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The Optimists

3.04  ·  Rating Details ·  263 Ratings  ·  31 Reviews
Clem Glass was a successful photojournalist, firm in the belief that photographs could capture truth and beauty. Until he went to Africa and witnessed the aftermath of a genocidal massacre.
Clem returns to London with his faith in human nature shattered and his life derailed. Nothing-work, love, sex-can rouse his interest and no other outlook can restore his faith. The one
Paperback, 324 pages
Published April 10th 2006 by Mariner Books (first published 2005)
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(showing 1-30 of 509)
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Karen Wolff
Feb 13, 2016 Karen Wolff rated it liked it
The optimists is written from the perspective of a photographer. He has witnessed a genocide, returns to the UK embittered and cannot feel anymore. During his mission to make sure the man who caused this is dealt with it poses a really interesting moral question. Was the recent genocide any worse than what happened during colonialsim? He is outraged at the atrocities carried out by this dictator/general. A woman he meets asks the question we have to ask ourselves...was it any different really th ...more
Jul 08, 2007 Lois rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: anyone
Shelves: lobagsbooks
This is a brilliant book. I love all of Millers books, he is brilliant. It is your basic, is there any humanity left in the world kind of story. It is shocking in some places, quite graphic, but has some good London scenes which makes the visuals very easy to imagine.
Jan 24, 2015 Sandy rated it liked it
I have not read Miller's previous books, nor ever heard of him until this reading. However I am very glad I impulsively picked 'The Optomists' up from a library shelf. Miller is a gifted writer. His story is well told, his characters engaging and some of his descriptions are just extra-ordinary. Descriptions I have found in this book have a perceptivity which transcends the mediocrity of the over usage of the word 'extraordinary'.

Case in Point: Pg 150 - 'He had realized last night that the drawi
Mar 18, 2011 Chinook rated it liked it
I wouldn't say I loved the Optimists by Andrew Miller, but I found it interesting. It's an oddly visual novel, as the protagonist is a photographer and his sister writes about painters - many of the names I looked up. The photographer was in Rwanda during the genocide and the novel is a story about how he tries to process his experience.

There are quite a few references to Greek mythology as well, which I must admit to liking in a novel. When she leaves the mental hospital, Clare refers to three
Feb 28, 2012 Daniel rated it really liked it
Andrew Miller is a precise writer. It would be easy for many readers to find in his words nothing but a trove of meticulous boredom, something that is obviously crafted with care but is also not all that interesting. Miller works with the oft-foggy contours of human nature, more so than he does with the sharp details of inciting action or significant events. His works are treatises on what makes us the way we are, and how (if at all) we are to change. It's no easy task to write about such things ...more
The leads in the three of Andrew Miller’s novels that I’ve read are plagued with emotional removal. “An Ingenious Pain” focuses on, literally, an unfeeling doctor. His second novel, “Casanova in Love,” is remote and cruel in its treatment of women. “The Optimists,” which I read after its release in 2005 and again now, deals with a man, a photographer who has abandoned his craft – named, with heavy authorial nod, Clem Glass – and who is removed, because of trauma, from his entire world.

Miller’s g
Dec 26, 2013 Chantelle rated it liked it
Shelves: 2013-reads
This was my first read from Andrew Miller and from the reviews on the back, I was in for a treat. In the end my rating is more 2.5 and although I don't necessarily regret reading this, but I found the book tedious in parts.

Andrew Miller is at times beautifully poetic but his ultra descriptive style felt overkill when documenting the characters' movements.

