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3.77  ·  Rating Details ·  1,313 Ratings  ·  86 Reviews
Spider is gaunt, threadbare, unnerved by everything from his landlady to the smell of gas. He tells us his story in a storm of beautiful language that slowly reveals itself as a fiendishly layered construction of truth and illusion. With echoes of Beckett, Poe, and Paul Bowles, Spider is a tale of horror and madness, storytelling and skepticism, a novel whose dizzying styl ...more
Paperback, 227 pages
Published October 1st 2002 by Gallimard Education (first published 1990)
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Books with Unreliable Narrators
87th out of 301 books — 276 voters
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Unique Narrators
149th out of 317 books — 357 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 2,859)
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I’ve always found it odd that I can recall incidents from my boyhood with clarity and precision begins Dennis Cleg, the protagonist and narrator of Spider, and yet events that happened yesterday are blurred, and I have no confidence in my ability to remember them accurately at all. Dennis writes down the story of his life in a notebook, having recently returned to London after spending 20 years in Canada, which he refuses to talk about, and is staying at a boarding house in the London's East End ...more
Sep 29, 2012 Mike rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone
This is the author’s second novel and third book (following on the collection “Blood and Water and Other Tales” and his debut novel “The Grotesque”). At least for the moment, I am reading his works in the order of publication. I thought that the short stories were very good and fit their lengths well. As noted in my review, I liked “The Grotesque”, but thought that I could have appreciated it more. After more reflection, in addition to the reasons previously cited, I think that it was not suited ...more
Oct 29, 2014 Simona rated it liked it
"Spider" è lontano anni luce da "Follia", l'altro romanzo di Mcgrath che considero il suo capolavoro.
"Spider" è un viaggio nel mondo della follia, delle allucinazioni, un viaggio nella psicosi. Un viaggio nella mente malata, le turbe psichiche di uno schizofrenico. Non è facile leggere un libro del genere, a causa delle continue regressioni tra presente e passato e il lettore non può che prendere atto di ciò che legge, scivola sempre più nello stesso baratro del protagonista, finendo per farsi
Cora Lockhart
Jul 08, 2012 Cora Lockhart rated it it was amazing
Unfortunately, this is one of those books that I had not heard of until I inadvertently discovered the movie, which was pretty stellar as well and this may or may not have something to do with Ralph Fiennes! It was difficult as I read the book not to picture him in it, and this is one of the reasons I like reading books before seeing the movie, but this did not distract from its odd beauty. It's a story that revolves around a schizophrenic known as Spider. That he earned this name from his mothe ...more
Apr 21, 2009 Lara rated it did not like it
I hated this book. I wish I could give it 1/2 a star. I quit half way through...I couldn't read any more. No matter if I read just one page or even a paragraph...when I put this book down I felt nothing but gloom. I tried to finish it to see where the story was going but I couldn't get past the awful feel the book gave out. Maybe that is what it was going for...if's not something I want to read. Ever. Ick. Half the time I couldn't tell if what I was reading was in the present or the past ...more
I wish I could rate this higher but I didn't enjoy myself as much as I thought I would.
Although this is a well written novel, it left me gutted and empty inside, and perhaps I felt defeated... and a little enraged, which I guess I knew this going in, so a low ended rating isn't quite fair to the author.
There were parts so screwy that I couldn't comprehend - that I had to skim them quickly to continue with the story. This was written first hand by a mentally unwell narrator, so had I continued
Apr 21, 2009 Ann rated it it was amazing
This was an amazing book -- very well written and made me very uncomfortable -- but impossible to put down.

It starts off as the journal of a man who obviously has some psychiatric issues and is living in a halfway house in the East End of London in the 1950s after completing 20 years in a prison psychiatric hospital. Gradually through his journal, you find out about his childhood, his living situation now and his wandering to fill his days back to the old allotments (gardens) and by the canal, b
Jul 02, 2012 May rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
First Sentence: "I've always found it odd that I can recall incidents from my boyhood with clarity and precision, and yet events that happened yesterday are blurred, and I have no confidence in my ability to remember them accurately at all."

