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Original Bliss

3.64  ·  Rating Details ·  353 Ratings  ·  41 Reviews
"Kennedy is a world class writer."--The New York Times Book Review

A brilliant American debut from one of Scotland's most acclaimed writers, named by Granta as one of the Twenty Best Young British Novelists.

Emotionally numb, crippled with insomnia, and caught in a frightening, abusive marriage, Helen Brindle believes that God has recently left her. She spends her days perfo
Paperback, 224 pages
Published January 25th 2000 by Vintage (first published 1997)
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(showing 1-30)
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There’s a bite-sized depression on the top edge of my copy of Original Bliss.
According to the copyright page, the book was published in 1998, and while I’m not sure when I bought it, I’d guess it was at least fifteen years ago because the pages have yellowed, especially along the top edge, which makes the little depression stand out like a fresh bite out of an apple. If I was a quirky character in an Al Kennedy story, I might tell the author that I had attempted to eat her words. And it’s almos
Oct 25, 2008 Susan rated it it was amazing
I don't know when I've read a book of serious fiction where I've been both enchanted with the language and unable to put the book down. This short book I read in a little over a day and that a holiday as well where I was busily taken up with other things.

I'm currently trying not to by new hardbacks so I bypassed Kennedy's new novel, Paradise, for an older novel. It came just as I was packing to leave for my sister's for the holiday. It was small and seemed a likely thing to read on the weekend.
Vanessa Wu
I have chosen to mention this book for several reasons.

1. I have it open on my bed.

2. Today I read A.L. Kennedy's blog in The Guardian and was struck by her disdain for marketing her own books. Let me do it for you, Alison, I need the practice.(See footnote).

3. We are always told that people don't buy short stories. Ahem! I bought these short stories. That proves something, doesn't it? I would rather read Original Bliss than all her other books put together. Or even just Everything You Need.

Stephen Durrant
Feb 01, 2009 Stephen Durrant rated it really liked it
Wow! A love story like no other as my excursions into Scottish literature continue. A.L. Kennedy is daring to be sure. I was captivated by the tension in this novel between God and kink, with a strange compromise found in the end. The two main characters are unforgettable: one a repressed, abused, unhappy housewife mourning her loss of a sense of God; the other a self-help guru who also happens to be something of a compulsive pornography addict. Through all the feelings of disgust and shame, a t ...more
Jun 30, 2007 Molly rated it liked it
I liked this and I didn't like it. Trying to write a review for this book has proved particularly difficult (this is my third attempt). Kennedy again proves adept at creating unique, damaged, and undeniably human characters. However, unlike Paradise (a later novel), the characters here were harder for me to get a grasp on. Particularly Helen Brindle. Perhaps it's my own difficulty in understanding how someone could be THAT devoted to their own faith.
I guess what matters is that I was drawn in a
Mircalla64 (free Liu Xiaobo)
Stati di stupore

racconti buffi, strani, poco incisivi ma insinuanti, di quelli che un po' strisciano alle spalle e ti colpiscono poi, magari mentre sei là che sbucci le cipolle te ne ricordi e ti dici: ah però...
tranne l'ultimo che invece non insinua nulla, semmai urla ad alta voce che la religione è un virus della comunicazione e che spesso le persone devono farsi male prima di accettare di amarsi...bello, ma tosto
Well, that was different. Very interesting writing and presentation of themes.
The book is made up of several short stories, and a novella, Original Bliss. I would describe the short stories as understated (I could barely sum up their plots, even if I have finished the book only hours ago), slightly sinister, and humorous. The novella is slightly more disconcerting, or at least it was for me, revolving around the broad themes of 'religion', 'sex' and 'messed-up love'.

