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Edinburgh

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4.22  ·  Rating Details  ·  618 Ratings  ·  98 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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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 2,643)
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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
Vestal McIntyre
A wrenchingly beautiful and unbearably sad look at abuse and its aftermath. I read this years ago, but it still haunts me.
Myfanwy
May 21, 2008 Myfanwy rated it it was amazing
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
Timothy Hallinan
Jan 09, 2014 Timothy Hallinan rated it it was amazing
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
Chris
Most people have rated this book very highly so it must have been a serious emotional experience for them. It vies with Hanya Yanagihara's recent A Little Life as the weepiest, most depressing literary fiction so far this century. If you like reading about the suicides of gay boys and men, of adults sexually abusing choir boys, of children killing their parents, of gay men drifting aimlessly through life, damaged by their childhoods, seemingly connected to their friends but actually suffering in ...more
Jenny
Nov 14, 2007 Jenny rated it it was amazing
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
Christine
Mar 23, 2008 Christine rated it really liked it
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
James
Jul 02, 2007 James rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
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.
Ben Loory
Jan 07, 2011 Ben Loory rated it it was amazing
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...
Kathy Andersen
Jul 03, 2012 Kathy Andersen rated it it was amazing
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
Jessica
Aug 11, 2010 Jessica rated it really liked it
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 it was amazing
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...
Lesli Dixon
Jan 13, 2015 Lesli Dixon rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favourites
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.
Laura
Apr 30, 2012 Laura rated it really liked it
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.
DoctorM
Jan 06, 2014 DoctorM rated it really liked it
Shelves: lavender-hip
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.
Anasylvia
What a hauntingly beautiful story.
Michelle Hoover
Jul 05, 2010 Michelle Hoover rated it it was amazing
Gorgeous, heartbreaking, and smart. The first lines alone will draw you in and it only gets better.
Joe
Feb 27, 2015 Joe rated it really liked it
I have mixed feelings about this book. Ultimately the four stars are for its being both tight and loose - cohesive and consistent narratively, but dreamy in style and cadence - and a haunting read. Also, as a first novel, it's damn fine. Masterly, even. But the heavily lyrical quality puts it always at grave risk of silliness as much as poetry; to Chee's credit, the silly to poetic ratio is perhaps 1:20... he has way more imagery hits than misses, though of the latter there are some. Also, sex i ...more
Jane
Jul 13, 2007 Jane rated it it was amazing
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
Karl
Aug 03, 2008 Karl rated it it was amazing
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
Stephen
Sep 06, 2007 Stephen rated it it was amazing
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
Andy Bird
May 09, 2015 Andy Bird rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2015
An incredible, sad, book. A rare 5 stars for me. Tragic, gay, full of abuse and complex relationships. Looking forward to his 2nd book out soon.
Jeff
Apr 23, 2015 Jeff rated it it was amazing
After receiving this as a book suggestion from a trusted literary source, I'll admit to being disappointed only at first. The book gains a momentum that seems exponential, lapping on itself with poetic (oftentimes histrionically sentimental) language that deeply resonates with the reader. A mixture of Korean mythology and social criticism concerning the problems of homosexual identity in a heteronormative culture propels the novel to its tidy ending, something of an exhale, something of a sigh.

I
...more
Danielle
Oct 20, 2014 Danielle rated it really liked it
Edinburgh, by Alexander Chee is just over 200 pages, but it took me a long time to read. It is dense: the writing is challenging, and each sentence is packed full. Reading a few pages is like eating a very good, very rich piece of chocolate. After each piece, I was satisfied, pleased, but I needed a break before the next piece.

Despite its short length, the novel spans roughly twenty years in the life of one Aphias Zhe. It begins as he is a twelve year old boy in a professional choir, and ends ar
...more
Lisa Eckstein
Nov 04, 2015 Lisa Eckstein rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2015
EDINBURGH is a beautiful and difficult novel. It tells the story of Fee, who joins a boys' choir at 12 years old, becomes best friends with another singer, and falls deeply in love with him. The purity of this unrequited first love is quickly shattered when Fee, his friend, and the other young boys in the choir are molested by the man who directs the group. This sexual abuse continues for months, and after it's stopped, Fee and his friends can't escape the effects of the trauma. As Fee grows old ...more
Victoria Olsen
Jun 23, 2010 Victoria Olsen rated it really liked it
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.
Jacob Staub
Jul 20, 2009 Jacob Staub rated it it was amazing
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.
Christopher
Dec 09, 2007 Christopher rated it it was amazing
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.
Tricia
Dec 29, 2010 Tricia rated it it was amazing
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.
Mira
Aug 20, 2008 Mira rated it it was amazing
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.
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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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“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” 3 likes
“Everything is already moving so very fast, but you need a great deal more speed than this to escape the earth's gravitational pull. Seven miles per second. More fuel, please.” 1 likes
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