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The Calligrapher

3.64 of 5 stars 3.64  ·  rating details  ·  433 ratings  ·  87 reviews
This beguiling first novel is a provocative romantic comedy centered on a young London calligrapher named Jasper, who is an engaging, intelligent serial seducer and a breaker of hearts. But when he meets Madeleine, a captivating but enigmatic woman who is his equal in every way, he falls helplessly in love. Vulnerable for the first time, he is headed for his comeuppance at ...more
Hardcover, 368 pages
Published October 7th 2003 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (first published 2003)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 708)
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Shawn
reading this book really just made me want to punch the main character in the arm really hard.
Asma Fedosia
I like THE CALLIGRAPHER, savoring John Donne's poetry along with Docx's novel. Docx gathered the strains of literary and artistic culture and the libertines who give free rein to sexual and imaginative inclinations. The thirty metaphysical, love poems of Donne in SONGS AND SONNETS as Docx recreates and interprets them, made me appreciate this poet more through the device of forming a chapter for each of the love poems. Docx sets the stage for this pastiche before Chapter 1 opens by telling us th ...more
Roz Morris
Wasn't that impressed, really. It seemed padded, and this may have been its biggest problem. Although the author's voice was fluent and his descriptions had the ring of honesty that zips you right into the narrator's nervous system, many of the scenes dragged because they seemed to have little purpose. Everyday life, holidays and so on just went on too long without a pulse of development - even a tiny one. This meant I started to find the constant references to Donne poems were a contrived gimmi ...more
Hleary
I was disappointed with novel this in comparison to Pravda because I found the characters or the plot tedious. I'm just not that into self-absorbed, pseudo-intellectual English men and painfully constructed "I see dead people" plot twists.

No question Docx is a great writer. However, as far as I was concerned he may as well been describing laundry day--and describing it beautifully. I could find funny, curious scatological and even sexy things about my laundry enough to entertain me and to make
...more
Erin
there is a certain kind of book that, when you are done, you hug it and want to immediately start reading it again and you want to buy copies for all your friends and you feel sort of bad for people who haven't read it yet. this is one of those books. go read this book right now and see what this author does with language. the words become textures and you want to say them out loud.

he eats words for breakfast... and poops out foie gras.

____

i'm only on page 204, but so far this book is gorgeous.
...more
Rachel
Worth the read, but not as good as I'd hoped. Frankly, I expected it to be sexier. And I guessed the surprise ending pretty early on, and it's an awful lot to ask your readers to swallow. And the foreshadowing frustrated me--since he'd already told me it was going to go so badly wrong, I felt like I wanted him to just hurry up and get there already so I could stop anticipating. On the other hand, there are some fantastic passages, especially the really caustic send-ups of London stereotypes, and ...more
Lukeetc
In general I hate the word pretentious--it usually just functions as shorthand for "something I didn't understand". It's an easy cop-out, a way of not-really-getting a book while managing to blame it on the author.

But this book is *hella* pretentious. Prose is stilted, characters are overrealised. Subplots are abandoned in favor of pseudo-profound inner monologues. It just reeks of a coddled, from-private-school-straight-to-top-notch-university yuppie reaching for something grand and deep...and
...more
Etcetorize
The narrator's male English voice of this novel could not be mistaken for anything other than that. In fact, the 'maleness' of it will knock you over in the first chapter. If you can get past that, and the somewhat strangely stylized way that Jasper and his friends speak, it's not a terrible book.

I did find myself often skimming several pages in a row to avoid the university lectures on John Dunne poetry, or tea, or wine, or the male point of view on dating. It was just too much and the points t
...more
Eileen
I heard from some other members of my book group that this book had a "twist" at the end. I found the twist completely predictable. I really love the idea of using a body of poetry as a frame for a story, and I had virtually no knowledge of Donne when I started the book, so I enjoyed that aspect of it. Really, though, it felt a lot like a screenplay for the next hit romantic comedy.
Jack Coleman
I like calligraphy and this book caught my eye In my local library discard bin so thought I would
give it a try.
I was pleasantly suprised at the this new writers language and prose although he used recalcitrant a few too many times for my liking, and I guessed the ending. It was entertaining and informative
read. Looking forward to more from this author.
Valissa
"The world is full of fuckers and there's nothing we can do."