What a weird book! I found Kennedy's writing to be striking and original, and I definitely plan to read so
Edward S. Portman
Stati di grazia è una raccolta di racconti, ma a fine lettura quello che ti rimarrà impresso sarà l’ultimo, Stati di grazia appunto che da il titolo a tutto il libro. È una sorta di romanzo breve, a cui sono stati affiancati altri racconti decisamente più corti. I primi possono essere accostabili a una specie di preparazione in vista al vero impegno di lettura, anche se è apprezzabile la scelta di non dare alle stampe un semplice racconto lungo. Non fraintendetemi, tutti i racconti sono degli ot ...more
Apr 22, 2015 Ed rated it it was amazing
I have wanted to read a book by Scottish writer A. L. Kennedy for some time. Kennedy has won a number of literary awards, and her books consistently receive excellent reviews internationally.
Original Bliss is a novel of love, madness and redemption. The protagonist, Helen Brindle, is neurotic and emotionally barren after having lost her religious faith. Suffering beatings from her husband, she both withdraws further into herself and, fighting that withdrawal, seeks relief in one self-help book a
Feb 16, 2014 Holly rated it really liked it
Mrs. Brindle has lost God. This was a relationship she relied upon heavily. Her days post the loss are spent on pointless domestic duties (she hates) like ironing socks or seeking out creative and complicated recipes to make for her husband. Her nights are spent wide awake lying on the floor in front of the TV seeking company, not education or information. It is here on late night TV that she first sees Professor Edward Gluck, who has a self-help process she decides to try. It is here that their ...more
C.B. Wentworth
Dec 05, 2012 C.B. Wentworth rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Helen has lost God and punishes herself by staying in an abusive marriage, while Edward is trapped in his own bad habit of self-abuse. Both are looking for a savior in all the wrong places until they meet each other. A.L. Kennedy explores an unorthodox courtship between a battered woman and porn addicted man with heartbreaking honesty and humor. Helen and Edward's relationship is one that reminds us how important it is to have patience, acceptance, and forgiveness (both of the self and for other ...more
Peter Dunn
Aug 31, 2015 Peter Dunn rated it really liked it
I picked this up as I have enjoyed A.L.Kennedy’s writing and this was another A.L.Kennedy so it seemed like a good warned a spoiler follows in the next paragraph but the very same spoiler is in the Amazon book description above.

While it’s not my normal cup of tea in a book I was prepared for the sexual encounters as they are clearly referenced in the blurb on the back. I was also prepared for those encounters to probably all have some sort of bleakness hanging over them as this is A
Okay, I confess: I only discovered and read this as one of the characters in one of my favourite films is seen reading it.

(Apparently each character's choice of book adds further insight into the film and their 'history' - I will be reading the other two books!)
This is a book of short stories, all featuring, to some degree, a strong sexual element. The final story, the longest one, saved the book for me really. The writing was lovely and the dialogue clever, but I suppose I didn't really feel as
Dec 26, 2014 Jess rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Jess by: Women's lit class
The less said about this book before reading, the better. I just know it's one of the only really convincing love stories I've read in a long time and that the ending made my cry like a baby for reasons that not even I can explain.

The main character is refreshingly witty and painstakingly complex, the sort of character sunk so deep into pain that I cannot imagine how hard it would be to write her and break her down. After meeting Edward, a self-help guru with a painful sexual addiction that brin
Guillermo Jiménez
Una obra esperanzadora en un mundo atribulado por la información sexual cada diez pasos, un mundo mediatizado y bombardeado por falsos profetas y gurús de tercera que aprovechan la soledad que encierra a una humanidad que apunta hacia los suicidios colectivos, y además, un texto que rebasa con creces las relaciones amorosas, vistas desde la perspectiva de lo funcional, de lo práctico que es estar acompañado, de tener a alguien a tu lado de quien depender y para quien corresponder atenciones reci ...more
Katie M.
May 06, 2011 Katie M. rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2011
I read So I Am Glad: A Novel ages ago and remember it as odd and sweet and moving. After years of vaguely meaning to read another A.L. Kennedy I finally picked up this one, and had exactly the same reaction to it. It's sort of about God and domestic violence and porn addiction but it's actually about two people who don't believe they are deserving of love and what happens when they meet. And it's just lovely.
Nov 14, 2008 Rachel rated it liked it
i wish i could give three and half stars. after a somewhat tedious 50 pages, the story finally begins to pick up and i finally started to care about the characters. from it's boring start it quickly segues into some very disturbing sexual content. there is violence in this book, but what i was so imperssed with, was kennedy's ability to turn some very despicable behavior on its head and to get me to like and root for these people. it's a very unlikely love story, but maybe that's why it was so s ...more
Mar 10, 2012 Tara rated it liked it
Helen is an abused wife who believes that her beloved God has abandoned her. Edward is the male version of Oprah who obsessively masturbates. Sounds like a match made in heaven, right? It is, actually. Somehow, these two find solace in each other, and reading about how they battle their demons kept me up til 2 a.m. to finish the story.