Example of the good:
"The grounds, merely impressive when they first arrived, had taken on a brief late-afternoon splendour. The fountains playe
Dasha Da
Jun 15, 2014 Dasha Da rated it really liked it
Typical Andrew Miller - he catches those human passions brilliantly and you feel completely engulfed by them, even when you are not sure which passions exactly these are... Tortured people, vague endings, some British countryside & cottage life scenes thrown in. I definitely recommend it for a gloomy day in a London cafe or on the top floor of Waterstone's on Piccadilly.
Mar 10, 2012 Allison rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
I almost gave up after the first couple of chapters, probably chiefly because I was comparing it to Ingenious Pain, which is in my top ten of all time. It was a case of 'yes, yes, he's a photographer, he's witnessed atrocities, he's come home all scarred and disenchanted, wanders around, has an unsatisfying visit with a prostitute (duh) - anything else?' And yet, in telling the story of a man who thinks that to go on living is impossible and then proves himself wrong by, in fact, going on living ...more
Samantha Brockfield
Jul 23, 2008 Samantha Brockfield rated it really liked it
This was a great summer read. Miller really puts you straight into the man's skin and gets you thinking about the cyclical nature of morality. Here's an excerpt that really got me:
"You're what I call a sins-of-the-world type. Obsessed with thoughts of moral chaos. Everyone guilty because everyone's the same. All of us with the mark of Cain on our brows. Confessing gives you some relief...I see things here, you see. Real rapists, real murderers. People who do appalling things to other people. An
Betsy Irwin
Aug 23, 2007 Betsy Irwin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
okay, it's not really a 4, but it's better than other books that i've rated 3, only made me cringe a couple of times, and toward the end i did get the vibe that the guy just wanted it to end...there were some real grasping at straws moments and, well, that's all i'll say, wouldn't want to give anything away...
the protagonist is a war photographer trying to come to terms with the things that he's seen...oddly coordinated with the terri gross interview yesterday of pulitzer prize winn
Alex Handyside
Good, but not as good as The Crossing. It showed promise, but then meandered for long periods as Clem and his sister each tackled their separate demons. Surprisingly, she recovered. Surprisingly, he didn't.
Maggie White
Nov 27, 2015 Maggie White rated it it was ok
For a book called the optimists I found this quite pessimistic. Didn't really go anywhere and main characters were annoying. Sorry
Tina Maison
Jul 06, 2014 Tina Maison rated it did not like it
Misery and more misery.
Aug 15, 2007 Katrina rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: everyone
Loved this!!!! It started off slow but I really got into it. It's about a photojournalist who witnessed a brutal massacre that took place in a church in Africa. He is changed forever by this experience and the only thing that can begin to take his mind off of it is taking care of his mentally ill sister who has recently had a relapse--until he finds out the whereabouts of the person who was responsible for the massacre.....Don't want to give away the whole story--it is definitely interesting.
Andrea Howarth-Salazar
The character of Clem is easy to identify with as he struggles with his past, present and future. The optimism hinted at in the title takes some time to manifest, but although the story can be depressing at times, it is uplifting at the end in Clem's acknowledgement that "he was not a criminal. He was not a saint. He could not take refuge any more in the purity of extreme positions." This epiphany makes sense of Clem's suffering in the rest of the story and offers hope to the reader.
Jenny Ackland
Aug 16, 2015 Jenny Ackland rated it it was ok
I can't remember anything about this book other than I read it and it was OK. Not a great recommendation, I suppose. It was only a few years ago as well. Hmmm.
May 19, 2013 Rachel rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Deals with weighty subjects: guilt, getting back to a "normal" life after major disruption, the personal vs. the political, genocide, etc. The various themes don't necessarily hang together all that well, and the tone of the book is more like a very long short story than a fully-engaging novel. I like Miller's writing, and, while I didn't exactly enjoy the book, I didn't mind reading it. I don't think I'd wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone as a "must-read."
Oct 19, 2010 Heather rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2010
I'm not sure that "The Optimists" is a very fitting title for this book, since most of the main characters seemed to be very sad, pessimistic type people. I enjoyed the part where the narrator took care of his sister, but it was unfortunately book-ended by something very dark, where I didn't understand his motives and wished he would have let me in on what he was thinking.
Beautiful writing as usual, but I didn't feel that this came together quite as well as (his other book) Oxygen. I struggled a bit more to connect with the characters (which surprised me, as I had more in common with them than the characters in Oxygen), and their development arc didn't seem as natural. I still enjoyed this book, but perhaps not his finest work.
Dzemo Sh
Jun 07, 2014 Dzemo Sh rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: books-i-own
Well...I think this is the longest that has taken me to read a book. I guess that just shows how unspecial this book was. The entire plot felt messy, the dialogue felt messy, and the characters felt messy. None of it drew me, but only some good things save it from me giving it 1 star. I don't know what else to say about it. Meh.
Feb 22, 2009 Mary rated it liked it
I thought this would be a beautiful, spare, sad-but-uplifting book about a man who returns from photographing horros in a Rwanda-like setting, and slowly heals himself by helping his sister, who is climbing out of an extreme depression. It was well done, but I never managed to truly connect with characters, so it was not very moving.
Sue Kozlowski
Aug 16, 2013 Sue Kozlowski rated it did not like it
I didn't like or understand this story. Clem, a photographer from London, witnesses a massacre in Africa. He returns and takes care of his mentally ill sister. He tries to find the murderer.
Mar 31, 2008 Beth rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Aug 09, 2011 Cael added it
How do we cope when we experience something that should not happen, when compassion, reason, fealty, and responsibility should be more than words?
Jun 26, 2008 Peter rated it liked it
This one took a while to get going, but ended up being all right. Story line was very different, but interesting.
Aug 25, 2008 Lisa rated it really liked it
A gentle exploration of post-traumatic stress and depression. A thoughtful and senstive read.
Brenda Webster
One of the most interesting attempts to a balanced view of the good and evil people are capable of.
Aug 28, 2008 Saija rated it really liked it
Good and essential book.
Charactors and their actions were accurate.
Jul 20, 2012 Adri rated it really liked it

Very well-written book, with beautiful prose.
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Andrew Miller was born in Bristol in 1960. He has lived in Spain, Japan, Ireland and France, and currently lives in Somerset. His first novel, INGENIOUS PAIN, was published by Sceptre in 1997 and won the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for Fiction, the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award and the Grinzane Cavour prize in Italy. His second novel, CASANOVA, was published in 1998, followed by OX ...more
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