""Though most of us somehow remember that bullets and car crashes kill in real life,we take the romance myth to heart, we forget to suspend our disbelief."
Terrill
I enjoyed this book despite the unlikeable narrator (and my constant curiosity as to whether he was exactly like the author, whose jacket photo I kept consulting for clues). The main character is (as you may have guessed) a calligrapher who spends the novel working on a commision of the poems of John Donne. The poems were woven into each chapter, as were the details about the art of calligraphy. The central love story was a bit too perfect for much of the book, and I predicted the twist at the e ...more
Nicole
What a fun read. Depicts the life of Jasper, a Londoner who is quite the lady's man and in the opening portion of the novel is depicted as cheating on his long term girlfriend Lucy with a quick fling, thus ending that relationship. Jasper is the calligrapher of the title and there is an element of prologue that depicts how he came about this unusual career. His most recent custom order is the reproduction of a series of poems by John Donne and this provides a backdrop to the central plot which i ...more
JackieB
This was an unusual novel. I suppose it's a romance but it was far deeper and darker than romances usually are. The main character (Jasper) was a calligrapher and during the book he was being paid to create a set of John Donne's poems. Edward Docx used the poetry to explore some of the aspects of Jasper's attitudes to women and love or to comment on the story line. But Docx balanced this with humour so it didn't get too heavy. I liked the writing style too. This was one of my favourite sentences ...more
Jill
There is nothing new under the sun.
I've read this plot before -- the dashing young hipster seducer who gets bested (not a spoiler, since we are told it's coming from the first page). Even for the not quite given away elements, hints prevail and The Calligrapher's story is predictable, from a mile away.

But this is Edward Docx, and I'm pretty sure he's not writing for the story.

Having loved Pravda, I found myself in that ravenous stage of falling for an author -- I want to read EVERYTHING you've
...more
Donna
This is a great undiscovered novel! That I highly recommend.
It is the story of a lovable young philanderer Jasper in modern London. He is handsome, intelligent, talented and completely ruthless when it comes to his dealings with women. However, he meets his match in the gorgeous mysterious Madeline. This is a love story, a mystery and a beautifully wrought literary novel.
Jasper is a professional calligrapher currently commissioned to do a series of John Donnes Songs and Sonnets. The book intelli
...more
Susie Mcmurry
I didn't actually finish this book but I read over half of it so I'll check it off as having been read and make a few comments. Normally this is the type of book I absolutely love. I'm a huge Anglophile, I adore British literature and I've dabbled in calligraphy. I thought that this would be a fun, light book which I needed having just finished something intense. Sadly, I just couldn't get through it. It did have its moments and some bits of delicious writing, but overall it was just so - wordy. ...more
Jennie
I'm surprised more people don't enjoy this book. I've loaned it to a few of my friends who were nonplussed. However, my husband and I thought it was absolutely marvelous. It's a recommendation from Book Lust II from the section entitled "Dick Lit"- the male version of chick lit. Anyways I loved this book so much I wanted to reread it again as soon as I finished. The plot itself is your average cliqued romantic comedy...but the writing is simply divine. I would describe it as a "delicious" book. ...more
Esmira Serova
I must make a confession. When I came across "The Calligrapher" at a bookstore about five years ago, I was immediately interested by the Donne part of it. Then again, it was only a Russian edition, that is, a translation, and I doubted it was worth it. So I hesitated a little and chose another book. Well, I didn't have enough money for both anyway. I had my regrets afterwards, since I never found another copy of the book in any stores of my city again and could not buy it online. And last year - ...more
Kaylee
Having read Pravda before his debut, I decided I needed to see where this brilliant man started.

I've learned a few things:
1. Edward Docx must be working through issues with monogamy.
2. Humor mixed with beautiful language gets me hot.
3. Docx is a genius.
4. I relate more than I want to with almost every character in this book.

