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& Sons

3.37  ·  Rating Details ·  4,886 Ratings  ·  814 Reviews
The funeral of Charles Henry Topping on Manhattan’s Upper East Side would have been a minor affair (his two-hundred-word obit in The New York Times notwithstanding) but for the presence of one particular mourner: the notoriously reclusive author A. N. Dyer, whose novel Ampersand stands as a classic of American teenage angst. But as Andrew Newbold Dyer delivers the eulogy f ...more
Hardcover, 434 pages
Published July 23rd 2013 by Random House (first published January 1st 2013)
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Steve
Feb 25, 2014 Steve rated it liked it
If I had to guess, the first time anyone said that you don’t have to like the artist to like the art probably dates back to when cavemen were painting bison on walls. But reminders of that rule seem more frequent lately. We can appreciate Llewyn Davis for his artistic integrity even as we cringe at his lapses in kindness. And I suspect I would still laugh at Broadway Danny Rose, though since the news came out about Soon Yi Previn (even prior to Dylan Farrow) I came to see Manhattan in a differen ...more
Ken
Aug 06, 2013 Ken rated it liked it
David Gilbert's ambitious & SONS is one hot mess. It's one of those books that will as easily garner 5 stars as one. There's that much to like -- and seriously wonder about. Let's start with the problematic aspects so we can finish on a high note. While the book centers on an aging, J.D. Salingeresque writer named Andrew (A.N.) Dyer and his three sons, it is supposedly narrated by Philip Topping, son of Andrew's best pal Charlie, whose funeral opens the book. Seems innocent enough, but the p ...more
Nicholas
Oct 08, 2013 Nicholas rated it liked it
This is a big, ambitious novel about a J.D. Salinger-like novelist and his three sons, told from the perspective of his long-time (now dead) best friend's son. It's about literature and New York and reclusiveness and Exeter and publishing and Yale and men. A whole lot of men, all of them white. There are four female characters in the novel of any consequence, though you only really feel like you know one of them (and she is pretty interesting, I'll give Gilbert that much); the remaining three ha ...more
D. Krauss
Nov 21, 2013 D. Krauss rated it liked it
This novel is extremely well-written. Unfortunately, it's extremely well written.

Uh, what?

Well, it starts to dawn on you, after about a 1/4 way into it, that you are seeing more of the author than you are the story, that cleverness of phrase and subtlety of reference is more important than arc. Oh, don't get me wrong, it's a genuine pleasure to read this, but I found myself rolling eyes and saying, "Okay. You're clever. Just get on with it, will you?" Now, don't get me wrong again, I much appre
...more
Barbara Burd
Sep 01, 2013 Barbara Burd rated it it was ok
I really wanted to like this book. It seemed like it had all the ingredients for a good read--two parallel stories of fathers, one very famous, who had strained relationships with their sons. A.N. Dyer wrote the great American novel but can't relate to his two older sons. The youngest son becomes the object of his obsessions--the revelation of the son's parentage is just too strange in the context of the story. Much of the story is told through the eyes of Dyer's best friend's son, who has an un ...more
Lorahl
Mar 05, 2014 Lorahl rated it did not like it
Apparently, I read something completely different from the majority of reviewers. I thought this book was long, confusing and trying way to hard to be deep and meaningful. And it just wasn't. At all. The letters between chapters were probably important to the plot, too bad they were nearly impossible to read in the book. This book wants to be a classic or wants us to think it's a classic and it is not. At all. I wanted to slap every single character in this book for being self absorbed, whiny, o ...more
Aditi
John Robert Wooden, a retired American basketball coach, quoted about "fathers" as:

“Being a role model is the most powerful form of educating...too often fathers neglect it because they get so caught up in making a living they forget to make a life.”

David Gilbert, is one such American author, who has spun an incredible tale which explores the whole dimension of a father-son relationship in an all new angle, in his latest release, & Sons .

