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Everything You Need

3.86  ·  Rating Details ·  367 Ratings  ·  52 Reviews
From the prodigiously talented A. L. Kennedy comes a flamboyantly stylish and fiercely emotional novel about fathers and daughters, creation and self-destruction, and love’s paradoxical power to heal its most devastated victims. One such victim is Nathan Staples, a writer whose hilarious contempt for humanity is surpassed only by his corrosive self-loathing. Along with fiv ...more
Hardcover, 560 pages
Published July 17th 2001 by Knopf (first published 1999)
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Jan 20, 2017 Tony added it
Shelves: scottish
Just tell her. Tell your daughter she's your daughter. Tell her you're her father. How hard is that? Just tell her.


She was four when your wife told you goodbye and took her. And don't follow, she said, or else. Or else being that allegation. But you didn't do that and it doesn't seem you took the threat seriously. So you didn't follow. Not even just a few years later when your wife abandons your daughter to her gay brother and his lover - the Uncles. Surely then you could have asse
Jun 13, 2010 Jonfaith rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Jesus, this wounded mess is indeed perfect for the heartbroken, the shattered, those that sup on debris and mourn the light. Amazing chunks and weaves of this novel remain intact eleven years later, an amazing feat. Kennedy is both personal and palpable, ultimately relentless, her charatcers you empathize with to the horizons of self-mutilation and abnegation. This novel is laden with resounding slaps and warm, musky hugs.
Carla Stafford
Aug 23, 2015 Carla Stafford rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Everything You Need, by A.L. Kennedy is my personal favorite of the three books I have read by her to date. I have mentioned before that she has a cutting, poignant, unique, and sometimes cryptic voice. Everything You Need is no exception.

The central character of this novel is Nathan Staples. Nathan is a writer of gruesomely titillating crime novels, a lost soul who detests most all of humanity-himself most of all. He resides on a little island with other writers who periodically take "steps" (
Mar 02, 2008 Abailart rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
You take an island, always a good start. With its sedges and history of localised resentments and furies, loves and losses. You make the inhabitants writers. You bring to the community a young and talented woman with a passion and flair for writing. You make her mentor he father who she does not know is her father. You explore the inside of father and daughter, the inside of their exploring each other, and the confusion of relationships around them including the past relationships, and the cell ...more
Ron Charles
Nov 16, 2013 Ron Charles rated it really liked it
How quietly, how quickly A.L. Kennedy has taken a place in the pantheon of contemporary novelists. In America, she remains something of a treasured secret, but in Britain, this 36-year-old Scottish woman has already racked up a half dozen impressive awards. She's even served as a juror for the Booker Prize.

Her latest novel, "Everything You Need," is unlikely to change her position on this side of the Atlantic. It's marvelous and horrendous, full of extraordinary insight and sensitivity, but burd
Jul 30, 2011 Katie rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Do I just not get it because I'm not British/Welsh/Scottish? Sorry.

This was my first exposure to A.L. Kennedy. Of all things, I was swayed to read this by the cover, the fact that I love a good long book, and the blurb on top that declares that if you're "at all interested in contemporary fiction," you can't miss this novel. I slugged all the way through — once you're invested, you do really want Nathan Staples to tell his daughter that he's her father — but by the end was just sort of disgusted
every sentance that a.l kennedy writes is as dense as a dark, bitter-sweet chocolate fudge cake... every word is there for a reason... this one is about writing, love, hate, death and lonliness, landscape and one that i will read and re-read.
Roderick Hart
If you believed the reviews you would conclude that this book is the best thing since sliced bread. It’s the third of Kennedy’s novels I have read and I have been methodical enough to read them in chronological order. I have noticed two things. Each one is longer than the last. The first seemed more autobiographical than the later ones, though I have no way of proving that. The second was least based on the author’s own experiences, since she could not have been a tail gunner in a Lancaster bomb ...more
I wasn't sure at first whether to be taken in or put off by what seems like this book's self-conscious strangeness. A writers' colony where the members cultivate near-death experiences as a means of getting closer to their craft, a father who maneuvers to bring his long-estranged daughter (who is unaware of his identity) to said colony, lots of flashes of (mostly imagined) gore, and an aging and foulmouthed editor drinking himself to death--at times it approaches marvelous, Pippi-Longstocking-fo ...more
Stephen Durrant
I add here a second book from the much-acclaimed Scottish writer A.L. Kennedy. This novel, like Original Bliss (see below), exemplifies Kennedy’s trademark mixture of tenderness and something just this side of pornography. The plot is a bit too complicated to summarize briefly. Basically, Kennedy deals here with two themes: writers and the neuroses that both motivate and hinder (destroy?) them, and the relationship between fathers and daughters. The underlying premise of the second of these them ...more
Oct 28, 2010 Holly rated it liked it
Fledgling writer Mary Lamb joins Nathan Staples and other writers at a remote writers colony. Unbeknownst to Mary (and only Mary) Nathan is her estranged father who is still wildly in love, after decades apart, w/ Mary's mother. The original writer's colony members have a pact w/ death - if they escape death seven times, they find fulfillment, and the actual escape reconfirms that life is still beautiful.

