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The Soul Thief the Soul Thief the Soul Thief

2.88  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,305 Ratings  ·  306 Reviews
As a graduate student in upstate New York, Nathaniel Mason is drawn into a tangle of relationships with people who seem to hover just beyond his grasp. There's Theresa, alluring but elusive, and Jamie, who isfickle if not wholly unavailable. But Jerome Coolberg is the most mysterious and compelling. Not only cryptic about himself, he seems also to have appropriated parts o ...more
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Published February 12th 2008 by Vintage Books USA (first published January 1st 2007)
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(showing 1-30 of 2,325)
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Sally
Jan 15, 2009 Sally rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ooooooh, I liked this.

First of all, let me say that I fell in love with the font. The little twisted question marks, barely reaching halfway up the back of a 'd' and nearly squished into the size of a semicolon. The capitol letters have the look and feel of a 1940s diner menu.

Baxter's descriptions are uncannily sparse in their ability to convince. It took more than 70 pages to really get into this story, well into the first section, but when I did, it was hard to tear my eyes off of the page t
...more
Renee
Feb 12, 2012 Renee rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The first half of the novel follows the brief arc of Nathaniel Mason's graduate career in 1970s Buffalo, N.Y., which centers on his two girl friends and a man named Jerome Coolberg, a virtuoso of cast-off ideas. Coolberg, obsessed with Nathaniel, begins taking his shirts and notebooks, and claiming that episodes from Nathaniel's life happened to him.

In the novel's second half, decades after these events have occurred, Coolberg enters Nathaniel's life again for a final, dramatic confrontation. Ba
...more
RandomAnthony
The Soul Thief reads more like a short story or novella than a novel. There’s an unfinished quality that works well in the first person narrative; you could envision the narrator sitting in a coffee shop, focusing on the story, choosing his words carefully, but inevitably leaving our details and framing the narrative as he speaks.

Baxter’s novel on identity and psychological breakdown succeeds on the micro level. His description of Buffalo is beautiful (no, really, I’ve been to Buffalo maybe ten
...more
Michael
Jun 11, 2008 Michael rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Quite disappointing. This whole novel (perhaps more a novella) essentially breaks down to a story of one man screwing with another man's life, ostensibly to teach a lesson about identity. Fine, OK, it's not a hopeless premise, but Baxter fails to follow through, providing the readers only with undeveloped characters working within a weak framework. Indeed, the framework, which shapes the fundamental point of the book (people keep calling the framework "metaphysical," though this is a misuse of t ...more
Empress
Apr 23, 2008 Empress rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: nope, sorry! read Feast of Love instead.
VERY disappointed! Whatever I appreciated about this book was completely obliterated by the bullshit ending. Seriously, I liked it most of the way through, but now I can't remember why. Since the entire storyline was preparing for, and resting on some revelatory ending, the fact that the ending fell flat on its overly-schematic, overly(& poorly)-conceptualized face completely sabotaged whatever parts of the novel I had liked in the first place.
I'm still in shock.
O.K. I know I'm being harsh.
...more
Loyola University Chicago Libraries
The Soul Thief begins the way all good books set in college do: with a party. And if you liked The Feast of Love, you are probably prepared (read: greedily ready), to follow Nathaniel Mason for 209 pages of nothing more than early 1970s college life: drinking too much; spontaneous, aimless road trips; and the kind of sex-by-arrangement or even sex-by-proximity arrangement that can happen when you are exploring the world of newfound adulthood and your sexual boundaries simultaneously. As common ...more
Kyle
Apr 08, 2008 Kyle rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
If you like Charles Baxter, read this book, but I hardly think it will turn any newcomers on to him, or entertain fans that much either.

As slight as it is, this book seems to not only stumble over it's own plot, but it's own vague metaphysics which, in the end, seem to be suspect anyway.

I'm not sure whether this novel is vaguely allegorical or autobiographical, if it's a critique of pseudo-intellectualism, if it's a trite spin on the current fear of "identity theft", or a tragic character study
...more
Hilary
I didn't really like this book. The ending was supposed to be revelatory and creepy, but either it was really obvious to me or I just didn't get it. It says something that I liked the later part of the book (when the author supposedly has had his soul stolen, or etc.) more than the former part. Even in the introduction, I'm not sure which character is being discussed. Ugh. I wonder if it's worth trying to read The Feast of Love, which everyone seems to agree is better than this.
Carl
May 05, 2008 Carl rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
All right, this one's a toughie. The writing is definitely there, as you would expect from Baxter, though at times it drifts into sort of trivial name-dropping where richer details would be better (however, the characters here are academics, and show-offy academics to boot, so there is some contextual justification). Still, he has a knack for poetic passages and truly beautiful sentences and phrases, and he gives his characters distinctive views of the world.

