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3.64  ·  Rating Details  ·  885 Ratings  ·  190 Reviews
In this stunning literary debut, Patrick Flanery delivers a devastating and intimate portrait of post-apartheid South Africa, and the perils of taking sides when the sides are changing around you.

Told in shifting perspectives, Absolution is centred on the mysterious character of Clare Wald, a controversial writer of great fame, haunted by the memories of a sister she fears
Hardcover, 400 pages
Published March 27th 2012 by Knopf Canada (first published 2012)
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Jan 01, 2013 Jill rated it it was amazing
Absolution – set in post-apartheid South Africa – is so searing, well-plotted, moving and provocative that it is nearly impossible to believe that it is a debut book. In some important ways, it contains wisps of J.M. Coetzee’s Disgrace, a book that similarly centers around the break-in of a home,

The theme is, indeed, Absolution, the freeing from blame, guilt and consequences. Nearly every key character in Absolution is seeking forgiveness, either from the living or the dead, and as such, they ar
Friederike Knabe
Jan 14, 2013 Friederike Knabe rated it really liked it
Shelves: africa, us-lit
Patrick Flanery's debut novel is a very interesting example of an overarching story that incorporates another "novel" or "memoir", a journal and more embedded inside it... Set in post-apartheid South Africa Absolution is a thought provoking book, and engaging not necessarily, or least of all, in the sense one would initially expect. Much of the novel could be set in any other country that lived through two opposing government systems. While there are hints of the political realities of South Afr ...more
This is a story of lives lived in ways which give cause for regret. This is becoming a genre. Ian McEwan talked about Atonement. Here the quest is for Absolution. In both cases memory and remembrances are fluid. They are fuzzy or not reliable. The quests for Atonement and Absolution become larger, more significant then the events that precipitated the need.
Will this bring us to The Sense of an Ending? All of these books are characterised by muddy memories and relative truths, and unreliable auth
Oct 06, 2013 Jared rated it it was ok
I really don't like giving bad reviews and wish I could give this 2.5 stars just to be neutral. I'm surprised that so many people have commented on how well he has portrayed South Africa and South Africans, as I found myself cringing regularly at the little things he gets wrong. That said, I think it would be very difficult, if not impossible, for someone to write perfectly about a place and people that are not their own - so, he should be congratulated on doing as well as he did.

Patrick Flaner
James Murphy
Aug 21, 2012 James Murphy rated it really liked it
Near the end of Patrick Flanery's novel Absolution is a short discourse on the inability of history to tell all the stories and about the truth that memory always tells. The two points are at the heart of Flanery's complex novel. It's a novel about modern South Africa set a dozen years ago when the Truth and Reonciliation Commission was working hard at damage control after the long, hard years of apartheid. But it's one in which racial injustices aren't the focus. The narrative follows, instead, ...more
Barry Gilder
There is no doubt that this book is beautifully written, cleverly structured, delicately observed and well-worth getting to the end of. (I read it in two days).

It tells the story of a white South African man, academically educated in the United States, who returns to post-apartheid South Africa to engage with an elderly white South African woman author as a prelude to writing her biography. As the story unfolds the complex historical and personal interconnections between Clare - the woman author
Jan 05, 2013 Elaine rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2013
This is a book of extraordinary power and intensity. I don't know if I was more surprised to learn that the author was a first-time novelist or that he was not South African -- the book conveys an amazing nuanced sense of place and history, and is written with serious maturity and talent. This book will break your heart, with its tales of betrayal, loss and missed chances, both historical and familial, and stretch your mind, as the maze of its interconnecting narratives show just how flimsy hist ...more
Apr 13, 2012 Featherbooks rated it really liked it
"Dostoevsky says that everyone remembers things he would only confide to his friends, and other things he would only reveal to himself...But there are other things which a man is afraid to tell even to himself." In Absolution a first novel about memory and guilt and censorship, the author has produced a stunning, compelling tale of an aging South African author, Clare, and her biographer, Sam, told in multiple points of view. Absolution brought the country and its tragic past to life as much as ...more
Aug 11, 2012 Kate rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Patrick Flanery: Will you marry me? How I loved this novel! So much so that I am even willing to forgive your flagrantly Irish name and risk my father's English wrath.