Kennedy is an excellent writer, but this effort was too long. The writers continue to attemp
Terry Pearce
I would've liked to read this without the italic internal thought... it often seemed too much, like hammering home points her prose and her story was doing well enough anyway. The characters and the basic story were well done, though, even if there could have been a bit less untimely-death-based drama -- the most compelling stuff was the stuff that had to do with the timely deaths and the lives of the characters. I think this might have been a four-star book if had been edited down to a little o ...more
Enes Erden
Kitabı sevmedim değil, sevdim. Ama gereğinden o kadar fazla uzatılmıştı ki bitirmek için cebelleştim desem yeridir. Hem merak ediyorum yarıda bıraksam bırakamıyorum, hem okudukça hiçbirşey netlik kazanmıyor ve sonuna gelince hüsran. En başından beri beklediğiniz anı göremiyorsunuz. Belki daha fazla yıldızı hakediyordur ama şuan sinirden iki yıldızdan fazlasını vermeye gönlüm el vermiyor
Pamela Scott
Aug 06, 2015 Pamela Scott rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: al-kennedy
It took me a while to get into Everything You Need. I started to read it about a week ago. By Friday night I’d read less than 100 pages. Then last night it all clicked into place and I read the remaining 400+ pages in one sitting.

I didn’t know what to expect from Everything You Need. I had no preconceptions about it. I wasn’t familiar with Kennedy’s work. I knew nothing about the novel beyond the blurb on the back cover. Going into a novel blind can pay dividends. It did this time around. I real
Simon Mcleish
Originally published on my blog here in September 2000.

Everything in this long, complicated novel really boils down to two themes: the relationship between parent and child, and what it is like to be a writer. It is mostly set on a remote island off the coast of Wales which is home to a community of writers. One of them, horror novelist Nathan Staples, has not seen his daughter Mary for about twenty years, since his wife Maura walked out taking the child with her. He has now tracked Mary down an
Aug 15, 2011 Tania rated it really liked it
"Nathan, I know you and I know what you're like, but there must be limits to even your maudlin self-obsession. Don't roll your eyes, it'll hurt you."

The aforementioned line taken from the last few pages summarizes how I felt about the main character and the author; what neuroses could Kennedy have that she could continue over and over and over again about the main character and his inability to move on?! By the end I wanted Nathan Staples to succeed at his suicide attempts! That aside I did giv
Dec 30, 2011 Becky rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 1001-list-books
This is a wonderful book. Beautiful, poetic, and heartbreaking. Everything You Need is set on a remote Welsh island which is home for a small colony of writers. At 18 years old, Mary Lamb goes to join them, and as her short life becomes intertwined with everyone there, it becomes apparent that not everyone is as they seem. The narrative style is fun, with the story told in normal type and the character's thoughts in italics, a practise even extended to the dog. This is the most human and heart w ...more
Peter Dunn
Dec 08, 2015 Peter Dunn rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of her longest books, and one of her darkest with lots of people suffering physical and mental trauma, although almost all of that trauma Is either literally self-inflicted by the individual charaters, or at least voluntarily sought after by them. However it is not all voluntary, the book also throws in a murdered child and SPOILERS two of the three nicest people in the book are also suddenly killed off by natural causes. Two other innocents have, what one can best describe without the spoil ...more
Dec 15, 2009 Nathan rated it really liked it
I enjoyed this book. While A.L. Kennedy's writing style takes some getting used to (there are moments of backwards narrative where you feel lost until things are slowly revealed - I found this a little annoying at times), the story is engaging and the characters are interesting. You come to care about them quite a bit over the years (yes, years - the book unfolds over the span of 4 or 5 years). There were times I was genuinely teary-eyed. I felt the book peaked about 80 pages before the end, but ...more
Michael Logan
Sep 05, 2007 Michael Logan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Usually there is nothing I hate more than an author writing a book from the point of view of an author. It usually ends up seeming all whiny about how terrible it is to struggle with one's art. Or, in the case of Stephen King, it ends up with King himself being inserted in his own book as the man who created the universe. Sigh.

