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Ask Alice

2.76  ·  Rating Details ·  113 Ratings  ·  24 Reviews
1904. A pretty young woman travels apprehensively across the American prairies; on a whim she makes a bold decision, grabbing her future with both hands. A quarter of a century later, in the brightly colored world of London high life, Alice Keach is queen among society hostesses. Her face stares from every gossip column. Behind her lie a marriage to a wealthy landowner and ...more
Paperback, 384 pages
Published April 2nd 2009 by Chatto & Windus (first published 2009)
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(showing 1-30)
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May 09, 2011 Jeanette rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2011-read-in
Reading this book was a test of my perseverance.
Little to no character development. What motivated Alice to do any of the things she did? Who was she, really? Why did she get off the train with a stranger? Why did she go to England? Why not stay in New York and try Broadway? Why the British stage? (I could go on and on...It turns out I still have lots of questions to ask Alice.)
There was also very little plot.
So really there was not much to this book except a lot of changing points of view and
I adored this book but then I have loved all the books I've read by D J Taylor. He casts magic spells over words and turns them into breathtaking sentences and page turning novels.

This one is written in several povs, primarily Alice herself and a mysterious young man named Ralph. The novel begins in a poor farming community in USA and ends up in a courtroom in London approx 30 years later.

There is much to enjoy along the way; broken relationships, desertion, stage acting, a mad uncle who invents
Jan 23, 2017 Masha rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this book.
Style is very good. I would give it 4 and half stars!
The characters were well drawn and the plot was good.
I found the ending a bit anticlimactic.
A tedious read.

I bought this book at a recent literary festival attended by D.J.Taylor and his wife Rachel Hore. She was giving a creative writing workshop and as his name never appeared under Speakers I can only assume that he was also involved with the writing class. And this was the feel the book had for me - more of a writing exercise than a novel I would read for pleasure. I felt he would have been better suited to writing short stories as there were spurts of interest along the way, but ad
Jan 19, 2012 Meredith rated it did not like it
Shelves: fiction-general
This book feels like it was written to support a great title. Unfortunately the novel doesn't live up to it. It's kind of like a later re-envisioning of Lady Audley's secret, without the drama or tension. No clue really as to what is going on in this woman's mind regarding the major decisions that affect her whole life course. Normally I'm not too bothered about lack of explanations of psychology, but we are told why she makes certain relatively minor decisions and what she is thinking then, jus ...more
Aug 30, 2010 Stephanie rated it really liked it
The more I ruminate on Ask Alice, by D.J. Taylor, the more I like it. The book is meandering yet suspenseful, deliberately paced but a relatively fast read. It tells the stories of Alice, an extraordinarily cool customer who never fails to grab what Fate is offering her, and of Ralph, a young man ignorant of his parentage, reared by his adoptive uncle, a tinkering-in-his-garage-scientist type whose discovery of a new color (of all things!) makes him enough money to thrust him and Ralph into quit ...more
Nov 26, 2010 Al rated it liked it
I found this book to be somewhat short on plot, while dwelling too often and too long on the motivations of some of the major characters -- except, that is, Alice herself, about whom we learn surprisingly little as she careens from misadventure to misadventure, somehow always landing on her feet. Finally she emerges as a wealthy English widow, after a successful, albeit improbable, career as an English actress. Despite all the careful explanations of her state of mind at the end of the book, on ...more
Oct 22, 2010 Jennifer rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This was a very frustrating book...we never learn why Alice is being sent to live with a different set of relatives, we have no insight as to why she leaves the train with a man she has just met, or why she does many of the things she does. I kept thinking she met the definition of sociopath. We are presented no framework or justification of her amoral behavior and only the briefest glimpse into her thought processes. The portions of the book narrated by Ralph weren't much better...they seemed l ...more
This novel follows Alice, a beautiful young American woman, who tries to outrun a serious mistake by fleeing to England, where she becomes a famous actress. By the 1920s she is a wealthy widow and sought-after society hostess. Halfway through the book I began having odd moments of deja-vu: haven't I read about this scandalous party before? Didn't someone jump into a fountain in a fancy-dress costume just like this in some other book? Turns out that last year I read the non-fiction "Bright Young ...more
Nicely atmospheric, though Taylor's Americans sound like English people for the most part (I'm fairly certain that a Midwestern salesman like Drouett wouldn't refer to vacuuming as "Hoovering" or to his luggage as his "cases") but ultimately, this novel didn't go anywhere at all. I guessed the big connection between two principle characters on about page 50 and then I waited for them to catch up, and I wasn't interested enough in the book's characters to actually care about their vicissitudes. K ...more
Carol Best
Jun 16, 2015 Carol Best rated it did not like it
The book sounded interesting but after a few chapters, Alice's personality if she actually had any was not developing to any degree. I gave her the benefit of the doubt for several more pages but she just continued to drift along aimlessly and pointlessly. I lost any interest in continuing and drifted off as well. I too would have several questions to Ask Alice but as there are better books waiting to be read, why bother?
Fiona Van
Sep 17, 2009 Fiona Van rated it liked it
I quite liked this book. It is an interesting period piece, about a poor woman from Kansas who becomes a society hostess in London in the twenties, with aristocratic and political contacts and even a friendship with the Prince of Wales. However, it is unsatisfying because you never have any understanding of WHY she walked away from not one but two families and groups of friends. Someone asks her to get off a train with him, and she says "Yes".

