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Idiopathy: A Novel

3.12 of 5 stars 3.12  ·  rating details  ·  479 ratings  ·  84 reviews
A debut novel of love, narcissism, and ailing cattle

Idiopathy (ɪdɪˈɒpəθi): a disease or condition which arises spontaneously or for which the cause is unknown.

Idiopathy is a novel that is as unexpected as its title, in which Katherine, Daniel, and Nathan—three characters you won’t forget in a hurry—unsuccessfully try to figure out how they feel about one another and how th
Paperback, 320 pages
Published June 3rd 2014 by Faber & Faber (first published January 1st 2013)
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(showing 1-30 of 1,523)
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I really enjoyed this book. It is populated by a cast of self-obsessed and narcissistic characters and none more so than Katherine, the novel's protagonist. She should be loathsome but she is so self-destructive, so unable to feel anything or even exist except in relation to others' reactions to her, usually while making then uncomfortable or unhappy, that I found her compelling.

"She’d wanted this, and now it was here all she could think was that the wanting was a weakness, and all she could fee
I don't often use the phrase "emotional rollercoaster", and I don't want to use it here because it implies a certain sentimentality that this book would kick in the nethers. More like a ride in a speeding car on a mountain road, too warm and smelling of someone else's lunch, it's exhilarating but exhausting - you've got to stick with it, even though the turns make you slightly queasy.

I almost hated this book and didn't see its point; the characters are horrible, self-absorbed, irredeemable. Havi
Funny, British, quotable.

"Some of them wanted to fuck her because they liked her, and some them wanted to fuck her because they hated her. This suited Katherine reasonably well. Sometimes she fucked men because she felt good about herself, and sometimes she fucked them because she hated herself." (6-7)

"morals were what dense people clung to in lieu of a personality" (8)

"His convalescence had not, however, gone according to plan, and it was this precise sense of missed opportunity that now led h
Jerad Tinnin
I don't give many reviews of books, but this one I will. My partner always says "if you're not into it by the first chapter, stop reading". I wish I listened. The problem with this book is one character - kathryn. the first chapter/10% begins with her, and if I'd listened to my partner I would have given up and been happy. Instead I continued reading and found the other characters fine. Not loveable or endearing, but fine. Whereas kathryn...

If I could I would write her out of this book, I would.
Otilia Liie
The book was amazing, witty and such a pleasure to read, I loved it. It was a fresh breath of air among the latest books that I have read. I totally reccommend it.
Ähnlich wie auf der Achterbahnfahrt der Emotionen, welche die Protagonisten erleben, ging es mir auch mit dem Buch! An manchen Stellen ist der Roman zäh und ich musste mich tatsächlich zwingen, weiterzulesen. Das mag auch daran liegen, dass es so gut wie keine Handlung gibt, weil sich das Geschehen größtenteils um die verkorkste Psyche der Figuren dreht. Doch genau deswegen ist "Idiopathie“ auch wiederum lesenswert, da Byers hier mit bitterbösen Humor erzählt und es teilweise so überzogen darste ...more
Ryan Tandy
When former couple Katherine and Daniel are forced to reunite after mutual friend Nathan is released from a stint in a psychiatric ward, it causes both parties to reassess the life choices they have made. Cynical Katherine, stuck in a dead end job and cycle of self destructive behaviour, has already given up any hope of trying to be happy, while Daniel is questioning if his feelings of love towards his new girlfriend are genuine or not. Throw in Nathan’s struggles to come to terms with the decis ...more
Chris Young
Chilling, bitter, black as pitch — three self-obsessed, depressed and wholly believable characters clash in Norwich, against the backdrop of a nationwide cattle epidemic. Laugh and despair for the world at the same time. There's nothing likeable here — but a lot to enjoy.
In my professional life (before children), I spent a large amount of time writing things for government ministers to ‘say’ (most often these things were published in documents, brochures and as part of press releases). The aim of the game was ‘sound bites’ – pithy little one-liners that got to the guts of the matter (in my case, it was all about river and water management) and made for ‘quotable quotes’ for ministers.