This was a tale of Schizophrenia cleverly told in the voice of the schizophrenic himself. It started innocently enough until Spider, who, as a thirteen year old boy, started to lose the fine line between reality and madness. In doing so, he also dragged this
Dec 28, 2011 Kelanth rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: narrativa
Lento, lento, lento. Scopo dell’autore credo che sia quello di coinvolgere il lettore in una spirale di paranoie, incubi e allucinazioni per portarlo da un inizio dove tutto sembra essere normale, a un finale dove tutto è allucinazione e schizofrenia. Solo che secondo il mio modesto parere, non solo non riesce nell’intento ma porta a una noia che solo le poche pagine del libro non convince il lettore ad abbandonare la lettura. Si va avanti navigando in mezzo agli incubi del protagonista, scenden ...more
Jun 30, 2008 Abailart rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
Ah!!! Finished today in the park under hot black clouds and suspicious winds like gas, ducks changing shape before they rotted before my eyes. Well, I feel wretched having finished the thing. The thing is, the thing is not there, you cannot put your finger on any thing that is not there but looms dark and loud.. Tricks of light and shandow and shifting as the narrator rots before your eyes and ears, and his guts strapped to his spine so as to clear a dark space hollow and full of sinister plumbi ...more
Mar 03, 2014 Thais rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Avendo letto Follia, sapevo più o meno cosa aspettarmi da McGrath: una lenta discesa nella pazzia, appunto, l'analisi dei pensieri di un uomo malato, forse una vittima, forse un assassino, sicuramente una persona estremamente disturbata. E così è stato.
Solo che Spider non è riuscito a coinvolgermi come speravo. Sì, è un viaggio nella mente di un pazzo, sì, fa capire che la realtà non è sempre univoca, sì, le sue ossessioni e allucinazioni sono ben tratteggiate. Eppure qualcosa mi ha lasciata piu
Nov 05, 2015 Emanuele rated it it was ok
Dopo aver letto quel gran libro che è "Follia" mi aspettavo molto da questo libro, anche perchè foraggiato da tutte queste parole positive spese per esso. Prima parte bella ed interessante! Ti fa entrare nella vita del protagonista, mostra il degrado in cui vive e la tristezza della madre per un rapporto con il padre ubriacone veramente deprimente.Dopo la metà del libro però, tutto diventa pesante e NOIOSO, sembra che lo scrittore della prima parte del libro abbia lasciato la seconda parte al cu ...more
Jan 10, 2015 John rated it really liked it
I read Spider about twenty years ago. I read some portion of it sitting at the bedside of my dying father, reading this eerie story listening to the rattling in my fathers chest as he struggled not to make the next breath his last, while the grim reaper's presence turned the air in the room an inky semi-opaque black.

I think this book is extraordinarily creepy. Told from the point of view of a severely paranoid schizophrenic. It is hard for the reader to separate real and non real, what's a para
Ben Benson
May 19, 2016 Ben Benson rated it liked it
Shelves: may-2016
From the start of this book you have an unreliable narrator and so you know as you read, things may not be exactly as they are portrayed. That's fine, and the book shifts between first and third person which I can accept considering the mental state of the narrator.

I think where I started to drift from the book was the reflections of events Spider experienced as a child and he was given omniscience to his father's actions which I could not accept.

Then as you move into another part of the story
This entire book is a first-person narrative by a man who has been (or still is) ill as he recounts traumatic events in his childhood that shaped the man he is today. Set in London's East End in the 1930s / 1950s, the atmosphere is a blend of the boisterous working class pubs he remembers from childhood - and these themselves bring an odd sense of dread - to the drab, fog-drenched streets of bombed-out post-war London.

The writing is paced and beautiful, as a mounting sense of horror builds to a
Joshua Cottrell
May 20, 2016 Joshua Cottrell rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The only reason this little winding novel didn't get a straight 5 out of 5 was because of the pace of the whole thing. It really didn't pick up for me till a little over halfway through, that's a bit over a hundred pages of just drudging through (beautifully written) scene after scene.

HOWEVER once it picked up, I was hooked and the ride to the end was gripping. Spider is an unreliable narrator, know this going in and NOTHING ELSE.

For those of you who don't care about spoilers or have finished: S
Aug 04, 2009 Steph rated it did not like it
Shelves: adult-fiction
A young man figuring on his mother's death in the midst of madness, obsession and minute detail. Nothing here for me.
Sep 27, 2016 Richard rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novels
A taut and convincing tale of delusion and mental illness, Spider is effectively creepy, told in finely-judged prose that manages to be both spare, and richly evocative (mainly of gloom and decay!); and that deploys its narrative sleights of hand in all the right places. For all that, though, McGrath's novel feels like an exercise, an efficiently-played study rather than a full-realised sonata, somehow lighter than its heavy/dark subject demands, and with a rather unmysterious mystery at its hea ...more
Wells Oliver
Jul 06, 2014 Wells Oliver rated it really liked it
A riveting internal tale told by the most unreliable of unreliable narrators. The novel's center, Spider, Dennis Clegg, trapped in his own mind, works through what may or may not have happened to him as a child to land him in an asylum and then a care home. He recounts the passing of his mother and his growing suspicion at, well, everything, as he tries to reason through his schizophrenic hallucinations and perceived persecutions and mounting horror. The narrative is terse and poetic in an auste ...more
Serena.. Sery-ously?
Purtroppo o per fortuna, mi sono giocata come primo romanzo di McGrath il capolavoro, "Follia". Gli altri non riescono nemmeno lontamente ad avvicinarcisi però d'altro canto mi ha fornito la chiave di lettura per apprezzare questi romanzi.. Non so se senza "Follia" saprei apprezzare McGrath.. Mi ha aperto un mondo! *_*
Bando alle ciance e alle lodi dell'altro libro.. "Spider" mi è piaciuto un sacco!
Innanzi tutto, un narratore non affidabile: ho scoperto che personaggi così mi mandano in brodo di
Feb 02, 2016 annik rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-russian
После этой книги очень хочется пойти и полечить головушку.

