Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Disobedience” as Want to Read:
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview


3.43  ·  Rating Details ·  3,304 Ratings  ·  253 Reviews
Reading someone else's e-mail is a quiet, clean enterprise. There is no pitter-pattering around the room, no opening and closing the desk drawers, no percussive creasing as you draw the paper from the envelope and unfold it . . . In and out of the files, no trace. It could be the work of a ghost, this electronic eavesdropping.

Seventeen-year-old Henry Shaw learns of his mot
Paperback, 272 pages
Published 2001 by Doubleday (first published October 17th 2000)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Disobedience, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Disobedience

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Danita M
Nov 29, 2007 Danita M rated it really liked it
I have enjoyed some Jane Hamilton books more than others. This one was very good. Her prose is beautiful, and her subject matter interesting. I liked the quirkiness of the characters (Civil War reenactments, musicians that play music most people have never heard). Their interests (sometimes obsessions) with the past sometimes made me forget that the setting was modern day… until it started talking about e-mail again.
I particularly liked that she chose to tell the story that is largely about a w
Dec 15, 2010 Holli rated it it was amazing
I really liked this book. I listened to the audio version, narrated by Robert Sean Leonard, who did a great job. Like Hamilton's other book, When Madeline Was Young, this one is also sort of a coming-of-age story narrated by a teen-aged boy, but this one is much more effective.

I found this book to be very humorous. It's a certain kind of humor, a hint of sarcasm, but not meanspirited. Maybe "droll" is the right word. I heard Jane Hamilton speak earlier this year and I was surprised at how funny
Oct 14, 2008 Sarah rated it it was ok
This book grated against my skin, but I wouldn't say it was a bad book, and the secondary character- a die hard 11 year old civil war re-enactor who also happened to be a girl- was fascinating and I loved her. I kept wanting to stuff a sock in the narrator (her brother)'s mouth, to hear more about her. It was like being invited to someone else's family reunion, and finding yourself really interested in everyone in the family except for the one pouty, self involved teenager you are seated next to ...more
Apr 20, 2011 Sheba rated it really liked it
This book just made so much sense. How Miss Jane Hamilton wrote a boy, and not just any boy but a lovely, funny, bare, boy, is inconceivable to me.

It's a love story between a son and his mother. It's a storing of weaning, a boy who becomes a man through vigilance over his mother's personal correspondence with her lover. Watching her fall in love, betray her husband and her family allows him to fall out of love with the woman who raised him and judge and differentiate from the woman she is. An a
Isaura Pereira
May 16, 2016 Isaura Pereira rated it it was ok
Shelves: leituras-2016
Já tenho livro há muitos anos, mas por alguma razão fui sempre adiando a sua leitura. O meu instinto tinha razão.

Não gostei da escrita da autora. Estrutura muito dispersa, com informações paralelas que não achei relevantes para a história principal.

A história é contada apenas através do ponto de vista do filho da "mulher desobediente" e nunca nos apresenta diferentes perspectivas de outras personagens ou até mesma da mulher que dá nome ao livro. Nunca sabemos o que realmente pensa, a razão das
Aaaaaaand we're back to 2 out of 5 stars.

I really need to make a shelf called "Mom Books", because that's really what this one was. I had a hard time figuring out what type of person Henry was; his narrative voice was really kind of...muddled, almost? Like, was he 30, 17, 22? WHO'S TO SAY. His vocabulary and prose didn't really seem to gel all the time, and really, not that much happens in this book. I have to assume that I marked it as To-Read because the whole infidelity thing seemed interesti
Manik Sukoco
A rite of passage story about Henry, who at 17 has discovered his mother's infidelity by reading her email messages, Disobedience explores complex family and gender themes. Marital strife, the disillusionment of a young man with his mother, a pubescent girl's rejection of her female self, and the desire of all members of the family to live in some form of fantasy rather than reality form the spine of this story.
Jane Hamilton has made some bold decisions as an author in the writing of Disobedienc
Nov 04, 2011 Stacy rated it did not like it
This book is too. And everyone in it is too. Too wordy. Too unique. Too stereotyped. Too obsessive. Too extreme. I mean, he couldn't just be a political father - he is a socialist with a history addiction. The mom isn't just a musician - she practically exudes music in her breath. The son isn't just a teenage boy with typical angst and self-discovery issues - he is amiable, polite, socially acceptable to English dancing parents and voyeuristic. The daughter. I can't even make a too statement for ...more
Jul 12, 2012 Sara rated it it was amazing
Shelves: drama, coming-of-age
Books like "Disobedience" aren't normally my cup of tea. But this melancholy coming of age story goes well beyond the usual book club fare.

The story of sweet, sad Henry Shaw and his amazingly disfunctional but incredibly compelling family is so very much worth reading. Its one of my "go to" novels and I've thumbed through it many times.