Idiopathy by Sam Byers is novel written in ‘sound bites’. Punchy, carefully cra
A woman writes a well-formed sentence.
I read this a while ago and loved it, and found myself thinking about it again as I read Eimear Macbride's 'A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing'for my Baileys list project. Both books are written by young writers from Norfolk. Both books have abject, abused women at the centre who are driven to self-destructive behaviour and masochistic sex. Both books are highly stylised with plots and forms which dissolve round the reader. But only McBride's has been greeted as
A book about, by and quite possibly for bitter, cynical, British white middle-class people in their mid thirties. Critics like Idiopathy, it won the Costa First Novel award, I like it – but the general public don't seem to like it much: there are quite a lot of negative reviews on Goodreads and Amazon. (Or there were when I last looked in December – I'm keeping away from reader reviews as much as possible just now.)
I read the book in two chunks a couple of months apart, so my different impressio
I have nothing good to say about this book. I keep thinking the plot will hit me upside the head and I'll have an epiphany...I'm still waiting. Once I start reading a book, I have an asinine rule about not finishing it but god help me I wished I could break that rule. Honestly, I was browsing the shelves at the library and thought the cover looked interesting. I read the reviews on the back and was fully convinced when one of the reviewers said it was gut-busting funny. Let me be clear, there is ...more
Elizabeth Moffat
This is the May read for The Waterstones Eleven debut authors, please see my previous post HERE. The tag line for this story is that it is “a novel of love, narcissism and ailing cattle,” which actually sums it up quite well! On starting, I really wasn’t sure if I was going to like it, as all the characters are quite awful to each other, and it’s written in quite an original style. The author focuses on three main characters – Katherine and Daniel, who used to be a couple but have broken up, and ...more
Charlotte Snel
Heel erg hard gelachen tijdens het lezen van deze debuutroman. Niet om de inhoud - want die is knap ellendig - maar om de droge beschrijvingen en observaties van de verteller.

Verder is het geen feestje. De omgeving en de levens die de personages erin leiden zijn allemaal tamelijk troosteloos. En het lijkt er ook niet op dat daar verandering in komt of dat ze daar zelfs maar hun best voor doen. Of zoals een van de hoofdpersonen Katherine zegt: "Wie zegt dat ik gelukkiger wil zijn?"

Blijkbaar heb
TONY gave this book a fantastic review. Greenwich Library had not bought a copy. Westchester Library System had one copy. Available. Stephen in Greenwich ordered one copy and I noticed that it went out immediately. I snagged the copy from the Westchester Library System. Harrison library's copy.
If you have ever spent an evening with friends you like or at least have a history with but whose social skills leave your head reeling, with the sheer extent of their unhappiness with their geography, th
Kyle Hipke
Really believable, realistic depictions of characters with a wide variety of personality issues. Funny in a "smirking at modern society" sort of way. Only reason for not giving 5 stars is that, compared to other books, the content can start to feel a little bit "samey" as the book goes on and on describing the repetitive thought process and neurotic habits of the relatively unlikeable characters.
Full Stop

Review by Adam Beaudoin

Idiopathy, the debut of British novelist Sam Byers, is a pitch-perfect contemporary take on the social novel, somewhere in the vicinity of Evelyn Waugh or Jonathan Franzen. Awake to both the subtly human and bitterly hysterical faces of contemporary life, it chronicles the self-destruction and insecurity of three young adults trying to justify their existence. That it does so with class and wit is testament to Byers’ ability to empat
Having unsympathetic characters can really deter readers – or be a motivation to read. Here, without thinking at all, I could cite ‘Gone Girl’ as an example of wanting to read more despite the characters and ‘The Lowland’ where I think that if you cannot find yourself empathising, at least in part, with the character of Gauri, you will not like the book. This novel raises the following. To what extent do writers need to extend an ounce of kindness to their characters? To all of them?

In this nov
Anyone who has followed my comments here for a while may be aware that I have a pet hate regarding the use of "the F word": a verb that describes, fittingly in my view, as "vulgar slang". For that reason alone, I ought to have absolutely despised this debut novel. Not only is the hated word used extensively through the book, there is a single paragraph of just over eleven lines in which it, or a variation on it, makes no fewer than seven appearances (pp.6-7) and another pa ...more

