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4.24 of 5 stars 4.24  ·  rating details  ·  459 ratings  ·  66 reviews
Twelve-year-old Fee is a gifted Korean-American soprano in a boys' choir in Maine whose choir director reveals himself to be a serial pedophile. Fee and his friends are forced to bear grief, shame, and pain that endure long after the director is imprisoned. Fee survives even as his friends do not, but a deep-seated horror and dread accompany him through his self-destructiv...more
Paperback, 224 pages
Published November 9th 2002 by Picador (first published 2001)
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Vestal McIntyre
A wrenchingly beautiful and unbearably sad look at abuse and its aftermath. I read this years ago, but it still haunts me.
Alexander Chee's Edinburgh is necessary, is timely, and is downright gorgeous despite it's sometimes ugly subject matter.

This is the story of Fee--how his life ended up the way it did, on a beach, deciding to live instead of die.

It is also "a fox story. Of how a fox can be a boy. And so it is also the story of a fire." The significance of the fox comes from Fee's heritage--the myths of the shape-shifting fox demon and how that demon returns and speaks through those possessed. Most importantly,...more
Paul Jr.
What is so remarkable about Alexander Chee’s debut novel Edinburgh is that he does what is so very difficult to do: he takes what is ugly and despicable and creates a compelling, utterly truthful and, yes, an even beautiful story of it. By interweaving his prose with Korean folklore, Chee imbues the novel with an almost dreamlike state, one where the dream is equal parts part nightmare and a rose-tinted remembrance of a childhood gone too quickly.

Aphias Zee (nicknamed Fee) is a 12-year-old sing...more
Timothy Hallinan
This is a heartbreaking and beautiful first novel by (I think) a major new American writer.

The first section, set in New England, details the methodical molestation of Fee, a 12-year-old half-Korean boy by his choir director, who is victimizing several boys simultaneously. Fee's reaction to the experience is complex in the extreme: he hates the choir director, he feels soiled and violated, but he also knows he's different from the other boys, because he's gay. He's hopelessly in love with anoth...more
An entire book written in present tense? This couldn’t possibly be, is what I told myself as I began reading Edinburgh. Will the book and the writer pull off hundreds of pages written in present tense?

I mean, I have read so many novel drafts written in present tense--painful, slow moving, non revelatory drafts stuck in present tense, without the enlightenment of the future...that I have developed a prejudice AGAINST present tense. So this novel had a hill to climb with me.

But yes! One of the gr...more
Nov 14, 2007 Jenny rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: everyone
This book is completely fantastic. Everyone should read it immediately. It's about something depressing and over the top: this half Korean half Scottish 12 year old joins an all boys choir and the choir director sexually abuses all of the boys in the choir horribly and endlessly. The book's about how he deals with the evil psychological aftermath. But this is an atypical survival narrative. There's no easy liberation from suffering, which I think is completely realistic and honest. The book is g...more
I read this book in fits and starts over the course of several months and really don't think I can give it a proper review without reading it more steadily in shorter a time. That said, I will say that I found this to be a beautifully written book -- a rare combination of lyricism, plot, and character development. Or, rare in my reading history, at least. I'd been following Chee's blog for a long time before reading this book, and I'm glad I finally did. I look forward to reading his second nove...more
Lance Reynald
Aug 04, 2007 Lance Reynald rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: everyone
a book by a person I admire and respect above all others.
beautiful, brave and fearless storytelling.
a book that I adamantly demand is in the collections of all my friends.

a vividly rendered and heartbreaking tale that is a certain must read, you'll thank me for the recommendation...it will change the way you read books...you'll come to expect a bit more after this.

reading again, loving the flow and everything that this book evokes...
Ben Loory
really just masterfully written; some of the smoothest prose i've ever read. a couple interesting structural choices that he totally pulls off, too. plus a cover that's made out of some kind of texturally addictive material i can't stop touching! best of all possible worlds...
Poetic and deeply, deeply sad...not sure I have it in me to write about this one. I'll just say this: the past has the ability to haunt, and always seems to catch up to the people who most want to escape it.
Lyrical, heartbreaking, deeply sad, and nonetheless deeply committed to a belief in the power of love and the ability to find kinship of soul and body. Very lovely read.
Michelle Hoover
Gorgeous, heartbreaking, and smart. The first lines alone will draw you in and it only gets better.
To say only that this is a coming of age story, which it surely is, does not say enough. It's about assembling an experience from memory while trying to cope with memories; developing a consciousness; figuring out sex and love; making art; and growing up, twice. It's about becoming, and what happens when a childhood trauma gets a grip on a young man and alters the process. It's about the power and imaginative hold of a secret.

Edinburgh is a wonderful novel, with two enthralling narrators. There'...more
Aug 03, 2008 Karl rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: My friends
Recommended to Karl by: Found here on Good Reads
At first, this book appeared to be about the impact of child abuse on it's main character. It's a difficult topic for me. However, it wasn't so much about abuse as it was about growing up. Its a beautiful read with allegory and metaphor.

