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The Ingenious Edgar Jones

2.75 of 5 stars 2.75  ·  rating details  ·  257 ratings  ·  59 reviews
Set in nineteenth-century Oxford, and shot through with a powerful sense of magic, Elizabeth Garner's new novel will appeal both to fans of historical fiction and to the huge Susanna Clarke/Philip Pullman fanbase.

In nineteenth-century Oxford, an extraordinary child is born - Edgar Jones, a porter's son with a magical talent. Though his father cannot see beyond his academic
Paperback, 352 pages
Published May 29th 2008 by Headline Review (first published 2007)
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A strange mix of Gormenghast and Dorothy Sayers. The writing was first rate, but the story was unfocused. What was Garner trying to say? So many fascinating details, so many unfulfilled promises, so few (if any) characters one cared about (Edgar himself was, well, without real purpose)...and yet I give it four stars because if this writer ever settles on a strong story with characters I can care about, she will be someone to read.
The book has a slow start, but is a quick read. The author's descriptions are wonderful, and she does a marvelous job of showing multiple sides of the same story. It's not until the end of the book, when the pieces start to fall - seamlessly, beautifully - together that the reader realizes they've made the same error as the characters, seeing only what they want to see.

One of my favorite passages is in the beginning. The female lead has agreed to start working from home as a seamstress: "So it w
What? This one was odd but very well written and interesting. The ending kind of took me by surprise, but then I couldn't figure out what could possibly happen to the family. Edgar is a strange boy but he grows on you with his cleverness. I find it intriguing that this Edgar and Edgar Sawtelle both do not speak in the beginning. (The Story of Edgar Sawtelle-which I haven't completed yet)Is this a sign of their curious personalities?

"...the books stacked up inside the walls were a trap; knowledge
Michelle Moore
It’s actually quite hard to capture this book within a ‘blurb’, as it has a style all of it’s own. It’s set in a world where The University is everything.. a world of learning that is in control of Oxford, and is looked up to by all. In awe of all the University stands for is Edgar’s father, and to him, a successful, loveable son is one with academic ability, which Edgar lacks.

One thing that Edgar does have is a fierce determination, and without the appropriate guidance from his parents, this of
Junkie for the Written Word
I checked this out from the library and then I looked at the reviews on here so maybe I went into reading it expecting it to be bad... and was then surprised that it wasn't.

Granted the last couple of chapters took an acid trip but on a whole the book was very well written, interesting, and the characters were, for the most part, real and emotionally investable (I don't think that's a word).

It's not going on my favorites list but I think it was a pretty good read.
Received this book as a gift and finally had some long car rides to read it. It was odd to say the least. Victorian era Oxford is not my favorite time period. This book was especially peculiar because almost the entire book was realistic and somewhat normal and then at the end turned crazy fantasy with people turning to stone gargoyles? It was wacko, but still mildly interesting. Not sure I would recommend it to anyone though; maybe people entranced with Oxford and it's professors, or Victorian ...more
Harsha Priolkar
I just didn't get it I suppose. I bought this because the blurb seemed interesting - Oxford in the 19th century and terms like 'curious baby' and 'no ordinary boy' and 'born inventor' held promise of an exciting adventure story. I must admit to being hugely disappointed :( It never feels good to me to dislike a book, hence the two stars, but this one was just tedious. I finished it only coz it's what I do when I read.

The story starts off promisingly with a baby born during a meteor shower, but t
Charles Dickens would be proud---up to a point. This novel of class distinction and the difficulty of overcoming poverty, even with the best of intentions and hard work is classic Dickens, where oftentimes luck and fortune is of more import than effort. The setting is mid-nineteenth century Oxford and Edgar is the newborn son of a guardian porter at one of Oxford University’s thirty nine colleges and I must say here that I learned more about Victorian Oxford University tradition than I expected. ...more
In the Victorian Age, in a locale as esteemed as Oxford with its legendary intellectual pursuits, it is no wonder that the emerging evidence of a creation story not exactly in tune with a literal translation of the Genesis account would bring debate and conflict. This is the backdrop of the story of an unusual child, gifted beyong imagination with creativity and insight.

Loving all things British and especially having visited Oxford made this story even more enjoyable. In the midst of the debate
I really enjoyed this book--until the end. I liked the voice and the clashes of pre- and post-education/industrialization and of science and religion, and the illustration of the way people began to question the established order. It also had a kind-of "Tom Jones" quality, with a boy (much younger) setting out to find himself and make his way in the world. It had a sort of 19th century tone, which I did like.

I kept thinking as I read that I was hoping the book didn't fall apart at the end, but,
Katharine Ott
"The Ingenious Edgar Jones" - written by Elizabeth Garner and published in 2009 by Crown. This was a somewhat dark tale swirling around the streets of London in the mid 1800s. Strangely enough, a large metal roof is one of the key characters, along with a young boy with the talents of an inventor. A quirky story!
This isn't bad book, despite the two stars I have given it. But it is a 'worthy' book that misses because it is neither emotionally engaging nor a page-turner. The inward-looking character development is set against descriptions of a 19th-century Oxford university town that almost belongs in a work in the fantasy genre. But the expectation of the action of fantasy novel are not met.