A book about three thirtysomethings of varying degrees of misanthropy played out against the backdrop of an unexplained cattle disease that bares some resemblance to BSE and causes cows to simply stand stock-still and stare at the horizon (bovine idiopathic entrancement), it is, I think, aiming to be a social satire in the mould of David Lodge, but where Lodge's books take what are, to me at least, recognisable character archetypes and exaggerates them for comic effect, Byers' novel felt to
The story is based around three thirty-somethings, Daniel and Katherine, who used to go out, and Nathan, their friend. The story flits between the different character's viewpoints, and starts with a series of events that happen after Daniel and Katherine have been broken up for a few years, Nathan has been in a mental hospital, and is released, catalysing a meet up between the three characters. Although the writing was engaging, all the characters were so horrific, it was quite hard to enjoy thi ...more
Jill Lamond
A cast of more miserable and annoying people you would be hard-pushed to meet anywhere. Katherine's bitter and hate-filled attitude suffused the book. It was not an enjoyable read. That said I feel it was well-written, just not my thing.
If you hate humanity--or just appreciate those who marshal impressively thorough arguments for doing so--this is the book for you.
Alex Miller
Hated it. Quit after 25 pages.
Ehhhhh ...
Eh, Eh, Eh.

I don't remember why I wanted to read this book. I repeated that question throughout the 300+ pages.

It's three 'friends'
(two of them are exes - Katherine and Daniel)
(they made the third friend (Nathan) as a couple, too)
and their independent struggles to become ... aware? Or happy? Or come to terms with the fact that they all have social issues.
Well, social issues as in 'playing well with others'.
And not being angry.

It has some fun commentary on the way things are going in t
Katy Noyes
I really don't know what to say about this...

I liked some of it, hated some of it, felt no empathy for any character. Which sometimes was what I felt the author wanted, and sometimes left me thinking I should stop.

This isn't the first time I've tried out a book on the strength of its inclusion in the Costa shortlist (or because the cover intrigued). This was one I finished and felt very little either way about. It's not a 'winner' for me, but it did have interesting elements.

It's about two peopl
Luke Robinson
"If only she was more stupid, she thought. If only she was more blind. Then she'd be able to believe all that and be happy. But she wasn't; she couldn't and she wouldn't be. Clarity is cruel that way."

Sam Byer's book, which sells itself as the story of a sort of reverse mad-cow disease actually works to dissect the brains of us modern beings, cutting so deeply with its cynical observations that it actually becomes a bit of a struggle to spend time with. The characters are caustically uncharismat
Philip Craggs
‘Idiopathy’ is the debut novel by Sam Byers, described on its cover as ‘a novel of love, narcissism and ailing cattle’. It’s a good tag line as it succinctly implies a lot of what you should expect from the novel – the focus on relationships, the at times savagely honest satire to be employed, and the slightly surreal edge that sweetens the pill.

The three principle characters are Katherine and Daniel (a former couple who have recently separated) and their friend Nathan who has just been dischar
Ian Mond
There are some observations and set pieces in this novel that are funny --

"Daniel liked being ill. He regarded it as luxurious, almost decadent. He spent so much of his life being organised and well presented that he had come to regard illness as one of the few times he had permission to let himself go"

-- insightful --

""Whatever" his father waved his hand. "Your lot. The perpetual adolescents. You go on and on about your parents, about society, about global this and global that and you don't eve
Iara Luzia
O livro me chamou atenção pelo título e ao ler a contracapa, pareceu bastante promissor.
No entanto, o primeiro capítulo demonstrou o contrário. Como não consigo simplesmente deixar um livro começado, decidi continuar. Há alguns momentos de humor e por isso dei duas estrelas, mas de forma geral, todos os personagens me pareceram por demais superficiais e toda trama sem qualquer profundidade.
Mesmo para quem é fã de literatura "ligeira", acredito que há livros muito melhores. Não recomendo.
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idioipathy 1 11 Jul 15, 2013 11:10PM  
  • The Friday Gospels
  • Le fils
  • The Fields
  • Ballistics
  • First Novel
  • This Is the Way: A Novel
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  • The Vorrh
  • Meeting the English
  • Orkney
  • Pig's Foot
  • Damage Control: Stories
  • Sorry I Barfed on Your Bed (and Other Heartwarming Letters from Kitty)
  • The View on the Way Down
  • The Coincidence Authority
  • Clear: A Transparent Novel
  • Unexploded
  • The Gamal
The End of the End of Everything: Fiction's Fretful Futures (The Weeklings Reading Series) UEA Creative Writing Anthology 2003: Contains Small Parts

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“His relationship with illness was flirtatious; only a particularly attractive ailment could tempt him into bed.” 2 likes
“There was, Katherine speculated, no possible way of concealing his Englishness, or any English person's Englishness for that matter. You could spot them immediately - pasty white; muffin bellied; Rorschached with quasi-Celtic tattoos.” 2 likes
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