Synopsis:
Told from the first person narrative, Phili
...more
Dan Wilbur
May 20, 2013 Dan Wilbur rated it really liked it
I enjoyed this book and will likely force others to read it. It has everything a literary snob needs: an unreliable narrator, daddy issues, letters, great prose about technology, museums, and the gripes of the New York literary world. At its heart, the book is a love note to NYC and the sad reclusive artists who live there.

BUT: without spoiling anything, there is an almost plot twist in the middle of the book that doesn't work for me. I say "almost" because the second half of the book barely con
...more
Francoise
Aug 13, 2013 Francoise rated it it was ok
Throughout this book describing the next generation (at least four sons) of a pair of Etonians, I wondered why on earth I was reading it. The experience of their drug-infused, largely unhappy, ridiculously literary lives felt about as captivating as War and Peace the reader's digest version. Maybe I don't understand the male psyche, of which the book was full. Maybe I'm just not part of the club to which all these boring men belong. Maybe I'm just not as interested in sex per se. Certainly I fel ...more
Olga
Sep 01, 2014 Olga rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Disappointed... After all the hype, this turned out to be a pretentious, so in love with itself kind of book. I only finished it because it was an audiobook, read beautifully. One reviewer had said that this author can write great scenes, but no cohesive story. I fully agree. There were plenty of memorable scenes and short stories, like the filming of a dying woman story, or the possible clone story, or the 16 y.o nephew of the 17 y.o. uncle story, or the hopeless quest to lose one's virginity s ...more
Trish
Aug 19, 2013 Trish rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
This novel had a neat premise. Gilbert imagined the upbringing and life of a famous reclusive author, A.N. Dyer, and his sons. The story is mostly told from the point of view of the son of the author’s close friend, Philip Topping, who alternately felt rage and admiration for the “otherness” of the family.

We are meant to draw parallels between J.D. Salinger and A.N. Dyer, though one knows there are few enough points of overlap. & Sons contains some pages from Dyer’s breakout novel, Amper
...more
Laura
Mar 29, 2013 Laura rated it really liked it
This came so close to being a five-star, but the occasional (all right, more than merely "occasional") bout of overwriting and a lack of clarity as to why this was being told by Philip at a remove of several years dropped it down.

The & is important: Ampersand was the brilliant novel written by A.N. Dyer, set at a fictional version of Exeter and loosely based on his friends and experiences. His other novels have also sold well, all seeming to be in the Louis Auchincloss mold of "Upper East Si
...more
Paula
Jun 09, 2013 Paula rated it liked it
Shelves: firstreads
A very ambitious novel.

A tale of fathers, sons, brothers, coping, hopelessness, adolescence, love, sex, addiction, death, cloning (wtf?), writing, the American dream, forgiveness, and so much more.

There's so many characters and so many ties and relationships that it gets quite overwhelming to read. While I did find myself connecting with the majority of the characters, that connection was not strong enough to feel heartbroken after finishing the book. Rather, my sentiment at the conclusion of
...more
Patrice Hoffman
Jul 26, 2013 Patrice Hoffman rated it really liked it
After spending a week with this novel and getting to know A.N. Dyer and his sons, I am finally done with & Sons (And Sons). & Sons is the debut literary fiction novel by David Gilbert and it is quite a treat. & Sons opens at the funeral of Charles Henry Topping, Dyer's oldest and dearest friend. After speaking at the funeral, Dyer pretty much loses it and begins trying to get all his sons together under the same roof so he can make some sort of amends for being a crappy father.

Philli
...more
Jane
Sep 23, 2013 Jane rated it it was ok
A friend recently received a diagnosis from her doctor: "TMB." "TMB?" "Too many birthdays."

