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Checker and the Derailleurs

3.5  ·  Rating Details ·  263 Ratings  ·  26 Reviews

Beautiful and charismatic, nineteen-year-old Checker Secretti is the most gifted and original drummer that the club-goers of Astoria, Queens, have ever heard. When he plays, conundrums seem to solve themselves, brilliant thoughts spring to mind, and couples fall in love. The members of his band, The Derailleurs, are passionately devoted to their guiding spirit, as are all

Paperback, 336 pages
Published September 1st 1989 by Penguin Books
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33rd out of 73 books — 22 voters
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Community Reviews

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Seth Golbey
For a long time, Checker and the Derailleurs had mostly a cult following. Published in 1989, it went out of print until reissued in 2009. Now that Lionel Shriver's books are going to gain new audiences due to the buzz around the film version of We Need to Talk About Kevin, someone will probably try to make a movie of Checker as well.

I hope not. While it seems eminently filmable and the richly colored and textured images Shriver paints could be magic in the hands of a visual director like Terren
Aug 12, 2010 Adam rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Drummers, Lovers of Drummers, Astoria Park Residents
Shelves: fiction, music
As much as I loved Checker's curious mystique and unyielding fascination for the world in which he lives, I had a hard time caring about his story!

The quippy dialogue was definitely cute as each character was defined primarily through their interactions with others. However, so many main characters made it feel like each was fighting for his or her place in the book's limelight. Perhaps this is just might take on it, or, then again, perhaps Ms. Shriver did and excellent job of portraying 'band l
Leo Robertson
As Shriver herself exclaims: a Shriver with a happy ending!!

It had its great moments but I skimmed the ramble and could only recommend to diehard Shrivers like myself :D
Checker & The Derailleurs. Where to begin on this magnificent hidden gem from Lionel Shriver? To begin with, this coming-of-age story is about so much more than that; far more than any brief synopsis I have read posits. Then again, I would have a difficult time writing a synopsis that is up to par, with the themes, ideas, philosophies, + general insights into the various characters' emotions being difficult to put into words. Even more difficult is to express how this bands' story - the ...more
Lauren Albert
May 20, 2010 Lauren Albert rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
I love this book. The characters are complex, compelling and multifaceted; Shriver's portrayal of their relationships are so vivid and true that you feel like you are standing in their midst; and she manages all this while still finding room for humor. It's about ambition and happiness and friendship and jealousy and so much more. I find myself dumbfounded that I have never heard of it though I've heard of all of her other books.
Oct 04, 2007 Sharon rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Everyone!
Shelves: fiction
I first read this book 16 years ago and it blew my mind. I still read it every year or so because it's still as good every time. The descriptions are lush without being mawkish and the characters are very well drawn. And if you want some subtle 80s culture and music references, you'll love it.
Declan Cochran
Feb 08, 2016 Declan Cochran rated it really liked it
This one is generally typified as Shriver's happiest book; she even concedes so in the afterword of the most recent edition. But don't be fooled; for whilst there are moments of propulsive joy and an outlook that is considerably sunnier than her other novels, this still carries undertones-that-are-basically-overtones of her trademark misanthropy and sense of atomism, particularly in the character of Eaton Striker, who might not be as bespoke evil as Calvin Piper from her "Game Control" (and what ...more
Cathe Olson
Sep 13, 2016 Cathe Olson rated it really liked it
When Checker Secretti plays the drums, his band, the Deraillers, comes alive, and nobody can resist the music. But Checker only plays when the mood strikes him and another ambitious and egotistical drummer tries to worm his way into the group, sowing the seeds of discontent and conflict.

This was an engrossing book with some really unique, memorable characters and good writing. I had only read 'We Need to Talk About Kevin,' but now I want to go check out more of her other works.

Oct 05, 2010 Marisa rated it liked it
Shelves: 2010, kindle
I finished this book a couple days ago and I am still not exactly sure how I feel about it.

(this is also the first book I've read on Kindle, and I love it.)

In a way, I loved it. The story was great, the style is very interesting - there is no omnipresent narration - everything you know about the characters you have learned through their dialogue with each other and through their behaviors, as if you were just watching this unfold and had no insight at all into feelings/thoughts that haven't been
Tina Siegel
Sep 21, 2015 Tina Siegel rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The more Lionel Shriver I read, the more I want to be her.

I'm simultaneously awed by and envious of her stupendous talent. It's not so much her plotting - I enjoy the stories Shriver tells but those, I think, follows from the real magic: her characters.

Shriver has this way, this inimitable touch, that allows her to balance the scales of personality just so. Her characters are familiar and rooted and totally bizarre and it feels like you could meet any one of them walking down the street.

You woul
Tanya Eby
May 29, 2012 Tanya Eby rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is the third book of Shriver's I've read, and again, I recommit to reading everything she's written. The woman is a genius.

This is one of her earliest pieces, I guess; if not her first book. The characters are--like in her other novels--complex and myriad. Some of them are downright unlikeable people, but you still end up liking them.