Feb 06, 2011 Kristina rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book definitely does not fit into my typical genre-but it kept me reading. The story is written from several pov which makes this book a more reader responsible one in that the reader must keep track of what is going on from the author's clues. The ending will surprise you so look forward to it!
Mar 31, 2014 Shannon rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2014
This is another book that I should like but I just cant get into. I haven't even finished it (I am half way through chapter 18) so I am going to put it aside for now. I will try to go back to it at a later date and hopefully I will be able to change my rating. I like to give books a second chance.
Aug 16, 2012 Wendopolis rated it it was ok
This book started out so well, and then couldn't sustain it, due mostly because of the ever changing POVs.
Nicola Greer
Apr 16, 2015 Nicola Greer rated it liked it
Prwtty tame and cliched, not too difficult to unravel. I thought it got bogged down towards the end, and the climax of the story and the court case reporting was rushed and boring
Sep 03, 2010 Lynn rated it did not like it
I revisited this one for a book challenge and it definitely was a challenge to finish. The general story was good but I had a hard time with the writing.
Nicole Herrington
If you like books where nothing much happens until the last quarter this is the book for you. Very slow & clunky, I skimmed thru at least half the book & didn't miss out on anything.
Dec 07, 2015 Rose rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Good characters. The opening reminded me of Edna Ferber's novels, which means a very successful capturing of the style of the novel's time.
Carolyn Chand
Carolyn Chand rated it liked it
Jun 02, 2014
Patricia Daniels
Patricia Daniels rated it liked it
Jan 28, 2017
Kathy rated it it was amazing
Jun 30, 2014
Nadine Bennett
Nadine Bennett rated it it was ok
Aug 09, 2013
Jan 03, 2011 Leah rated it liked it
Quite nicely written, but little plot and fewer surprises than I expected.
Diane rated it did not like it
Jun 12, 2011
Mary Beth
Mary Beth rated it really liked it
Mar 15, 2012
Eglé rated it liked it
Jun 23, 2015
Sandy rated it it was ok
Oct 06, 2010
Elizabeth Hamer
Elizabeth Hamer rated it liked it
Jul 15, 2014
Marilyn rated it really liked it
Aug 12, 2010
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David John Taylor (born 1960) is a critic, novelist and biographer. After attending school in Norwich, he read Modern History at St John's College, Oxford, and has received the 2003 Whitbread Biography Award for his life of George Orwell.

He lives in Norwich and contributes to The Daily Telegraph, The Guardian, The Independent, New Statesman and The Spectator among other publications.

He is married
More about D.J. Taylor...

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