In post-apartheid South Africa, acclaimed author Clare Wald and aspiring writer Sam Leroux come face to face -- as author and subject, as the rejecter and the rejected, as human beings coming to terms with painful ambiguous pasts. Both are suffering from the scars of apartheid and also (...I think?) from a too fierce loyalty to the
Roger Brunyate
Jun 06, 2016 Roger Brunyate rated it it was amazing
Shelves: africa, top-ten-2012
Truth, Reconciliation, and Authenticity

Shortly after the elections of 1994 effectively ended Apartheid, the unity government set up a Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) designed to bring to light human rights violations on all sides and also, in appropriate situations, to offer amnesty. The work of the TRC makes several appearances in Patrick Flanery's ambitious and in many ways extraordinary debut novel, which spans four decades from the Apartheid era to the present day. But more than th
Heather Noble
May 28, 2012 Heather Noble rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The story is about post apartheid South Africa but it's focus is on the devastating impact the politics has on a family as they adopt different positions. It's one of those fascinating books in which the way the story is told from multiple points of view persuades the reader to consider the tale from different perspectives. Versions of the facts differ depending on how much the narrator is willing to admit to the listener or to his or her self and may also change depending at which point of time ...more
Clare Wald is a South African author coming to the end of her life who has agreed to be involved in the writing of her biography. It is to be written by Sam Leroux, a fellow South African now returning to the country of his birth after some years' absence. Revisiting the past brings up old secrets for both of them and they must be truthful with themselves about the part they played in disturbing events.

This novel has four different narrative strands, which makes things complicated at times, espe
Absolution implies that there is a sin to be absolved. And guilt too, for the need to be absolved. I saw guilt in plenty, not so much the sin. I sure did not see any absolution. This is not an easy read. Flanery is writing about a difficult subject, in a technique that is difficult to read and to me, took away from the experience.

The story is of Clare Wald, a South African author, who may or may not have been involved in committing a murder for political or personal reasons. She has commissioned
Feb 04, 2012 Brian rated it it was amazing
Set in post-apartheid South Africa, Absolution focuses on a series of meetings between elderly writer, Clare Wald, and her recently-appointed biographer, Samuel Leroux. However at the real heart of the novel lies the fate of Laura, Clare's daughter.

Missing, presumed dead, Laura was actively involved in the liberation struggle and her life intersected dramatically with Sam's childhood, though we only learn the full significance of this intersection as the novel progresses and the truth about Sam
Kasa Cotugno
One of the best books I've read. There are three major characters, two of whom, Sam and Clare, are unreliable narrators, and Clare's daughter Laura who lives only in their memory. The intricate, violent, complicated final days of apartheid in South Africa are rendered in four platforms, through narrative fiction and memoir. Lies are told and truths distorted.

The story unravels but not in Roshomon fashion. The truth is elusive, as elusive as memories of Laura and her motivations. What is truly r
Apr 26, 2013 Tuck rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: south-africa
really dense and rather slow pace, but also incredibly in-depth look at "finding the truth". for a first novel it is just wow. plot is a writer interviews a writer about her book(s) while also writing his own book, and all are simultaneously exposing and hiding "the truth". course in south africa, those truths take on a horrific, almost science fiction ghoulishness. super accomplished first novel, but took forever to get through.
Katia Nosenko
Jan 27, 2016 Katia Nosenko rated it liked it
There are a lot of clever thoughts and contemplation in this novel. However, I was not sure it benefited from the complicated structure as it was. I normally enjoy the multiple points of view. But here you have a novel within the novel on the top of it and I found it a bit distractive. Also I think the main character, Sam could be more developed. I did not understand his relationship with his wife. It came across as he uses her rather than loves her. But I was not sure whether it was the impress ...more
Dana Digange
Oct 18, 2015 Dana Digange rated it really liked it
I loved this book, and didn't want to put it down. The narrative is shared by the two main characters, whose lives overlap in a way that Flanery reveals with great suspense. The time frame moves between different years of the apartheid and the present day throughout the entire book, which allows the reader to juxtapose the two time periods. All of the characters seem to be in search for Absolution for various things, and love their bewitching South African home regardless of how it has treated t ...more
Jan 16, 2013 Monty rated it liked it
I guess that this review will go against the grain of all the other reviews. I almost stopped reading the book but forced myself to go to at least page 50; by then the storyline had begun to take shape. I think the problem for me is that this is in part an intellectual book, and I generally prefer to read mysteries and action oriented books. At times it was painful for me to witness the Clare and Sam not being able to come out with what they were thinking. Clare was an especially inconsistent ch ...more
Jun 23, 2012 Carla rated it liked it
I had to force myself to give this book 100 pages before I let myself give up on it. The beginning was very jumbly and confusing - which I think the author meant to use as a technique to give the reader a feel for the multiple angles and confusion caused by trying to figure things out in hindsight, as well as from multiple points of view. It took that 100 pages for me to really sink into the groove of the story, to understand the perspectives and to care about the characters. I'm glad I read it, ...more
Sep 22, 2013 Khanam rated it really liked it
Watched Altman's Short Cuts and Iñárritu's Amores Perros - great films - to understand better the writing. Here's quoting the author: "When I write, I see what I am describing in a filmic way, always conscious of where my own mental 'camera' is placed, who is watching, which character's perspective is privileged, and when a scene or chapter needs to end. While there are numerous literary antecedents for the multi-voiced novel, one might also compare the way Absolution moves between its own four ...more
Robert Wechsler
This is an excellent first novel at the micro level, but structurally — at the macro level — the novel didn’t work for me. It appears to be a classic case of over-ambition. I found the constant shifting of viewpoint and person (from chapter to chapter) overly complex and forced. In addition, I didn't feel that the revelations about truth and memory were all that revelatory.