I am afflicted with TMB as I try to appreciate this novel. Some of the topics he pursues: strained family relationships, relationship between children of old friends forced into the next generation of pseudo closeness, betrayal within family and between friends, are worth pursuing, and Gilbert has a gift with words, an ability to paint a scene so the participants come alive. In the final section, Gilbert g
...more
jordan
Sep 09, 2013 jordan rated it liked it
Reading David Gilbert’s “& Sons,” I couldn’t help but think about “The Great Gatsby.” Not that this often digressive novel has much structurally in common with Fitzgerald’s slim masterpiece. Perhaps just as Gatsby brings to mind the shapely flirtatious elegance of the 20’s flapper, “& Sons” owes much to our cultural tendency towards self involved intellectualism. Yes, both are narrated by apparently secondary characters that careful readers will recognize as being at the center of the ac ...more
Chris Blocker
Mar 02, 2016 Chris Blocker rated it really liked it
Shelves: sa-clegg
At its best, & Sons is amazing. Not only does David Gilbert write prose with beautiful construction, but he crafts excellent scenes and interesting characters. Along the way, he travels unexpected avenues, adding twists and turns that may be jarring for some readers; personally I found them to be creative, well-placed, and fun. & Sons is a multi-layered novel, and is probably best enjoyed at a slow pace, among readers who take time to dissect its many meanings. That being said, it can be ...more
Susan
Aug 05, 2016 Susan rated it did not like it
Still trying to slog my way through this rather miserable book about miserable people. Nothing really happens ...people ponder their pasts and their mistakes. All very "cleverly" (not) dropping hints or revealing "truths" about a illegitimate son really being a clone or a long time friendship really being a gay passion on one side. Very contrived ..few nuances...and mindnumbingly long. It reminds me of something written in the 50s as "literature" ..or so very clever. I have had to periodically s ...more
Diane
Aug 09, 2013 Diane rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobook
It's a bit intimidating trying to summarize my reaction to "& Sons," easily one of the best audio books I've listened to this year. The story is enormous - An aged, reclusive writer (yes, like J.D. Salinger)called A.N. Dyer, attends the funeral of a childhood friend, Charlie Topping. Our narrator, Philip, is the dead man's son. Philip has been on the outskirts of the great author's life, or more specifically, that of his sons, for as long as he can remember. It is only gradually understood t ...more
Lydia
Jun 17, 2013 Lydia rated it liked it
Really fun read and excellent characters/one-liners throughout the book but I agree with everyone who thought it was overly ambitious for a writer like Gilbert to handle. He drops in big twists related to the plot and characters but then never follows up on them, leaving the reader to wonder why he bothered introducing those concepts/people in the first place. I got @ Sons through a book group and we got to speak with Gilbert about his book - it turns out he was a screenwriter before becoming a ...more
Andrea
Sep 01, 2013 Andrea rated it did not like it
This book was awful. Unlikeable characters, dreadful story line with clumsy and ludicrous plot. Especially annoying was starting several chapters with handwritten letters that were basically illegible. Avoid.
Larry Hoffer
Aug 08, 2013 Larry Hoffer rated it liked it
I'd rate this 3.5 stars.

"Fathers start as gods and end as myths and in between whatever human form they take can be calamitous for their sons."

So says Philip Topping, near the start of And Sons, David Gilbert's emotionally rich if overstuffed novel about familial relations, primarily fathers and sons. The death of Philip's father, Charles Henry Topping, is not much of an event by New York standards—except for the appearance of reclusive write A.N. (Andrew) Dyer, Charles' oldest friend, who is pe
...more
Megan Chance
May 16, 2013 Megan Chance rated it really liked it
A good book, if not perhaps the work of genius that all the quotes on the cover want you to believe it is. It's the story of a famous literary author (ala J.D. Salinger) and his sons--both real and psuedo--and the relationship between them. When it comes to privileged white celebrity fathers and the effects they have on their sons (angst, self-destruction, never measuring up to a father who was mostly emotionally absent), there's really not much new here. What elevates this book from the morass ...more
Jessica
Apr 03, 2013 Jessica rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction, arc-egalley
I've only made it about halfway through this one, but I think I am going to put it on hold.

