The Curfew
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The Curfew

3.74 of 5 stars 3.74  ·  rating details  ·  761 ratings  ·  159 reviews
William and Molly lead a life of small pleasures, riddles at the kitchen table, and games of string and orange peels. All around them a city rages with war. When the uprising began, William’s wife was taken, leaving him alone with their young daughter. They keep their heads down and try to remain unnoticed as police patrol the streets, enforcing a curfew and arresting citi...more
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Published June 14th 2011 by Vintage (first published January 1st 2011)
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I'm being a bit tough on this book with only three stars, but I think that's a solid rating. Problem is I kept comparing this in my head to Herta Müller's masterpiece, The Land of Green Plums. Both books are minimalist, with short sections. Both books take place in police states, where paranoia is a way of life. And there's even in a similarity in the tone.

But Müller's novel is work of poetic genius, while Ball's spare approach veers a bit more towards postmodernism. I cared deeply about Müller'...more
I think I've been hesitant to include Jesse Ball near the top of the list of my favorite authors only because he's so young. Part of it is definitely the fact that, so far, we have only a limited library to choose from. But with The Curfew, his third novel, I can finally cave and claim Ball as a favorite. The Way Through Doors, novel #2, is one of the best books I've ever read, and with The Curfew as a follow up, Ball has proven himself to be a mind apart, crafting beautiful, bizarre, and though...more
Minimalist, poetic, Kafkaesque, pretentious. A short novel, not really even a novella, but it its brevity it tells a large story. Jesse Ball gives you the outline, images, ideas, and tools from which you flesh out the story with your own experiences and reading, a pretty neat trick. Two elements of The Curfew made a strong impression on me: William's secondary occupation (which he took up after society became a police state and the curfew was imposed -- he had been a concert violinist before mus...more
After reading his other two books, The Way Through Doors and Samedi the Deafness, a few years ago, I was ready to declare Jesse Ball my favorite living author and eagerly awaited his next book. The Curfew, is Ball's third novel and it does not disappoint. This story is set in a dystopian police state and follow a (forcefully) retired violinist turned epitaphorist, William, and his young mute daughter, Molly. William finds out that an old friend may have some information about the disappearance o...more
This was a novella really - pages sparse and book very short.
Which is why I finished it.

I kept thinking - this has got to change.

It's one of those books that is written in such as way as to make the reader think there is more than meets the eye - but it is smoke and mirrors. Granted, there are a few well spaced philosophical truths thrown throughout - and it is symbolic. But just not good enough or consistent enough to create any sort of train of thought or overall development.
holy fucking shit the goddamn asshole
Some books get described as “rich with detail.” “The Curfew” is not one of those — it’s the opposite. But that’s good. Jesse Ball has a gift for conveying the complexities of a scary new world in remarkably few words.
The story takes place on a single day in an unnamed city in a not-very-pleasant-sounding future, a police state of unwritten rules, violent deaths and abrupt disappearances. The curfew referred to in the title is vague, but menacingly real: “The government’s official word on the mat...more
To begin: When the publisher claims at the end of their synopsis that Jesse Ball’s “The Curfew is a mesmerizing feat of literary imagination,” you may think it an excitable exaggeration. It isn’t. Nor is Minneapolis Star-Tribune’s observation that “There seems to be no other novelist writing today who is capable of so thoroughly disarming one’s narrative expectations.” Writers and Readers alike: prepare to be equally intimidated and inspired.

Those who have read Jesse Ball–and adore him, I would...more
Q: Good book?
A: Good book!

Q: Really good book?
A: Really good book! And short!

Q: Not too short?
A: No! Just the right length! Like that episode of Twin Peaks in the black lodge where you learn who killed Laura Palmer. This book reminded me of David Lynch, btw.

Q: David Lynch? Without images or music? I won't believe it.
A: No, seriously. Here's a demonstrative passage:

A young woman with a very short skirt and a thin blouse came out of a building in the distance. Because she was so beautiful, he sa
What happened? Not much and yet a lot.

Did I enjoy the book? Not much.

Did I put the book down even though I was not enjoying it? No.

