. In San Francisco, Alice's other son, a one time soap actor and now heavily in debt, is on his way to a meeting with a pornographic film producer. And in Vienna, Lazlo Lazar is having supper with his lover, Kurt, and an American painter, discussing action, courage and the revolutions of 1956 and 68. Each of these characters will soon face a test of courage. Each will be forced to take part in an act of liberation - though not necessarily the one they foresaw. Naturally, there are certain coloured pills, a revolver, and a child who cannot be trusted as the summer of 97, the summer of the comet, reaches its surprising conclusion."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

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