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3.50  ·  Rating Details  ·  409 Ratings  ·  63 Reviews
From one of our most critically acclaimed authors comes this masterly story of one man's attempt to extricate himself from his past, and its disastrous consequences. Thomas Railles, a former parttime spy for the CIA, is a respected painter living in the south of France with his beloved wife, Florette. One day Florette goes for a walk in the hills and is killed by unknown a ...more
Paperback, 272 pages
Published September 5th 2007 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (first published 2006)
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May 02, 2008 Shelly rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Don DeLillo fans
The good news: I finished it.
The bad news: I really shouldn't have.

It's hard to pan a book that is reviewed and received so well. While I was reading this book, and for the most part being bored to tears, I kept thinking "re-read that part, focus more, get into it goddam it! it's supposed to be good." For a long time I was hesitant to give up on this book b/c I didn't want to feel like a failure and a quitter. So I finished. Sort of. Okay, toward the end it's all just more of the same so I skipp
Sep 11, 2010 Victoria rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: lit-fic, awful
I do not understand why this book received such raving reviews! To be honest, I had a difficult time getting through it. And I never came to like it, or the main character. Stylistically, it followed a European-type format without using quotation marks, which I found to be particularly annoying. The chapters were overly long, and despite its opening chapter, the plot fell quite secondary to the main character in the book. Comprised mainly of old men, these characters never fostered a connection ...more
May 09, 2009 Kp rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This book was really boring. Although Ward Just may be a good writer, this book had, basically, no plot. So, to me that does NOT show a good writer. His sentences were literary sounding; that was good. The BEST part was the beginning. It is like he had the climax of the book in the beginning, and the resolution lasted the whole rest of the book and went downhill the whole way.
Jan 30, 2009 Sarah rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
I enjoy this author's style -- atmospheric and elegant, uncluttered by things like adverbs and quotation marks. An excerpt, describing how one character reads a newspaper:
Facts anchored the world. He had never seen a basketball game in his life, but always consulted the standings of the NBA, the won-lost column, the percentages, and the games-behind, and only then returned to page one and the unstable milieu of reporters' narratives where he had to guess at the life behind the news. What he saw
Jul 08, 2015 Joe rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction

I seem to forget how good of an author Ward Just is until I pick up and read one of his books. His novels are subtle, thought-provoking and character driven. His protagonists are not action heroes, but instead psychologically wrestle with moral dilemmas. Thus the reader spends a lot of time inside the heads of the author's characters and although one may not agree with the decisions they make you understand the motivation behind them. There's also a political slant or a glimpse inside
Scott Munden
Jan 06, 2015 Scott Munden rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It's novels like "Forgetfulness" that make me feel good about getting older. It wouldn't have meant much to me, if anything at all, in my youth. Some things only begin to resonate with time and Just handles these themes beautifully. It is one of my favourite novels by Just. I don't know why he doesn't enjoy higher stature in American letters. He really ought to.
Dec 16, 2008 Megan rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: recently-read
The first, in two books that made me question ever wanting to read again. It's not really that the book is so bad--but when you're 118 pages in and still don't care about any of the characters or what is happening to them, it frustrates me beyond belief. And then I find myself not picking up a book for weeks.
Aug 03, 2009 Marvin rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Set in France near the Spanish border, where a woman dies while on a hike in the mountains, & some shadowy figures might or might not be responsible for her death. It didn't hold my interest, so I gave up on it.
The Bookloft
Bookseller: Eric

All these years selling books and I've never read Ward Just-what a pity. As a former Washington Journalist he understands well the current political scene and the trickle-down effects of the war on terror and individuals. We are all impacted.
Not a flashy writer but his prose is so elegantly crafted and evocative ( you can smell the French cigarette smoke wafting across the page). His characters are complicated. And no one-at least in this book-is innocent entirely.
There's a scene
Dec 09, 2012 Robert rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Forgetfulness by Ward Just opens with a masterful first chapter in which the female protagonist, Florette, hurts her ankle on a French mountainside and is briefly helped by fugitive Islamic terrorists before, in an act of cruel expediency, they decide to slit her throat and leave her dead in the snow.

Florette was married to Thomas Railles, an American portraitist in his sixties whose association with two childhood friends, CIA agents, raises the question of whether this killing was payback or no
Feb 27, 2012 Peter rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Feb 19, 2009 Marguerite rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A thought-provoking, understated book about Americans and the U.S. after Sept. 11. (Author Ward Just looks prophetic when it comes to the malaise currently infecting the global economy.) Thomas Railles is an expatriate American living in France. He's done work for the CIA over the years and still has ties to friends in the business. But mostly he's a portrait painter. His paintings are discoveries -- of self and others and their respective environments. He's become distanced from the U.S. and it ...more
Oct 22, 2008 Tiffany rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Tiffany by: Horst Simon
I'm surprised that I enjoyed this book. First of all, there are like two chapters (OK, that's an exaggeration, but close to that) and it's almost 300 pages long, so it's pretty heavy in terms of phrasing -- sorry, I mean it like the musical term because I can't think of another word. Also, it paints the ugliest picture of Americans and America post-9/11. I mean, I don't think I know a single person like the random Americans the main character runs into. Basically, I found most of the plot involv ...more
Veronica Shields
Apr 27, 2016 Veronica Shields rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: contemporary
I feel like Ward needs to have a little more faith in his readers where his more obscure metaphors are concerned, but otherwise this is a very moving and thoughtful novel on trying to find absolution and reason in the wake of tragedy. It's a quintessentially American piece for those living in the uncertain and rapidly evolving stage of the 21st century, an age that rarely lets you slow down and reflect, much less let you find your place.
Bookmarks Magazine

