Signs of Life
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Signs of Life

3.23 of 5 stars 3.23  ·  rating details  ·  149 ratings  ·  37 reviews
It started quietly and without her looking for it, but the aftershock was profound. Ten years ago, Rachel had an affair. It spiralled out of control and left her and her life in pieces. Now, writing at her window, she tries to put those pieces back together. She has her memories, recollections of dreams, and her old yellow notebook. More than anything, she wants to be hone...more
Kindle Edition, 252 pages
Published April 12th 2012 by Picador (first published April 1st 2012)
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Blair
Beginning this book, there is something you should know. This is not a confession. This is something I am writing; something I am making out of something that happened. Ten years ago I had an affair that ended badly... With these irresistible lines begins the troubled, fragmented, and unreliable account of Rachel, the narrator of this melancholy and brilliant little book. Her story is a series of memories charting her emotional history, primarily focused around the affair she had with an unstabl...more
Teresa
Signs of Life by Anna Raverat is one of Waterstones' 11 for 2012, their list of highly recommended debut novels. Last year's picks included The Tiger's Wife (Orange Prizewinner) and Pigeon English (Man Booker shortlist) so does this bode well for Ms Raverat's first novel?

Well, I loved Signs of Life and I think it must be acknowledged that it is an extremely brave debut novel given that its narrator, Rachel, is extremely unlikeable. It's not that she's been involved in war crimes or cruelty to an...more
Lynn
I absolutely loved this from the minute I opened the book! An amazing début and one that will stay with me for a long time.

A mish mash of past and present roll voluptuously entwined within each chapter, engaging the senses and throwing quotes by authors and poets to underline the melancholy. Written as a confused yet illuminating thought process into a series of events that led to Rachel's despair. As the reader, I felt that I identified with various aspects of her personality in a self aggrandi...more
Joodith
As Rachel sits by her window she dwells on a very short-lived affair she had with Carl, some ten years previously. At the time of this affair she had been living with Johnny for six years. What amazes me is that Rachel doesn't even seem to like Carl, so why the relationship progressed beyond that of work colleagues puzzles me. She feels guilty for cheating on Johnny and sad when he leaves, but she doesn't stop the affair; all in all she is a very selfish, unsympathetic character, and I for one w...more
Fiona
A clever book which superficially appears to be something much simpler. The narrative jumps around in time and place, and you're not sure how much to trust the first person narrator, but it is nonetheless not a difficult book to read.
The book is an account of an affair and a failed relationship, narrated ten years later by a character who has a shaky grip on reality and has not fully recovered from a mental health crisis. The narrator's state of mind and the doubtful nature of the story she is...more
Biogeek
A book that never really took off. Raverat explores the anatomy of a fairly mundane affair, hoping that the gimmick of having the narrator piece together the scraps of information in no particular order would make it consistently interesting. The slow reveal method ends up focusing more on the slow, than the reveal. In the midst of memories of dreams, bits from other books, and the mixed-up chronology, this novel lost its way for me.
Sally Boocock
Disjointed and boring.
Dawn Peers
This is a challenging read, have no doubt.

The writing style is erratic and disconnected. Because of the circumstances of our narrator, you feel little empathy for her. I did however find myself in turns despising her naivety and pitying her situation. The degrees to which my emotions were pulled in the reading of this perhaps exposes the talents with which Raverat pulls around a very erratic style of prose.

Signs of life is first person perspective only; and that person is unstable at best. This...more
Deborah Dicks
Review on Amazon:
The basic premiss of the story is that the protagonist, Rachel, was involved in a relationship with Johnny, a relationship that was not perfect but was comfortable for Rachel; all was well until she began an affair with her work colleague, Carl. Carl was everything that Johnny was not - unpredictable, enigmatic, and dangerous - and perhaps this was largely what drew Rachel to him. The affair ends up going horribly wrong and ends in tragedy; Rachel reflects on what happened and...more
Lindsay (Little Reader Library)
'There is what I remember, what I know, what I think, and what I imagine.'

I was anticipating something special when this novel arrived, as it has been chosen as one of the Waterstones 11 picks of debut novels for 2012, and the ones I have already read from that list have been very good reads.

This novel is narrated by main character Rachel throughout, stuck in her lonely room, staring out of the window and watching the builders working on the site across the way from her. I inferred from what we...more
Donna Brown
What can I say about Rachel? Well, I don’t understand her, that’s for damn sure but that’s no surprise because you pretty quickly gather from the book that she doesn’t seem to even ‘get’ herself. Despite a comfortable life with a solid relationship, she’s unsettled and that leads to an affair with Carl, a workmate. Unfortunately, this leads to the unravelling of life around her as a bit of fun turns into passion, turns into drama, turns into disaster.

I’ve heard people say that you need to have a...more
Marie
Ten years ago, Rachel had an intense love affair with a work colleague and it did not end well. Ever since then she has been trying various ways to help her move on with her life - alcohol, medication, distancing herself from friends and situations that might bring the memories flooding back to her. When she finally feels ready to face up to what happened back then it proves difficult because the passing of a decade and the consumption of various mind-altering substances have blurred her memorie...more
Anne
Anna Raverat is a descendant of Gwendolen Raverat, a celebrated English artist and member of the Bloomsbury Group. Signs of Life is Anna's debut novel and has been chosen as a Waterstone's 11; their pick of the best debuts of 2012.
Signs of Life is a dark, but compelling story of an out-of-control love affair that happened ten years ago. Rachel writes her story as she sits in the window of her new flat, now alone, her memories and her writing are fragmented and patchy. It is a very clever and ta...more
George
This book is based on an interesting idea: Rachel, a woman in her early thirties, is reflecting on two significant relationships. She considers her role in the affairs and thinks about why she behaved as she did. It has the feeling of a piece of reflective writing that might be done as part of ongoing psychotherapy. This fits in nicely with the fact that Rachel has suffered a "nervous breakdown" and spent time in Hospital.