The loose plot is the story of a rock band in the late 80s in Astoria, New York. But it's probably more a story about loyalty and growing up and finding out
Mar 17, 2012 Rick rated it really liked it
Although I didn't like this as well as her WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN, this book was a worthwhile read. It explores issues like coming of age, art vs. commercialism, what defines success, and how human connection shapes and forms our lives. It's also a wonderful portrait of Astoria, Queens, which is almost another character in the book. Some might say it's also a re imagining of the Christ story and they would have plenty of evidence to back up that claim (it's all here--disciples, sacrifice, ...more
Jul 30, 2015 Kate rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
It's on the surface about a group with a charismatic leader called Checker who seems Christlike...there is even a chapter called the Last Supper. Checker arranges a marriage between a glass blower, Syria and an Iranian illegal immigrant so that the immigrant does not have to leave the USA. Add to this mix a stand in drummer who wants to destroy Checker and his authority and popularity and an immigration officer who wants to be part of the band.
There's a magical element to it, echoes of Hell in t
Ari Gabinet
Jan 07, 2014 Ari Gabinet rated it really liked it
Checker and the Derailleurs is one of my favorite books, one of the few that I reread and have recommended to my kids. It is by no means a perfect novel nor even Shriver's best, but like some of her other works, it is really good at what it does. To me it evoked the magic and mystery of a charismatic character and the pure synchronicity that seems two follow him, and just as perfectly draws the portrait of his jealous antithesis and the discord that follows him. checker is so magical and so much ...more
I’ve read nearly all of Lionel’s books (including the classic We Need to Talk About Kevin), but I had never read my backlist choice: Checker and the Derailleurs. It’s the story of a charismatic, seemingly happy-go-lucky, nineteen-year-old drummer named Checker Secretti, and his band, The Derailleurs, who orbit around him in varying stages of idolization, lust, and disgust. There’s a ton of stuff packed into this novel: a green card marriage, two suicide attempts, glassmaking, parties, arrests, ...more
Aug 22, 2012 Lindsay rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2012

Like most of Shriver's novels, this started out kind of slow, but by the time end, I was so glad I stuck it out. I think I've finally admitted to myself that I'm going to end up reading all her novels, which is a huge turn around, considering my absolute disdain for The Post Birthday World.

The beginning feels a little like being the new kid in a group of people who have known each other for years; it takes a little while to get a hang of everyone and to feel like you understand what is going o
Many years ago I lived with some two dozen artists, musicians, and music lovers; people who were odder than you could imagine. This book has characters like this, those who love the music for its rhythm, its lyrics, its eccentricities and the quirky people that it attracts. Shriver does a remarkable job of capturing the energy, the interaction, the dialogue and the jealously the haunts musicians and their followers.

This novel, as one of Shriver's earlier works, is a little rough and her prose i
May 04, 2012 Bibliophile rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, 2012
It took me a while to get into this novel (and to learn the characters names) but in the end, I really liked it. I'm coming to appreciate just how different each of Lionel Shriver's novels is from the others, and even in her earliest work (Checker and the Derailleurs was her second published novel), she has this great way with words and a wry sarcasm that I love. (I can't help but picture Syria Pyramus as Lionel Shriver though :D)
Alex Yard
Sep 06, 2014 Alex Yard rated it it was ok
Not too bad, but not too outstanding; though it felt very much like a true to form Lionel Shriver novel, it just isn't one of her standouts. It was very well written. I liked how in certain sequences, it doesn't come out and tell you what's occuring, but as you read it you pick up on little clues, start to suspect it, and then it's confirmed. It sort of keeps you in the dark for a bit while you are experiencing it.
Laurie Neighbors
Nov 23, 2011 Laurie Neighbors rated it really liked it
Based on the description of it, I wouldn't have read this book if I hadn't been a fan of Lionel Shriver's other, more well-known novels. And yet, here I am, at the end of it, thinking about reading it again -- which is funny, since I seldom re-read novels. But this book made me feel like I was reading it twenty years ago, that myself of twenty years ago was reading it, but with the depth of understanding I have now about envy -- in myself and in others.
Katherine Williams
Jan 06, 2013 Katherine Williams rated it really liked it
A novel ostensibly about a drummer in a rock band, and the relationships between the musicians. Things are thrown into disarray by the arrival of a second drummer--relationships begin to fray. Shriver's clever writing is apparent as the central story turns out to be about race and nationality in New York.
Federico Sendel
Jun 26, 2012 Federico Sendel rated it liked it
I enjoyed the book, but I had high expectations after reading two other Shriver books (We need to talk about Kevin and The Female of the Species). I still recommend it but the other two I have read so far are better reads.
Anton Segers
Aug 08, 2016 Anton Segers rated it liked it
Een wat moeilijkere start voor deze ouwe - het gaat over jongeren- maar dan groeit 'Checker' tot een ware Shriver: bittergrappig, ongenadig eerlijk, menselijk wijs.
Ayushi rated it liked it
Jul 11, 2012
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Jul 26, 2011
Naomi rated it really liked it
Jan 08, 2015
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Sep 11, 2016
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Sep 14, 2014
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Jun 29, 2016
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Lionel Shriver's novels include the New York Times bestseller The Post-Birthday World and the international bestseller We Need to Talk About Kevin, which won the 2005 Orange Prize and has now sold over a million copies worldwide. Earlier books include Double Fault, A Perfectly Good Family, and Checker and the Derailleurs. Her novels have been translated into twenty-five languages. Her journalism h ...more
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