A well-respected__if generally underappreciated__writer for more than three decades, Ward Just, who began his writing career as a journalist for Newsweek and the Washington Post, evokes a strong sense of place and character in Forgetfulness, his fifteenth novel. Previous novels of his have been short-listed for the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award (see below). The story that Just tells here__thriller, psychological character study, social commentary__fills a gap in what critics see as

Stephen Rynkiewicz
We tell our leaders to keep us secure, but in our personal lives we resist playing it safe. It's a contradiction made for a Ward Just political thriller. Thomas is a painter in the south of France, putting some distance on his past as a CIA collaborator, Still, he's tight with his buddies in the spy game. When his wife dies among unsavory characters, Thomas is alone with his insecurities, and perhaps in deeper than he thought. Eventually face to face with her killer, Thomas knows just what to do ...more
Jul 13, 2009 James rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was told that this book is a simple yet enjoyable thriller, and I found that quite true. After reading the cover jacket's description, I was reminded of those books you see advertised on the subway, where the author is "a true master of suspense... [insert author's name:] weaves a complicated tale that left me thirsting for more..." and so on. The story is of a painter/espionage agent, living in the South of France in a rustic country town, whose wife is found dead after a walk in the woods, p ...more
Nancy Jurss
The book is supposed to be simultaneously a thriller and a study of the main character's reaction to the death of his wife. Although I found the account of the interrogation of the men who are suspected in his wife's death to be interesting, the book dragged the rest of the time.
Patrick SG
This is a very leisurely book, which I didn't expect it to be from the description I had read of it, which suggested international intrigue. There is an element of that and a touch of international terrorism, but only a touch. Early in the book occurs a death that is at the heart of the book, but even that is leisurely. The book centers on an American artist ex-pat in France. I've often wondered what it might be like to live in a foreign country as this artist does. Except for the fact that I wo ...more
Sep 07, 2014 Marty rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Ponderous is the word that comes to mind. There were some beautiful passages though, with outstanding writing. That was enough to keep me going until the end. I kept waiting for the plot to kick in. It never did.
Jun 12, 2012 Alicia rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I reserved this at the library after reading this in the Washington Post:
"Ward Just's thrillers are so subtle that they risk sounding dull, as though he's engaged in a battle against excess and bombast. The movement in his stories is slight, but the forces at work are tremendous. That muted power has never been more unsettling than in his new novel, a response to Sept. 11 that stretches the boundaries of an already voluminous genre."
Intriguing, right? It is an upsetting novel - it's about a man
Feb 04, 2016 Rodger rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Subtle. Especially recommended if you like le Carre'. Borders claimed in January that it was recommended by then-President-elect Obama.
I'm not really sure how to describe this book - passive, quiet, restrained, maybe? It's a good book, but not at all about vengeance and terrorism as the synopsis suggests. In fact, the backdrop of post-9/11 is wholly irrelevant. I think this book is more about realizing that bad things happen - and that there is often not an answer to the question "Why?"

The characters have a lot of potential, but the author doesn't develop any of them to a deep enough level to be satisfactory to the reader. You
Jul 22, 2015 Kiara rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I remember liking this, but I don't remember what it was about.
Feb 19, 2016 Mary rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Thoughtful and eminently readable. Ward Just is a great storyteller.
May 22, 2009 Cathy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Beautifully written, this book is about one man's internal journey with grief and his adjustment to the loss of his wife. Despite the title, what we experience are the protagonist's memories and an examination of the usefulness (or lack of usefulness) of revenge.

This is the antithesis of a plot drive page turner. It is a quiet examination of one person's interior landscape as he looks back and re-examines his life, the choices he has made and decisions he now makes about how - or whether - to mo
Lorin Cary
Ward Just's novel opens with a chilling scene in which the wife of the protagonist (Thomas) is dying of cold and then murdered. Thomas battles grief and attempts to cope, with the death and with his past. The CIA has used him on occasion and he seeks to forget that part of his life. And so on. We learn much of the man's internal life as the book meanders from the present to the past. A good read. Not a page-turner from a "brand name" writer of thrillers; instead a sage and studied peak at aspect ...more
Ba Jin
Mindblowingly good opening passages. They sort of overwhelm the rest of the text but still lays down a moody contemplative tone. A great read unless your books must have stuff happening in them.
Aug 15, 2007 Jen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: a_good_story
This was so good, but not a quick nor particularly easy read. Some thoughts went on for pages and pages, and there really wasn't too much action. Just's writing style is perfect prose, and I'm glad I discovered him and can't wait to read more. The plot? Oh, yeah. A man's wife is brutally murdered, and it could be because of his intelligence past. But it's not sensational at all; the descriptions of her death are detailed but not gratuitous.
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Ward Just (born 1935) is an American writer. He is the author of 15 novels and numerous short stories.

Ward Just graduated from Cranbrook School in 1953. He briefly attended Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut. He started his career as a print journalist for the Waukegan (Illinois) News-Sun. He was also a correspondent for Newsweek and The Washington Post from 1959 to 1969, after which he left
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“What brings us anywhere? You take one turn instead of another, you meet one woman instead of another, you have good health or you don't, luck vies with misfortune, you break down and arrive at Bellevue in your bathrobe on a Saturday morning or - what was his father's antique phrase - you pulled up your socks and got on with things. Your heart adapted to changing times. Your body did. Or it did not and you passed your days in a muffler of regret. And that was what they called intelligent design.” 3 likes
“You think such an attitude is admirable. Manly, heroic even. 'Lived harmlessly.' 'Kept to himself.' Hide away somewhere and your past will cease to exist. You won't have to account for it. You'll feel no obligation to explain your actions or justify them because you've gone away and you expect your victims to go away too. It's like leaving the scene of an accident . . . Or a marriage. Even a field of battle.” 2 likes
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