Honestly, I can't do this book justice with my words, so here are a few of his:

"He does not believe in God or mankind, but he visits churches whenever he is abroad and runs a
...more
Stephanie
Beautifully written. Self-consciously so. Much of this book reads like the author's exercise in using lovely words to form scintillating descriptions of...things, and scenery, and philosophy. But the core of the book turned me off. The protagonist and his love are both--I could use lovely words here, but why bother? they're both jerks. I didn't care if the romance worked out. There's a "twist" at the ending that shouldn't have surprised anyone, least of all the protagonist. It's one of those boo ...more
Book Riot
The Calligrapher, by Edward Docx, was hard to get into, but I stuck with it and the ending was very odd. What was going on there and was Madeleine going to go back with Jasper or what? And what was that about the green emergency exit sign was that for Jasper to make a quick exit when he discovered how badly he'd been had by his lady love and her sister? I didn't care for it because I still don't get the ending.
Marvin
Set in London, with intelligent, highly cultured characters, with fine writing that occasionally shades into self-conscioius pretentiousness, this is an engaging, actually pretty sweet account of a self-centered womanizer who finds the woman of his dreams and struggles with the new experience of discovering what it means to fall in love. At the same time, he is carrying out a contract professionally to portray in calligraphy John Dunne's love poetry, and he struggles to come to terms with the me ...more
Geeta
Clever, well-written, and fun to read. Jasper Jackson is the calligrapher, working on a sequence of thirty love poems by John Donne for a wealthy client. Jasper is also a jerk, though from his point of view, he's just someone who loves women. The book begins with him cheating on his long-time girlfriend Lucy, then getting caught and dumped. The rest of the book is the story of his comeuppance. Docx plays around a lot with language and the Donne poems; some readers will find the language excessiv ...more
Michael
Probably the most anxiety-producing novel I have ever read, the work is well written and makes brilliant use of Donne's poetry. I would have rated it higher had it not induced a continuous feeling of dining under the sword of Damocles, not the experience one usually seeks in reading a novel. As Cicero noted, "Quis enim potest mortem aut dolorem metuens, quorum altertum saepe adest, alterum semper impendet, esse non miser?" When the end comes, the reader (and perhaps also the protagonist?) is gra ...more
Trouble
An unexpectedly quick read. This book definitely won`t appeal to everyone. The main character is kind of a self-centered jerk, the female lead is obviously toying with him in an equally self-centered way, and we know from the promo blurb that the end is just going to hurt for our lead, Jasper. If the prose/characters hadn`t been so interesting, waiting for the other shoe to drop could have been excruciating.

I`m a little dissatisfied with how quick the ending was, but this will probably be one of
...more
Nirica
the first time i read this book i absolutely loved it and i instantly decided it was one of my favourites and since then i'd been reluctant to ever reread it because maybe i'd built it up to be a much better book than it actually was??? but i reread it this week and it is exactly as good as i remembered it. it's flowy and light and so clever (even though it has pretty much no story, but that's a good thing, i promise) and the ending is still one of my favourite book endings ever. it's such a sha ...more
Plamen Miltenoff
excellent reading
finally, an "open ending" in the fashion of the last century European cinema.
love the way he is selling the unsaleable: poetry in the 21st century for people like me, who barely sit to read fiction, not to mention poetry.
Marti
Surprising twist, & my prediction was correct.
michelle
The best parts of this novel are not the plot and the characters (though I did enjoy the grandmother), but its turns of phrase and analyses of Donne's poetry. Its literary analysis flows into the everyday happenings in the novel.
I'm not quite sure what I expected from this--it was recommended to me by an index card celebrating its wit at Powell's City of Books. I do expect some sort of satisfying and/or credulous conclusion for a book so grounded in realism and the everyday.
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Edward Docx was born in 1972 in the north of England. He grew up in Cheshire and London. After school, he went to Christ’s College, Cambridge, where he read English Literature and was Junior Common Room President.

He began his professional writing career working on the national newspapers. In 2003, his first novel, The Calligrapher, was published to widespread acclaim. It was selected by the San Fr
...more
More about Edward Docx...
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