However, AL Kennedy manages to carry it off by virtue of the fact that she is such a damn good writer. Plus she's Scottish, so I'll let her off with it.
Ruth Seeley
I had high hopes for this novel after reading several of AL Kennedy's Guardian articles, but I was sorely disappointed. It manages to be simultaneously contrived and obscure, and frankly it was a chore to finish. I'm afraid I agree with the main character's estranged wife Maura: Nathan Staples is, ultimately, rather boring. I'll try some of her other work, but I don't recommend starting with this one.
Sep 20, 2010 Bob rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A genuinely moving story of a father's love for his daughter, complicated by the fact that he's extraordinarily neurotic and she doesn't know he's her father. Both are writers, established and aspiring, and live on an island off the coast of Wales which houses a 7-person writers' colony, so the travails of the artistic life are a persistent theme. Plus there is a touch of the slightly macabre black humor in which turn of the 21st century Scots writers seem to excel.
Feb 08, 2008 Hashi rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 1001-books
I doubt I would ever have come across this author without the "1001 books to read before you die" list. I thought it was really well-written but I never really gelled with the "near-death" motivation of the writers on the island. That part just wasn't presented convincingly enough for this basically happy reader. But I found it gorgeously visual; I could really imagine the island and its beauty. A good read.
Isla Montgomery
Nov 17, 2013 Isla Montgomery rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
After hearing the author speak recently I can hardly believe the same person wrote this book. I rarely give up on a read but after 153 pages I decided I really didn't want to continue with this litany of gratuitous swearing, inner ranting and sexual perversion which added nothing to the plot. I don't mind gritty but this was just verbal assault.
May 27, 2007 daniel rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
it took me almost a month to read this book - but i had to savour it. it's about writers and illusions and death, but in the end - like most good books - it's about life itself, viewed through the eyes of the two main characters father and daughter who live on a remote island with a group of fellow writers.
Kimberly Snyder
Apr 21, 2012 Kimberly Snyder rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I read this quite a few years ago - I'm a sucker for good cover art and this one drew me in. In competition with only one other, this is the best stand-alone novel I have ever read. When it's over I just want to read it again, hoping the story will continue. ALK is one of my favorite authors, and I am so glad I found her.
Gemma Williams
Jun 09, 2008 Gemma Williams rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I found this book completely stunning. The woman is an amazing writer. It is viciously bleak and there are images that made me shudder and that I imagine will haunt me a bit, but also moments of heart breaking tenderness and sadness - the book is also savagely funny and I was captivated by the plot. I was more impressed by this than by anything I have read for a long time.
Jul 15, 2012 Joyce rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was beautifully written, too much language, dialog for my taste. I had a love hate relationship with it. Couldn't stop reading it but really wanted to move on, much like the characters in the book.
There's no fast paced action, no set pieces. What there is a writers colony and an examination of how the various characters interact. It's a book about relationships within a group in a fairly isolated setting, but it's not Lord of the flies.
Nov 20, 2007 Benharing rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
I was cast into the mind of the torm darkened San Juan islands off the coast of Washingto State as I read through this novel. It's a bleak tour-de-force of the emotional landscape few of us are blessed to articulate in the way that a Kennedy or an Updike are able to.
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Alison Louise Kennedy (born 22 October 1965 in Dundee) is a Scottish writer of novels, short stories and non-fiction. She is known for a characteristically dark tone, a blending of realism and fantasy, and for her serious approach to her work. She occasionally contributes columns and reviews to UK and European newspapers including the fictional diary of her pet parrot named Charlie.
More about A.L. Kennedy...

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“The right wrist, because I'm right-handed - so that must be the one that's done most wrong. Although, now that I think, my sins have mostly been ambidextrous.” 3 likes
“Perhaps i am a masochist.
No. Not Possible. If I were basically a masochist then most of my life would have been just nothing but concentrated fun. Every time I woke up, bleeding from my heart and soul, I’d find myself barely able to hide my joy.”
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