What bothers me about the book is the
...more
Derek
Nov 20, 2011 Derek rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Of course, the sentences and characterization and plot are all quite assured and lovely in The Soul Thief: it's Charles Baxter after all. But something about this effort struck me as a little unsatisfying, particularly the ending, which other reviewers have already taken to task more thoroughly (and vengefully) than I'm willing to do here.

There are just a lot of really strange authorial choices in The Soul Thief that I haven't yet made sense of, and am not sure that I agree with. For instance, m
...more
Robert
Oct 17, 2014 Robert rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
The Soul Thief, a novel by Charles Baxter, focuses initially on two guys and two girls living in Buffalo, New York. One of the girls is a lesbian cab driver. The other girl and the guys are students at a Buffalo university. Guy number one, Nathaniel, first falls for good-looking girl number one, Theresa, when they help each other find a party they’re going to. She’s a knock-out, flip, provocative, and Nathaniel thinks immediately he loves her. Waiting at the party is guy number two, Jerome, who ...more
Heather
May 25, 2014 Heather rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, contemporary
I listened to this on audiobook. I did not enjoy the manner in which the book was read, and it put me off the book for at least the first third - maybe half.

I was extremely annoyed by all of the characters during the entire first portion of the book. They were completely self-centered and overly-intellectual - although as that part closed, I found myself thinking that was entirely appropriate since they were graduate students. But then it started to seem to me that the book itself was irritatin
...more
Kara
Oct 15, 2012 Kara rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
If ever there was a book I was meant to fall in love with, it was this book. I mean, it's called The Soul Thief people!!! If that's not perfection then I don't know what is. The Adele marathons I imagined this book would prompt! I could see myself not going to work trying to finish this book. Missing my bus stop. Forgetting to eat dinner. Putting my phone on silent. All that good stuff. Never have I swooned so hard over a title.

But much like everyone else that I have sworn I was destined to fall
...more
Madelaine Cargill
Nov 15, 2011 Madelaine Cargill rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Soul Thief by Charles Baxter
Pantheon Books, 2008


The term “soul thief” makes me think of beings who steal your “soul”, as if it were a solid entity, something that can be sucked out of someone, much like a Dementor from the Harry Potter series sucks the souls of wizards right from their mouths. Once I read the book, I realized it was very different from what I had been expecting, as Charles Baxter explores the idea of a “soul thief” in a much more dark, complex, and mentally disorientating w
...more
Bookmarks Magazine

Charles Baxter's ability to play with his own identity consistently impresses reviewers. Author of the 2000 National Book Award finalist Feast of Love, he has proved adept as a novelist and short story writer, as well as an inventor of forms somewhere in between. The Soul Thief is one such example. It is almost short enough to be a novella, yet it spans 30 years. Its plot hinges on a short story kind of "twist," yet its characters are intriguing enough to have novels to themselves. Critics' reac

...more
William
Feb 17, 2008 William rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Soul Thief begins the way all good books set in college do: with a party. And if you liked The Feast of Love, you are probably prepared (read: greedily ready), to follow Nathaniel Mason for 209 pages of nothing more than early 1970s college life: drinking too much; spontaneous, aimless road trips; and the kind of sex-by-arrangement or even sex-by-proximity arrangement that can happen when you are exploring the world of newfound adulthood and your sexual boundaries simultaneously. As common ...more
Kristen
Mar 10, 2008 Kristen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: goodfiction
More Charles Baxter. This is his newest work. It didn't disappoint. This book contains a lot of the same central themes prevalent in his other works--identity, discovery, loss, misguided love. At the heart of this book is a dysfunctional relationship between two grad school classmates. The book is very dark. I'm still not sure I "get it" even after I've finished it and spent a couple days processing it. I think it will be a book I re-read. But not now. You have to be in the right state of mind t ...more
christa
Feb 28, 2008 christa rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
whoa. this is like a mirror looking into a mirror looking into a mirror -- which is funny, because i forgot that there is a scene where this happens early in the book. i'm not sure what to think. the gist: nathanian mason becomes absorbed into a new group of friends, falls in love with two women and in the meantime is having his life story stripped away and claimed by the creepy jerome coolberg.

the end is a sort of punchline.

i'm not sure that plot will ever really matter in a charles baxter no
...more
Lawrence
Feb 29, 2008 Lawrence rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
On one level this is an unsettling meditation on identity in modern America (even though that is specifically rejected in the story itself). The story centers on the question of what if your identity is not your own? what if it's stolen by another? Who are you and what do you become, both as an individual and in relation to others? On another - and perhaps, no less unsettling - level, the book is about the act of creating a story. Baxter plays with that notion from the opening of the novel to it ...more
Sara
Nov 04, 2012 Sara rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This book was a pretty quick read, although I didn't really understand it.