Born of Korean and Irish parents, the main character beautifully threads Korean family folklore through the storyline. Music plays an important role in the storyline, as does water.

Its hard to describe this book other than to say that the difficult aspects of t...more
Kathy Andersen
Wonderful book, read this one.
Cringe through the first part, and then set the book down, take a breath, and start the rest. Multiple angles and themes wind together, and moments of confusion or frustration will be worth the meaning they contribute at the end.
Be on your toes, the novel moves fast in an understated way, and you don't want to miss the details. The word imagery is stunning, with descriptive passages such as a choir's music being sound like muscle hugging bone, like the light bending...more
Sep 06, 2007 Stephen rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: everyone
Few novelists move me to read subject matter that I find disturbing. Vladimir Nabokov is one example, which is of course, great praise for Mr. Chee, who has produced one of the most beautifully poetic novels. In it, a biracial Korean American boy, Aphias Zhe, nicknamed Fee, must endure the devastating after-effects that occur after his choir direct begins to molest him and a number of the other boys. This story is one about endurance, rather than survival, communities that disintegrate and other...more
Lesli Dixon
I still have yet to read another book that has such a mastery over language than this one.

Beyond the blatant cruel realities there is just so much here to savour. Chee's ability to take incredibly painful and difficult subject matters that which should ultimately repel and perplex readers and to instead attract them with minimally elegant and poetic writing is staggeringly beautiful.
Victoria Olsen
A very skillful book that stays with you. I passed it along to a friend with the comment that I'll have to re-read it to "get" it. How do the metaphors (fox, bird, fire) relate to the themes (silence, trauma, love)? The lyrical writing pulls you along, and the character is complex and intriguing, but I couldn't always see the structure underneath it. Maybe that's the point.
The beauty of this story is that it is both hard to believe but believable. At some point (you don't think I'm going to tell you when, do you?) something clicked and the book took me over. I didn't find points of connection so much as they found me. Creepy, but beautiful, and somehow revelatory.
Jacob Staub
This is a very powerful novel. Exquisitely written. Powerful and frank in its intricate excavation of child sexual abuse and its ramifications. Chee's discussion of gay adolescent love and sex is beautiful. Unforgettable characters and images.
One of the books I've reacted to the most emotionally-writing that changed the way I thought about prose style and how you could write about queer emotion. I got a writers crush on this book after finishing it. A huge influence on my own writing.
This book is a near perfect symphony of modern literature. Combining elements of love, sexuality, sexual trauma, magical realism, teenage angst, and Dickensian coincidence, Chee creates a work of art that astounds.
Exquisitely written, heartbreaking novel about a young choirboy who was molested by his choir master and how the childhood abuse shaped the rest of his life. The story will resonate in you long after you've finished.
What a beautiful, mournful and penetrating story.
I loved the language. I loved the pace. And I loved the struggles, demons and resolutions these characters move through.

Whenever I read Alex Chee (or hear him read) I feel like I'm walking underwater...in a dream. And that is meant as a huge compliment.
This is such a well written book about a boy discovering himself. Beautiful and sad and inspiring coming of age story.
Clara Kwun
The writing is beautiful- spare and evocative.
I've always wanted to go there... and will.
A fantastic book!
There are books that you read and set aside, never to think of again. There are books that make you think and puzzle. Then there are books like Edinburgh that mess you up for weeks. I enjoy reading dark novels, novels without happiness, books about healing and struggling. This is the darkest book I have ever read because it doesn't let us say 'everything will be okay now.'

Fee is molested as an adolescent. The man is found out an put in prison. For many writers this is the end of the story, but...more
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"Alexander Chee is the best new novelist I've seen in some time. Edinburgh is moody, dramatic - and pure."--Edmund White

“A complex, sophisticated, elegant investigation of trauma and desire - like a white hot flame.”--Joyce Hackett, in The Guardian

“A coming-of-age novel in the grand Romantic tradition, where passions run high, Cupid stalks Psyche, and love shares the dance floor with death . . . A...more
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“The storm is a glazier. Then fog passes through, touches the cold trees to add to the ice already there. Here the wind spins glass from the water it has stolen off the sea and the lakes, off the hair on my head and the breath out of my mouth, the storm takes the water from us all everywhere, to make of a mountain range a stained-glass depiction of a saint no one knows.” 1 likes
“My grandfather knows about hauntings, it occurs to me now. Here was where he knew his sisters, here was what he remembered, every day, in his Imperial school, as the Japanese grammar spread inside him, as he learned the language of the people who took his sisters and destroyed them. All his thoughts come to him in Japanese first, his dreams in Japanese also... I think of how every single thing he says in Korean comes across a pause where the Japanese is stilled and the Korean brought forward. Each part of speech a rescue” 1 likes
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