From his border line, Civil War reenacting sister who wears rebel grey everywhere they go to a passionate, very imperfect mother everyone in Henry's world is wor
Apr 03, 2010 Linda rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I've read other Jane Hamilton books and enjoyed them, but this one was a slow go for me. An interesting idea for a book about the Shaw family with 17 year-old Henry as the narrator who reads his mother's e-mails and discovers that she's having an affair. There's Elvira, the quirky sister and Kevin, the pre-occupied dad, and Beth, the mom who comes across as a flat character. Kevin's thoughts are random making the book choppy and uninteresting. I didn't care about these characters and would have ...more
Aug 09, 2007 Shannon rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is an interesting book that takes a look at infidelity from a teenage son's perspective. He finds out about his mother's secret and it eats him alive. This book has very memorable characters and interesting historical references.
Aug 29, 2015 Katie rated it did not like it
This book is terrible. At first I thought it was because it's been a while since I read something literary, I tend to like more populist novels. But the more I read the more I felt like I was slogging through mud. The first 100 pages are so repetitive, so circular. Nothing happens. Less than nothing happens. If you've read the first 10 pages, then effectively you've read the next 90, maybe even the next 150.

Henry Shaw's mother is having an affair - an affair he meticulously documents and which
Oct 31, 2012 Mary rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone who likes contemporary fiction
Recommended to Mary by: Bookmooch
Henry Shaw is a high school senior who, at seventeen years old, is about as comfortable with his family as any teenager can be. His father, Kevin, teaches history with a decidedly socialist tinge at the Chicago private school Henry and his sister attend. His mother, Beth, who plays the piano in a group specializing in antique music, is a loving, attentive wife and parent. Henry even accepts the offbeat behavior of his thirteen-year-old sister, Elvira, who is obsessed with Civil War reenactments ...more
Trixie Fontaine
Overall I just "liked" the book, but feel like I should give it a grudging four stars, because there were indeed some aspects of it that I *really* liked. I loved Elvirnon, for example, and her passion for authentic Civil War re-enactments. I wouldn't want to read a whole book about that, but it was perfect as a metaphorical backdrop here. Didn't love the main character, but I guess we're not supposed to a whole lot. Maybe? I don't know, but it's hard to love a book when the only person you love ...more
Jul 03, 2013 Meghan rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
A teenage boy named Henry reads his mom's email and finds out she's having an affair, then creepily keeps secretly reading her email for months and months, printing out messages as an archive, and just generally creeping it up and obsessing about how her affair relates to him. His mom at one point goes to a tarot reader and emails a friend about how the reader told her that Henry and she were married in a past life, and now they're mother and son. Henry reads that email, of course, and thinks di ...more
Frederick Bingham
This is a story about Henry Shaw. He and his family have just moved from rural Vermont to Chicago, where is father is a teacher and his mother is pursuing a career as a musician. Mid-way through his senior year, Henry discovers his mother is having an affair with another musician. He learns this because he figures out how to read his mother's email. She and her lover correspond frequently.Most of the book is about how Henry deals with this knowledge. He keeps it mostly a secret. He does tell his ...more
Jan 15, 2008 Carolyn rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Ho hum. I didn't like this one as much the other Hamilton books I've read. The narrator is a man, telling us about his family 10 years ago, during his senior year of high school. I'm sure it had "meaning", but I found it distracting that he referred to his mother as Mrs Shaw, Beth, Liza(the name she used on the email account with which she communicated with her lover and her best friend), and 'my mother'. It irritated me. Also, he seemed a little TOO concerned with his mom and her affair. Not th ...more
Mar 10, 2015 nick rated it liked it
friend gave me this audiobook. it wasnt until side B of tape 1 that i realised the narrator is wilson from tv show houseMD ha my friend never realised (robert sean leonard, for those of you that dont know who im talking about).

the writing style was grate but the story was just ok. it had its entertaining moments, especially elvira (little sister whose into civil war reenactment) plus karen (main characters friend). the main character was kind of annoying & his parents where typical overused
Jennifer G
May 31, 2007 Jennifer G rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
You can never accuse a Hamilton book of being "light reading," (I almost jumped off a bridge after reading A Map of the World), but this book is probably as close as she can get while still maintaining that dramatic focus on trauma within a family. A teenage boy inadvertently reads his mother's email (that fact is still hard for me to swallow), and discovers she's begun an affair with an immigrant violin maker. The book traces the boy's life as he traces his mother's affair through her emails to ...more
Sep 21, 2008 Natalie rated it did not like it
Shelves: lighter
I really liked the narrator's younger sister, who's an obsessive cross-dressing historical re-enactor. But too often she's on the scene only to mark the family's "quirkiness" or comic academic dysfunction -- which was uneasily deployed as contrast to the emotional tragedy supposedly experienced by the "I'm too smart for this narrative" narrator. The facade of Writerliness -- supposedly of the narrator, not the novel's author -- was far too irritating and got in the way of any sparks the novel co ...more
Nov 06, 2007 Michelle rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: fans of Jane Hamilton's somewhat dark tone
Shelves: audiobooks
Got this audiobook for a recent trip. It took me until the end to realize it was Robert Sean Leonard ("Dead Poet's Society" reading it. Anyway, I like Jane Hamilton. She doesn't sugarcoat anything. Here a teenager starts reading his mom's email and finds out she's having an affair. But he doesn't call her on it right away. Then the tale gets all twisty. There's an interesting subploat about the boy's younger sister and her hobby of dressing up as a Civil War reenactor.
Julia Grundling
Apr 23, 2011 Julia Grundling rated it liked it
not a 5 star book and i won't say you HAVE to read it, but i still liked it. she is one of my favourite authors - her book 'a map of the world' is on my top list.

