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Oxygen (original 2001; edition 2002)
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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 Mon, 30 Sep 2013 14:02:29 -0400)
"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.
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