Начинается все очень даже обыденно, хотя и мрачновато – отец-водопроводчик заводит любовницу, избавляется от жены, любовница становится злобной мачехой, а сына по имени Деннис отправляют куда подальше, то есть в Канаду. Но с самого начала наш подросший лет на двадцать Деннис и его суждения вызывают подозрения – ведь он сам признается, что многое из случившегося в тот год он додумал постфактум. И тут уж фиг разберешь, что произошло на само
Jan 25, 2012 rated it it was ok
..più mezza stella per l'abilità dello scrittore di trascinare il lettore nella mente annebbiata di uno schizofrenico, di spingerlo nel labirinto confuso della sua vita, dove l’unica speranza, trasmessa dal protagonista al lettore, sembra essere quella di ritrovare un qualsiasi filo conduttore che possa portarlo alla verità.

Ma la realta’ non è mai quella che appare, perchè si confonde tra le sue allucinazioni visive e sonore e le sue presunte azioni; e più ci si addentra nella mente di Spider, t
Apr 15, 2014 Callie rated it liked it
I read this book nearly ten years ago and so I can't remember it well enough to give it a proper review. What I can remember is that it is CRAZY SCARY. Literally. The protagonist is a lunatic. This book is so powerful, it sinks into your skin and you'll never be able to rid yourself of it. Beware! I read it because I was stuck on an island with hardly any books, so I had to take what I could get, otherwise I probably would have been too afraid to stick with it.
Jul 14, 2008 Jail rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
This story is told from the mind of a 30-somthign man, Dennis Clegg, recently returned to London, where he has not been for 20 years. Living in a halfway house, he spends his time alone on walks as well as recounting his childhood which led to him being taken away from London.

This story is beautifully written. You find out very quickly that Dennis is not all there but you cannot bring yourself to hate this character. The narrator brings you into his web of illusion and you come out feeling just
Dec 07, 2014 Kimbofo rated it it was amazing
I read Patrick McGrath’s Spider— first published in 1990 — back-to-back with Nathan Filer’s Shock of the Fall. Both books are about mental illness, but McGrath’s is written in a more eloquent, old-fashioned, literary style, and left a far deeper impression on me. I don’t say this lightly, but it’s perhaps the best book I’ve read all year.

The Spider of the title is Dennis Cleg, a troubled man who has returned to London from Canada, where he has been living for the past 20 years. He now resides in
Dec 25, 2013 Clint rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2013
!!!!!!GREAT GODDAMIGHTY THIS KICKED ASS!!!!!! This is the fifth book I've read by Patrick McGrath, and the dude has yet to let me down. Spider is another of his unreliable-narrator, Edgar Alan Poe-ish, modern gothic masterpieces, with just the barest fringe of black-as-Satan's-turds humor to keep everything in perspective. This guy is an absolute master at what he does, and he even uses exclamation marks on almost every page, and they all work.

Spider, like Dr Haggard's Disease, is told from the
Joy Jagiello
Aug 12, 2016 Joy Jagiello rated it liked it
I read this book because it was on one of "10 Most Disturbing Books Ever Written" lists. It was a fairly decent read, although I definitely didn't find it that disturbing; but, then again, i've read some pretty nasty books so i suppose i'm jaded.

A man's descent into madness is how i would in a single sentence describe this book. And the words are beautifully woven in order to create the descent.
Nov 27, 2014 Kat rated it really liked it
Very hard to describe this book,a journey of madness where you are never quite sure of what is reality or what is the schizophrenic ramblings of spider but I loved it it was my kind of book,very dark not always easy and at times made uncomfortable reading living in the mind of the deterioration of spider,I don't think it's for everyone but definitely for me a 4 star read.
Jan 30, 2016 Will rated it really liked it
Shelves: books-2011
Spider Patrick McGrath 0-679-73630-1
134: "events ... were contained not within ... this head of mine but in the pencil itself ... When this happens I have the curious sensation not of writing but of being written, and it has come to arouse in me stirrings of terror, faint at first but growing stronger day by day."

156: **"To be awake is to be available to torment, and this is the full complete meaning of life."
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Patrick McGrath was born on 7th February, 1950 in London and grew up near Broadmoor Hospital where his father was Medical Superintendent. He was educated at Stonyhurst College. He is a British novelist whose work has been categorized as gothic fiction. He is married to actress Maria Aitken and lives in New York City.
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“All was strange in a fog, buildings grew vague, human beings groped and became lost, the landmarks, the compass points, by which they navigated melted into nothingness and the world was transfigured into a country of the blind. But if the sighted became blind, then the blind - and for some odd reason I have always regarded myself as one of the blind - the blind became sighted, and I remember felling at home in the fog, happily at ease in the murk and gloom that so confused my neighbors.” 8 likes
“Люблю сырость таких дней, сырость, сумрак и густые серые тучи, потому что лишь в такую погоду чувствую себя в ладу с миром.” 3 likes
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