A.N. Dyer is a literary giant in the vein of J.D. Salinger. His breakout novel, Ampersand was a classic of adolescent angst comparable to Catcher in the Rye -- in Gilbert's world, you're either a Dyer fan or a Salinger fan much as you're either a Beatles fan or a Stones fan. Dyer has three sons, but he hasn't spoken to Richard or Jamie much since the sudden appearance of their half-brother Andy -- the resu
...more
George Witte
Aug 07, 2013 George Witte rated it it was amazing
I loved this novel, was utterly engrossed from beginning to end. No need to summarize the plot--others have done so--but having worked in New York (in publishing) for nearly 30 years, and lived here briefly (without a spare penny, distant from the world described in this novel), I was delighted by the author's eye and ear for the city. The walk through Central Park, the party at the Frick, the odd erotic obsession of the Pale Male watchers, the delicate negotiations at the Morgan Library, and al ...more
Terri Jacobson
Aug 06, 2013 Terri Jacobson rated it it was amazing
Shelves: literary-fiction
This rich, sprawling, saga of a novel by David Gilbert is simply amazing. The story explores the themes of fathers and sons, brother and brother, men and women, and deep friendship among men. The prose is sublime, the characters rich and deep, and the themes well-explored. The book is funny and witty, while at the same time being a work of serious literature. The novel takes place in New York City, and the essence of the city is so well-portrayed that it becomes another character. I have read ov ...more
Patti's Book Nook
One of my favorite quotes:
"It was one of those moments, thankfully rare, when you can spot another person's core needs, almost by accident- absolutely by accident since those needs are almost graphic when blatant, like seeing the musculature and tendon required to prop up hope."

This is a family melodrama with nuanced and unstable characters, bookish references, symbolism, details on the arduous writing process, unreliable narrators, and the meaning of life and legacy. New York City is a main
...more
4cats
May 07, 2013 4cats rated it it was amazing
Shelves: own
Once in a while a novel comes along which makes you realise why we read, & Sons is that novel.

On 5th Avenue at St. Patrick's Cathedral, Phillip Topping is attending his father, Charlie Topping's funeral, however this is no ordinary funeral as Charlie was a life long friend of A.N. Dyer, a renowned author whose novel Ampersand set the literary world alight and has become the 'Catcher in the Rye' of its time. Dyer now very reclusive is attending and the funeral is packed with fans hoping to cl
...more
Shawn Camp
Aug 02, 2013 Shawn Camp rated it it was ok
Every so often the media's hype is loud enough, or a reviewers enthusiasm bursts out like a bottle rocket that you just have to pick up the book and start reading it sooner than now. But if I had just waited a few more minutes I would have noticed that bottle rocket was a dud and just exploded a scant few feet and the excitement was over.

I love the title. I love the hidden title. All the little innuendoes creates a desire to take this book and embrace it like the Catcher cult embraces Salinger.
...more
Fred
Sep 07, 2013 Fred rated it it was amazing
A novel about a novelist holds a certain "peak behind the curtain of Oz" appeal, I would think, for anyone who is a fan of great writing. That initial interest will, of course, quickly wan if not fed with actual 'great writing'.
In this book, Gilbert delivers the goods.
The story is compelling, the characters well drawn, and the prose fluent. Similar to Updike's works, this novel skillfully includes commentary on 'modern' life via glimpses offered almost as asides woven carefully into the fabric o
...more
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I hate the characters 4 73 Jan 10, 2014 07:37AM  
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David Gilbert is the author of the story collection Remote Feed and the novel The Normals. His stories have appeared in The New Yorker, Harper’s, GQ, and Bomb. He lives in New York with his wife and three children.
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“A brief silence followed, everyone smiling with no direction, one of those awkward moments where families realize they are essentially a collection of strangers with a few things in common...” 5 likes
“I believe in love at first sight so that I might be seen.” 4 likes
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