Do I know what happened? Not really. That said, I hardly cared about most of the characters enough to care about what ultimately happened. The exception being the daughter but one could assume she stayed with the puppeteer and go back to not caring all that much.

With very few words, lots of white space and use of mystery, the author is able to describe a life of l...more
The Curfew is about the individual's, the family's and the larger community's, struggle to maintain control in a world that is ultimately out of our control. The Curfew is a novel written by a poet with spare, lyrical, insightful writing. There is no shortage of lines to savor and repeat in one's head or aloud.

There is a wonderful recent interview with the author: I especially found illuminating:

"Jesse Ball: We’re all put in to difficult circumstances in...more
As I loved Ball's The Way Through Doors I decided to read everything the guy has written. While The Way Through Doors was a Lynchian mind**** this book was a straight up gut punch. I was very quickly emotionally involved with the relationship between the father and his daughter Molly. Maybe it's because I'm a parent now and I couldn't imagine trying to raise my son without my wife but this book really hit hard. It's the tale of a man trying to raise his daughter in a dystopian future, where his...more
I sort of complained that Ball's prior novel, The Way Through Doors, was treacly, so I don't really have grounds to whine that this one is a stone cold bummer. It's an odd complaint especially given that I usually love distopias. I think, though, that my problem is rooted in the dissonance between the gravity of the Curfew's themes and plot, and the persistant cutesy-wootsiness of Ball's prose. Even with its subject matter of invisible violence, state hegemony, death, and rememberance, The Curfe...more
Aug 10, 2011 Elizabeth rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: fans of Dr. Seuss and the secret police
Shelves: 2011
This book is like you were walking along on a grey day, picked up a rock and living underneath that rock was a whimsical alternative universe. Seussian ideas within the confines of human characters. Even with all the whimsey though, it is still essentially a universe living underneath a rock and all that entails. Epitath-ists, riddles and puppets nestled up against the Stasi, so to speak.

It took a few pages to get into the alternative format of the book and I really enjoyed that some pages had...more
An odd little book. I read a description of this one in the newspaper and was intrigued. Reminded me of books they want you to read in college to alter the way you think.

It's a book of frightening images set in a near future where "the system" has taken over--everyone is watched, people are controlled and killed when they rebel. A father is trying to care for his small daughter after his wife "disappears." Much of the book is told as a puppet show that the little girl writes. I thought the endin...more
Rarely do I give a novel 5/5 stars. It has to impact me deeply with such a full sense to my entire being that I feel like I've been changed by it. That said, this is definitely the case for Jesse Ball's The Curfew. It had such an effect that months later I am still thinking about it and reliving first moments I felt when I read some of the pages. It has to do quite a bit with living in a climate where independent thought and artists are being suppressed...there is darkness and fear but also quit...more
In many ways, I felt this novel was more interested in style than substance … actually, much like poetry in a way. The author seemed to only give the basic outline of a plot/characters, and dared the reader to keep going. Oh, I’m all for novels that challenge me, plunge me into a world that forces me to keep up. But this is not the case here. The truncated opening style seemed so bare bones; a bit of a cheat, I think. Eventually, I couldn’t make it past pg. 30.
Bill Krieger
"The Curfew" is different, but not good. I like different, and I admire authors (any artists) that take chances. But in Curfew, the plot and characters are maudlin. Seriously, when your main characters are an ex-violin master, his mute daughter, and their kindly neighbor, the puppeteer... well, it just came off as rather silly and unmoving to me.

Also, the length, richness and depth of this book makes it a novella really, not a novel.
yow, bill
Jean was different. I didn't give up, but that was because it was short. I liked the writing style. The plot was very interesting and unusual (no spoiler here) and the characters were (all 2 of them) sort of believable. All I can say is that you won't forget it. Just try it. It's one of those books that you probably need to discuss with smarter people than I! I recommend with hopes that my smart friends read it and discuss.
Alicia Durett
I want to marry this guy....