Instead what unravels is a story about thwarted personalities and expectations, in the context of a brutal class-ri
Gemma Lowe
I really enjoyed this book, it was quite a sad story about a family who, beneath the surface, didn't really know each other at all. The unique character of Edgar Jones is well portrayed throughout as simply a misunderstood child with big ideas and I liked the story following his ups and downs through his eyes and then his fathers. You get a real sense of injustice and by the end of the book it is both sad and inspiring.

Elizabeth Garner is a talented author and I will enjoy reading more of her w
Honestly, I found the notes at the end of this book more interesting than the actual story. I did not care for the characters, even the main character - a young "ingenious" boy. The book takes place during an important time in history, when science is making its break from religion. The book seemed to be more about nature v. nurture than it was about God v. science. Either way, Edgar's dealings with Oxford destroy his family and teach him a great deal about invention, and yet very little about l ...more
Ronda M
This was an odd book. Edgar had a very unique type of intelligence, and was not understood by his parents or the world in general. He made his way into a series of apprenticeships at a very young age, to escape his father's idea of homeschooling and to use his unique talents. He wasn't old enough or aware enough to understand the motives of the people who used him, though.

Edgar's parents were characterized too extremely. The challenge of dealing with a child that you don't understand is an inter
Ann Murphy
An interesting book about a strange boy born to disfuntional parents - one a college night porter and one an ex barmaid who loves dressmaking. Their son is very peculiar - probably aspegers syndrome but this is set in a pre-indutrial Oxford where such conditions are completely misunderstood. Edgar is obsessed with technology, iron and flying. He is unable to learn to read but turns out to be amazing with his hands. He gets involved with a Professor in the colleges and starts creating strange mac ...more
Although this book was well written, I just couldn't get into it. I didn't really enjoy the edge of fantasy that others will appreciate. It didn't really go anywhere interesting for me.
Kirsty Connell-Skinner
Not great. Glaring error where the main female character's name changes from Eleanor to Emily for a few pages, and a bizarre magical ending that doesn't accord with the rest of the story.
While the author clearly has a talent for writing, the story was really quite poor. I continued to read this book rather reluctantly, willing it to get better and pick up on some of the more interesting elements of the story. For instance, what made William and Edgar special/different. The book does touch on this at the end briefly but it is almost a sense of "too little, too late", which is a real shame. In my opinion, there was far too much information about Edgar's apprentice roles which detr ...more
The problem with this story was pushed storyline and the sci-fi type ending (this would not be a problem except for the fact that the story had no other sci-fi pull EXCEPT at the end). I do have to say that the characters and their development were great. In fact, the characters and their personal stories would make great book group discussions. I would have liked to have had some resolve at the end, in any direction. The book just kind of stopped and didn't really give room for ponderment.
What did I think?...I think I missed something. This book morphed into something I didn't expect. The characters are tragic, each in their own fashion. And the tragedy spreads with each turn of the page. Edgar Jones is especially in need of some life direction, but is unable to find it in the world around him...he has to become the master of his own universe in order to survive. But near the end you will say to yourself "I didn't see THAT coming". And that is not a spoiler.
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This was a hover between three and four stars. Lovely style, interesting characters, well-built tension and I did very much enjoy it but left me with the vague feeling that nothing really happened.

Should probably excuse it a little because due to job meaning I had to skim-read hundreds of articles in a very short space of time, found it difficult not to take the same approach to my reading-for-pleasure too.
The blurbs on the cover promised a riveting and disturbing book that would also be fascinating and hard to put to down. Instead, I found a rather plodding book that was the story of a dysfunctional and dull family whos' tale was doomed to end in a net of tragedy that was easily seen by the midpoint of the book.

Best read when sitting in the middle of a snowstorm and drinking.
Paula Hebert
kind of an odd story of the awakening of a young boy in the midst of the industrial revolution in england, being buffeted between invention and convention. I only wish the book were fuller. I find so many books are so lightweight these days. is it because it makes them smaller, and thus less intimidating to the reading public today? more meat to the story, I cry!!
Liza Gilbert
This was a lovely book. However, it was a little too domestic for my tastes. The titular Edgar spends the first 50 pages as either an infant or a toddler. Therefore, the "action" is all very familial and theoretical. Garner's depiction of Oxford is gorgeous without being overdone, and I think in hands other than mine, this might be considered a very good book.
I liked this book at the beginning as I enjoyed Garner's style and the descriptions of Oxford were interesting and the way of family life. Edgar's struggle for approval from his father and then his determination to make a name for himself eventually became tedious. I enjoyed it less and less as I continued to read and the end was very disappointing.
It was not what I was expecting. I enjoyes certain aspects of the novel, but found parts of the plot a bit far-fetched. I generally don't like books without chapters because they're less manageable. There was a certain magical feel to the book that I really enjoyed, but it wasn't really followed through in my opinion
Very disappointing book; neither the style nor the subject worked for me; I expected a book on par with Hannah Tinti's superb debut novel or with Tom Pollard excellent Lazarus Club and this one is far, far away. The prose was ok enough to rate two stars, rather than one star but a huge disappointment
This was a Christmas present because they knew I love books which are set in an academic setting, especially Oxford. Although the characters were unique, I was dissapointed by the ending. It was surreal . . . as if the author couldn't figurre out how to close the story.
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“See how slippery the world is, Edgar,' he whispered. 'See how most folks spin their way across it without thought or direction. But find a straight line through it and there's nothing you can't achieve.” 1 likes
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