It’s interesting how, midway through the novel, the pieces effectively reach their end, and in Part II Flanery has to almost
Nancy Burns
Books: they all can't be ' home runs' !

Here is my review:
Sid Nuncius
Dec 08, 2015 Sid Nuncius rated it liked it
I'm afraid I didn't get on as well with this book as some other reviewers did. It has all the hallmarks of a book which expects to be considered for literary prizes - elegant prose, themes and setting chosen for their Great Importance, multiple narrative voices and fractured timescale, and so on - but I found it a long slog and in the end I wasn't convinced that it is as profound as it thinks it is.

There were certainly good things about it. It paints a vivid picture of immediately post-apartheid
Louise Muddle
Aug 23, 2015 Louise Muddle rated it really liked it
Perhaps a book more to be admired than enjoyed just because occasionally the weight of ideas overpowers the characters and narrative. But I did enjoy it enough that I got his second novel immediately.
This is a book that requires some concentration from readers - all my book group struggled to establish the variety of (Point of View) voices and once I had, I felt I should probably go back and reread certain passages. It's certainly not a beach read!
There were also a couple of passages of violence
Eva Thieme
Dec 21, 2014 Eva Thieme rated it really liked it
This book about South Africa spans the present and the past, interweaving the story of what might have happened to Laura, a young South African anti-apartheid activist 20 years ago, with the story of her mother, Clare, as she remembers the past. Clare is a well-known and aging novelist, who I would argue is drawn to resemble Nadine Gordimer. She has almost completely withdrawn from public life and battles with her past and how she might have been complicit in certain events. She has suffered not ...more
Nov 24, 2014 Carlos rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Conflito de versões em uma terra fraturada

Estratégias comerciais de editoras podem ser um involuntário problema para o autor. Veja-se o caso do recente Absolvição, romance de estreia do escritor sul-africano Patrick Flanery (Alfaguara, tradução de Ângela Nogueira Pessoa, 408 páginas, R$ 54,90 impresso, R$ 29,90 em e-book ). Flanery aborda, em um romance longo e de estrutura fragmentada, as feridas e os traumas da transição da África do Sul ao fim do apartheid. Apartheid + autor sul-africano, a e
May 07, 2014 Cmorice rated it liked it
Quand une célèbre écrivain sud-africaine rencontre un jeune universitaire chargé d'écrire sa biographie... Un duel littéraire fascinant qui tourne au thriller psychologique post-apartheid. " Patrick Flanery est un romancier d'un talent et d'une intelligence exceptionnels, et il ne fait que commencer. " The New YorkerClare Wald, icône du microcosme littéraire blanc et de gauche de Cape Town, est contactée par Sam Leroux, un jeune universitaire qui souhaite retracer sa carrière dans une biographie ...more
May 12, 2014 Garry rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I am really struggling to work out how to review this book. There were some things that I loved about it, particularly in relation to the quality of the writing. I never considered abandoning it, but at the same time I feel I could have done so without my life being any poorer. In the end, this was a book that I finished because I started it, not because it compelled me.

The plot is difficult to describe because it's told in a very non-linear fashion. Different points of view come into play, and
Jeanette  "Astute Crabbist"
Choppy and confusing. Every few pages it changes point of view, locale, time frame, and verb tense. Heavy use of present tense narration, of which I am generally not a fan.

If you dislike the use of second-person narration, ("You smile at me and nod your head."), this book will try your patience.
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Patrick Flanery was born in California in 1975 and raised in Omaha, Nebraska. After earning a BFA in Film from New York University's Tisch School of the Arts he worked for three years in the film industry before moving to the UK, where he completed a doctorate in Twentieth-Century English Literature at the University of Oxford. As well as publishing scholarly articles on British and South African ...more
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