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Something to Answer for by P.H. Newby
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Something to Answer for (original 1968; edition 2008)

by P.H. Newby

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1477147,898 (2.98)35
P. H. Newby's seventeenth novel Something To Answer For was assured of a place in literary history when it won the inaugural Booker Prize in 1969. It was 1956 and Townrow was in Port Said - of these two facts he is reasonably certain. He had been summoned by the widow of his deceased friend Elie Khoury. She is convinced Elie was murdered, but nobody seems to agree with her. What of Leah Strauss, the mistress? And of the invading British paratroops? Only an Englishman, surely, would take for granted that the British would have behaved themselves. In this disorientating world Townrow must reassess the rules by which he has been living his life - to wonder whether he, too, may have something to answer for? 'Beautifully written, shot through with crisp, mordant wit, and Newby plays out his narrative with consummate skill.' Sam Jordison, Guardian… (more)
Member:lauralkeet
Title:Something to Answer for
Authors:P.H. Newby
Info:Faber Finds (2008), Paperback, 284 pages
Collections:Removed from Library, British
Rating:**1/2
Tags:read in 2010, fiction, swapped, english authors, booker prize

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Something to Answer For by P. H. Newby (1968)

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» See also 35 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 7 (next | show all)
Terrible. I didn't really understand it but I think the auther was trying to show how a madman thinks. ( )
  MarkKeeffe | Jan 3, 2021 |
A former British soldier named Townrow returns to Port Said, Egypt in 1956 after being summoned by his friend's widow. She's convinced her husband, Elie Khoury, was murdered. Once in Egypt Townrow's reality is tenuous. He's not sure at times of his identity, his nationality or even whether he's still alive. A blow to the head, his friend's death, the nationalization of the Suez Canal and subsequent invasion by the British don't help. He also meets a woman who "changed the chemistry of his blood."

Memory is integral to the story. Townrow's memory in particular. Events and timelines are muddled. "He must stop mis-remembering. He must clear his mind. What actually had happened?" An intelligent and skillfully written story with a great sense of time and place. ( )
  Hagelstein | Mar 22, 2020 |
Jack Townrow answers a plea for help from an Englishwoman living in Port Said he is acquainted with who believes her Lebanese husband was murdered. His first night in Port Said he gets drunk, is knocked unconscious and left for dead in the desert. The resulting injuries and concussion give him memory problems as he tries to piece together what happened to the deceased and to himself.

I found this book annoying because I kept misreading Townrow (as the author continually referred to the character) as tomorrow and having to backtrack. I don't like inconclusive endings. ( )
  Robertgreaves | Sep 21, 2017 |
It is always interesting to read Booker winners but I have rather mixed feelings about this one (the first). At face value it reads like a comic picaresque dream story, a confusing narrative set in Egypt during the Suez crisis, but it addresses wider issues of responsibility, national identity and the end of the British empire. ( )
  bodachliath | Feb 24, 2015 |
By the time I’d struggled to the last page of Something to Answer For there was little I felt sure about any longer. Nothing in the novel seems quite certain other than it’s set in Port Said, a city in the throes of the Suez Crisis and where the lead character Townrow, has travelled to see the widow of a recently deceased friend.

But who exactly is Townrow? Even he doesn’t seem to be exactly certain – at one point he remembers he was married; another time that he is Irish. But by then he has told so many different versions of his life that we can’t be sure where truth ends and the lies take over. Early on in the tale he is hit on the head and from then on, he operates in a dream like state in which he seems to recall events like his friend’s burial that have yet to happen. The borders between truth and reality become ever more distinct as the novel progresses. For the reader it’s a baffling experience.

Baffling, but not rewarding. P.H. Newby won the inaugural Booker Prize with this novel that one critic described as beautifully written and a tour de force of comic writing. There were certainly some passages that gave me a glimmer of hope that the book would improve. But they were simply transitory experiences before I was propelled into yet another labyrinth. By the end I suspected Newby had experienced more fun writing his book than I did in reading it. ( )
  Mercury57 | Oct 21, 2012 |
Showing 1-5 of 7 (next | show all)
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P. H. Newby's seventeenth novel Something To Answer For was assured of a place in literary history when it won the inaugural Booker Prize in 1969. It was 1956 and Townrow was in Port Said - of these two facts he is reasonably certain. He had been summoned by the widow of his deceased friend Elie Khoury. She is convinced Elie was murdered, but nobody seems to agree with her. What of Leah Strauss, the mistress? And of the invading British paratroops? Only an Englishman, surely, would take for granted that the British would have behaved themselves. In this disorientating world Townrow must reassess the rules by which he has been living his life - to wonder whether he, too, may have something to answer for? 'Beautifully written, shot through with crisp, mordant wit, and Newby plays out his narrative with consummate skill.' Sam Jordison, Guardian

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Winner of the inaugural Booker Prize in 1969. It was 1956 and he was in Port Said. About these two facts Townrow was reasonably certain. He had been summoned there, to Egypt, by the widow of his deceased friend, Elie Khoury. Having been found dead in the street, she is convinced he was murdered, but nobody seems to agree with her. What of Leah Strauss, the mistress? And of the invading British paratroops? Only an Englishman, surely, would take for granted that the British would have behaved themselves. In this weirdly disorientating world, Townrow is forced towards a re-examination of the basic rules by which he has been living his life; and into a realization that he too may have something to answer for.
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