It's a very quick read. The novel is only about 150-200 pages and I read it within 24 hours. The writing style is sharp and quick, like pulling off a Band-Aid. Ver
Aug 24, 2011 Annett rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Feb 13, 2012 Maria rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Maria by: My Librarian
Hm. Dieses Buch wurde mir von der sehr netten Antiquariatsdame empfohlen und ja, es war durchaus in Ordnung. Allerdings eben nicht so toll, dass ich es nochmal lesen würde, also: es war so mittel. Nette Geschichte, gut erzählt, angenehme Prosa, nicht seicht oder billig.
Aber am Ende war mir die "Moral von der Geschicht" denn doch etwas einfach: zwei Menschen finden die Wahre Liebe und das löst am Ende all ihre seelischen Probleme. Naja.
Jul 18, 2009 Luann rated it it was amazing
I was thinking about how much I liked this novel the other day and how that fondness is akin to what I feel for the movie "Secretary." Both challenged my definitions of love and both had a deep tenderness for those who find that love in unconventional places. Kennedy is a fierce writer and not everyone's cup of tea -- I don't often recommend for that reason. But she's also brilliant and a remarkable technician, IMHO, and this is perhaps my favorite of the half dozen I've read.
Ryan Williams
Feb 08, 2013 Ryan Williams rated it it was amazing
Collection of prickly funny stories and a sublime novella. This is still probably my favourite Kennedy, and - despite all the wierdness - the title piece is still one of the most tender things committed to print I have ever read. She's a funnier writer than people give her credit for, too - like Beckett, Kennedy knows few things are funnier than unhappiness.

Her novels are well worth reading too, perhaps with the exception of The Blue Book.
Everett Secor
Aug 02, 2016 Everett Secor rated it really liked it
Like "50 Shades of Grey" but instead of creating characters and situations to arouse the reader, Kennedy dives into the driving causes of desire, perversion, lonelyness, and jealously.
The most un-erotic book about sex you will ever read, and yet totally captivating.
Diana Higgins
Feb 17, 2008 Diana Higgins rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Aug 16, 2009 Sheri rated it it was ok
Original Bliss was different, I am still not sure if I liked it or not. Edward was strange and Helen was almost pathetic, but I could not help liking her. The sex scenes were pornographic, so those who do not like graphic "sexual" detail should not read Original Bliss. It was a unique love story.
Auch nach der Hälfte keinerlei Interesse daran gefunden, abgebrochen und in den Bücherschrank gestellt.
Dec 17, 2007 Dragana rated it it was ok
Purposefully stuttering prose crafty, but too far-fetched in an unpleasant way.
Camilla P.
Nov 21, 2010 Camilla P. rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Se volete leggere la mia recensione, basta cliccare sul link :)


Feb 20, 2013 Kate rated it really liked it
Shelves: inspirational
Still need to read the final (longest!) story!
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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.
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“You can look at the words on this paper and, because they are the ones I am used to choosing, they will show you the shape of me. I am here to be read in the way you might read the impression of my weight in a bed after a still night, a restless night, a night not alone.” 10 likes
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