i like to switch between different genres that i enjoy - so every now and then i'm ready for some emotion - and that is what her books are about. i love her style of writing.
Kate W
Sep 01, 2007 Kate W rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
This is the story of a boy who reads his mom's emails and discovers she's having an affair. He is tormented with how to handle it. Very interesting. The sub-plot is of his sister's obsession with the civil war. She disguises herself as a boy to be able to participate in civil war reinactments.
Jul 30, 2014 Amber rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I got about halfway through and I'm giving up. Well-written, good story, but I just cannot stand the narrator. It's too bad. I'll never find out what happens. But at least I won't have that twerp's voice in my head anymore.
Aug 24, 2007 Maryellen rated it really liked it
Jane Hamilton is a wonderful author. She wrote this book from a teenaged-boy's perspective, which demonstrated interesting range and insight. I liked this book, yes I did.
Diana Eberhardt
Jan 10, 2017 Diana Eberhardt rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Sad and true, a teenaged boy discovers and follows his mother's affair, while he also discovers truths about his father, his sister, and himself.
Kris - My Novelesque Life
Nov 22, 2014 Kris - My Novelesque Life rated it did not like it
Shelves: fiction, literature

"A wayward wife, an oedipally obsessed e-mail snoop, a pint-sized Civil War re-enactor (oops, make that living historian) and a cheerfully oblivious cuckold comprise the Shaws of Chicago, the decidedly quirky characters of Jane Hamilton's fourth novel, Disobedience. An unlikely family to fall prey to the vagaries of modern life, the Shaws are consumed with clog dancing, early music and the War Between the States. They do possess a computer, however, and when 17-year-old Henry stumbles int
Janyce Murray
In this story, Jane Hamilton takes us through a year in the life of the Shaws, an American family. Kevin, the father, is a dedicated, liberal high school history teacher who has lost his job in Vermont and obtained another in an exclusive private school in a wealthy Chicago suburb. The children, Elvira and Henry, are students at the school. Elvira, a thirteen-year-old tom-boy, is obsessed with Civil War re-enacting, a hobby that is encouraged by her father and despised by her mother. Henry, the ...more
Sep 04, 2008 Laura rated it really liked it
This book reminds me of my feeling watching *thumbsucker* Somewhere in that film, wading through interesting performances by Vince Vaughn, Vincent D'Onofrio, Keanu Reeves; I found a quiet moment with the incomparable Tilda Swinton and thought "Oh! She is the beating heart -- this film is about women, this film is about mothers." Tilda was strange and strong and absolutely real, and everything in the story revolved around her. That kind of story is so rare.

So often literature that celebrates wom
Jennifer Plummer
I deeply wish I still had a copy of this book in front of me so I had the ability to pick a few of my favorite quotes to share. One that really did stick with me, I apologize for not knowing it word for word, was something along the lines of it takes turning the other way and being patient for marriages to work out. I have to say on the topic of the affair, it was kind of strange seeing the emails through the eyes of her teenage son. Somehow, though, that made the book.

I wasn't sure how this bo
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
a kid finds out about his mother's affair 3 34 May 26, 2009 06:28AM  
  • Family Pictures
  • Lost Souls
  • Searching for Caleb
  • Errands
  • Small Ceremonies
  • At Paradise Gate
  • Midnight Champagne
  • At Risk
  • Jamesland
  • Never Change
  • The Ice House
  • Unholy Fire
  • Chalktown
  • Object Lessons
  • The Art of Seeing
  • Living to Tell
  • Lingkar Tanah Lingkar Air
  • Come Walk with Me
Jane Hamilton is the author most recently of The Excellent Lombards and The Book of Ruth, winner of the PEN/Hemingway Award for first fiction, as well as A Map of the World, a New York Times Notable Book of the Year and named one of the top ten books of the year by Entertainment Weekly, Publishers Weekly, the Miami Herald, and People. Both The Book of Ruth and A Map of the World have been select ...more
More about Jane Hamilton...

Share This Book