I did enjoy the book but felt that the themes were not pushed far enough....more
M
"Absolutely shocking." That's what Alan Hansen would say about this book if it were featured on Match of the Day, and I have to agree.

I picked it up on a whim in Waterstones (note to self: stop doing that), and the book tricked me: I liked the tone, and thought the idea was interesting. Unfortunately this book,for me, is only an idea - there is no real story, or narrative. Rachel, our unreliable narrator, is having an affair with Carl behind her boyfriend's back. Since she seemed to loathe both...more
Jo at Jaffareadstoo
An interesting look at at what happens when a relationship goes wrong and when reported by an unstable narrator we are never quite sure of what is truth and what is fiction. A commendable debut novel and well worth a read if you like slow build up psychological suspense novels.

My Just for Fun read for August.
Becky
I was given the proof of this sometime ago, and kept putting off reading it in preference of other books. Now it's actually been released I thought I really should get on and read it, and I wish I had done so earlier. This is one of Waterstones' top books for 2012 and it is clear why. The story is engrossing and simply told. Dipping in and out of the past, focusing on the affair that Rachel had ten years ago. We gradually learn that this affair had profound consequences beyond the expected end o...more
Victoria
This book gets an 'ok' from me. The book is disorganised and although the story is supposed to be told in this way, it didnt really work for me.
I also found the book quite dull and yet l felt compelled to read on because l felt sure that there was a big storyline somewhere. When l got to the big event that the book had led up to, it was over before it started and was not really worth the long wait.
However this book keeps you intrigued.
Ive given this book two stars but it is worthy or somewhere...more
Elise
This book opened with a killer one liner, which promised scandal and intrigue. However it failed to deliver.
I was really disappointed in this debut novel, and felt that the plot was predictable and boring. I also felt that Rachel was an unlikeable narrator, who I didn't feel sorry for; and was hard to connect with.
I quite liked the structure of the novel, and didn't have an issue with it like some others. Ultimately this novel promised to give you mystery and it hardly achieves this.
Would not...more
Claire
This book began for me with so much promise, a gripping beginning and a disjointed style that somehow just worked. I felt that I took to the character and that the story was u folding just as she remembered it in flashes of memory.

However as the story unfolded it was just disappointing, this felt to me like an author who had a great opening line going round in her head for months and writing a whole book based upon that...the story lacked imagination and was just a huge disappointment. Would no...more
Alison Kennedy
An interesting read. The disjointed narrative reflects the narrator's state of mind and powers of recall so is not distracting for the reader. The emotions that the narrator expresses feel very accurate and the whole affair that the author portrays through her narrator is authentic and real; in the sense that it is no fairytale.

The book didn't bowl me over or stay with me after I was finished but it did get to me while I was reading it. Therefore, I'd recommend it but it is no life changer.
Carol Peace
This was a really good book and one I just could not put down.
The plot follows Rachel 10 years after having an affair. She was living with Johnny and met Carl at work. A large part of the book is Rachel thinking back to the affair 10 years later. It was a bit like ready someone's life story in pieces, I felt as though I had lived it with her and was as bewildered as her to the outcome. This is a great book and although Rachel's memories are patchy it is totally enthralling and a little hypnotic....more
Shayan
I found this book to be very boring. It's a review of the events in this narrator's life in which she is in a long-term relationship with a man who loves her but she decides to have an affair with a colleague who she doesn't seem to think highly of. The events in her life are explained from her point of view but they don't go in a particular order.

I haven't finished the book and have no intention of spending any more time reading it as I just found it pointless and boring.

LG
This book, one of those that sound sooo much better in the blurb, flat-lined for me. The culprit, as always, was the narrator, whose name I’ve already forgotten and who strung (stringed?) me along for so long that I started to feel sorry for her antagonists instead. S.J. Watson (Before I Go To Sleep) does it better.
Yvonne Barlow
The author drew me in with a voice that was personal and promised much. The story of being in love with two men is probably one many could confess, but I grew weary of the narrator as a victim. More, I grew weary of the narrator and her citations of life being about choice. I stayed with the novel because I had started it. In reality it could have been half as long and brought more pleasure.
Stephen
really enjoyed this psychological book detailing a woman's account of her affair and death of her lover and even it says not a confession you feel that the character is selfish, cold but you can see many things as what happens in reality is different to ones perception of the truth but this novel makes you at different angles and enjoyed it
Sue
Not quite sure what to say about this one! I didn't much like the main characters. Talk about an unreliable narrator. It reminded me a bit of Notes on a Scandal.
Jo
Rachel had an affair with Carl while she was with Johnny and now she's thinking back, blah blah blah. Found it difficult to get into and got kind of bored as I didn't care for any of the characters.
Heather Noble
This book was on my pile as it was one of the Guardian's debut novelists for 2012.
I have been looking at it askance for some time thinking it didn't look promising. It wasn't.
Starr Daphne
Apr 08, 2012 Starr Daphne rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone
Recommended to Starr Daphne by: Nobody
This is a good book and actually there are signs of life sign of what to do another sign of what not to do it depends there are tons of signs in the world
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“Fear isn't the opposite of love; fear is what arises when love isn't there, so maybe, I reasoned, there is only one emotion. There is only love, and the abscence of love.” 5 likes
“We think we can escape down half-deserted streets but all the things we use to defend ourselves - overworking, over-drinking, over-eating, under-eating, smoking etc, - are all well-worn pathways. The really frightening thing about the abyss is not that it exists, but that there is always a road in, and we take it.” 2 likes
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