"…There are times when something is asked of us, and we find we must do it. There is no calculation involved, no measure of the necessity of the thing itself, the action that must be performed. There is simply an acknowledgment that we will do the thing in question, and then the thing is done, often at considerable personal cost. "
Dreamy, minimalist totalitarian state lit. Sometimes has the scent of Paul Auster around the edges but with a more self-concious attachment to formal experiment. It's told in fragments, which generally works for me, but I found some of the novel's individual shards and pieces greater than the sum of its parts.
Jesse Ball is the real deal. This is a page-turner in the best sense: you can't imagine what new delights and what effects he will achieve next. It seems to me he is working a rare vein in fiction, setting out on his own, the way Vonnegut did, or Donald Barthelme, or in music Coltrane, or in film Godard.
I found this unsatisfying. There are poetic elements of Ball's writing that I really enjoy reading, but overall this story folded in a bit too much on itself, and I didn't find the atmosphere of terror that terrifying.
Interesting, if a little pretentious writing. I like artsy, but if you're going to be THIS artsy, I appreciate a few more details, maybe a whiff of closure.
This book was concise, emotionally wrought, and beautifully written. Quite honestly, I'm obsessed. You must read it.
Ball has a beautiful poetic aesthetic. Unfortunately it never seems capable of sustaining itself as a “traditional” narrative. Aside from slipping into sentimentality (which I think is his biggest crime) it becomes contrived. He begins to use these poetic hyperboles as a substitute for drama. He presents naïvety as a form of emotional purity that deflates any possibility of real conflict because the naïve sentiment/aesthetic or point of view is never challenged. Therefore, the narrative remains...more
An edited version of this article was first published as Book Review: The Curfew by Jesse Ball on

A father and daughter in an Orwellian society: what will you do if it is normal for people just to disappear, never to be seen again?

William Drysdale is a single father, taking care of Molly, his mute daughter. As the story progresses, it is slowly revealed that he is a former virtuoso violinist, and that he had a wife named Louisa. Life is good, until Louisa disappears, never to be...more
I am currently reading Murakami's 1Q84. The book is so dense and heavy, as in subject, and weight (I kind of despise lugging the hardback around with me on the subway), that I felt I needed a break reading it to clean the slate of my brain. Therefore, I picked up the book The Curfew by Jesse Ball. This was probably the perfect choice, where Murakami is extremely detailed and every word seems to hold extreme importance, Ball has a post-modern like minimalism style to his writing. It was a breeze...more
Insofar as Ball's originality is more than superficial, this novel is experimental fiction. Yes, it challenges typical expectations of novelistic narrative and mixes tone in ways often jarring. I'm now reading Ball's earlier compilation of texts, 'The Village on Horseback," which so far I am finding considerably less successful in this regard. There's a thin line between ambiguity that evokes rich mystery and mere perversity of incoherence.

Oddly, it felt like reading my own autobiography in the...more
With very few words, Jesse Ball is able to convey oppression, fear, grief, love, and hope in his dystopian novel, The Curfew. Written in a spare format with a lot of white space, the book tells the story of a man and his mute daughter who try to build a simple life under the radar of the police state after their wife/mother disappears. Ball creates a world where people are under curfew (although the time of the curfew is very ambiguous), police are unidentifiable - even to each other, and music...more
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Jesse Ball (b. 1978) is the author of The Way Through Doors, Samedi the Deafness, Parables and Lies and March Book, and co-author of Vera & Linus. His drawings were published in 2006 in Iceland in Og svo kom nóttin (And Then Came the Night), a volume of poetry by his wife, Þórdís Björnsdóttir, with whom he wrote Vera & Linus. He won the Plimpton Prize in 2008 for his novella, The Early Dea...more
More about Jesse Ball...
Samedi the Deafness The Way Through Doors Silence Once Begun Vera & Linus March Book

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“…There are times when something is asked of us, and we find we must do it. There is no calculation involved, no measure of the necessity of the thing itself, the action that must be performed. There is simply an acknowledgment that we will do the thing in question, and then the thing is done, often at considerable personal cost. "

"What goes into these decisions? What tiny factors, invisible, in the jutting edges of personality and circumstance, contribute to this inevitability?”
“If he acts, if he doesn't, it's meaningless. The whole thing goes forward. No one is important. No one at all.” 9 likes
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