The description of the book on the flyleaf looked very interesting - a psychological horror story. Nathanial Mason is a grad student in Buffalo, New York around 1970. He meets up with an odd guy named Jerome Coolberg. It seems like Coolberg is trying to steal Mason's identity. Thirty years later, they meet again and it gets really WEIRD. Other stuff happens, too. Mason's house gets burglarized (or does it really?), he date
...more
Ruth
Jul 06, 2009 Ruth rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
If you had asked me to review this book about 100 pages into it, I would have given it high marks. When I read the last 100 pages, though, my opinion changed. Baxter's writing is beautiful -- I particularly like the descroption of Nathaniel's estate-planning father -- and he did a great job at setting up a sense of foreboding at the beginning of the book. In the end, though, the foreboding was for naught -- the novel never really delivered the creepiness that was promised, and the last part of t ...more
Brian
May 23, 2012 Brian rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Has a book ever knocked you out? Paralyzed you? Most people read for pleasure and never get to experience something akin to getting the wind knocked out of them. That's what the Soul Thief did to me. I highly recommend it. It's about the fluidity of identity. I could give you a lot of cheap English essay buzzwords to describe the fluidity of identity as seen in the novel, but I think that would cheapen it somehow.
Don't read this if you like happy endings. In fact, just don't read this, you won'
...more
Kelly Kramer
Nov 20, 2015 Kelly Kramer rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Like Looking for Alaska, but for pretentious English grad students instead of pretentious high schoolers...
Andrew
Jul 19, 2016 Andrew rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Soul Thief is one of those books where you arrive at the end realizing you have no idea what you've just read—but in the best way. It's like a strange amusement park ride full of exaggerated twists and turns that seems abruptly to end just as it began, save for the hairs on the back of your neck standing on end. It impels you to reread even though you're sure that will only reveal new twists and turns, further complicating what is already a complex and riveting story.

The novel traces the li
...more
Ka
Jul 10, 2015 Ka rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own
Apparently I'm in the minority for liking Charles Baxter's The Soul Thief. But I do like it. I like the way Nathaniel Mason is lost, at first physically, but always emotionally and mentally. I like the way none of the characters are rounded, but all are flat. I like the way connections between characters are never solid, how they talk at each other and live around each other, but they don't support one another. I like how the protagonist, Nathaniel, stays empty, but still manages to care for and ...more
Charlotte
Feb 15, 2008 Charlotte rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: pirates
I hate these stars. I am a shameless overrater. Not of this book, necessarily, but of everything. Why do we have to rate everything in our lives, from restaurants to books and movies with this silly system?

I was captivated by this novel, for sure. It was good, but I need to talk about the ending with some smart people. I guess I was a little underwhelmed by it? The voice really carried the story and then...I don't think I can say anything else without giving too much information.
Stephen
Dec 09, 2015 Stephen rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone who attended college in the 70s - you can probably relate to what happened
Recommended to Stephen by: A friend gave me a copy of a short story collection by this author.
A friend gave me a copy of "A Relative Stranger," a collection of short stories by Charles Baxter. I enjoyed those that I read, probably 30% of the book. I liked the authors fast-paced style of writing and creative use of language. "The Soul Thief" is a short novel, 209 pages and is face-paced as well. You are drawn into it very quickly. It reminded me a lot of "The Secret History" by Donna Tartt, which I really, really enjoyed with the characters and their relationships you love to hate.

"The S
...more
Peter Goodman

“The Soul Thief,” by Charles Baxter (Pantheon, 2008; audiobook read by Jefferson Mays.) The narrator, we think, is Nathaniel Mason, a graduate student in Buffalo. One rainy night, trying to find a party, he encounters Theresa, seductive and clever. They go to the party, he has a good time, they become lovers. Before we meet them, though, Mason tells us about Jerome Coolberg, a campus intellectual type, mysterious, patronizing, knows everyone and everything---cool, in fact. Then Nathaniel begins
...more
Jon
Jul 17, 2015 Jon rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I am a fan of Charles Baxter, but like other Goodreads reviewers, I found this one disappointing. Only the sharply observed and described details, typical of Baxter's work, raised this one to three stars for me. I suppose it is the ultimate post-modern work: characters without character melding into one another, incident without plot, meaning that dissolves into vagueness. At one point two characters enter the mirrored room, an art installation by Lucas Samarras consisting of an 8x8 room with a ...more
Danika
Sep 29, 2008 Danika rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I really don't have a lot to say about this book, I just didn't like it. The characters were thoroughly unlikeable, and I don't think I really 'got it'. 1st book I've ready by this author and I wasn't terribly impressed.
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Charles Baxter was born in Minneapolis and graduated from Macalester College, in Saint Paul. After completing graduate work in English at the State University of New York at Buffalo, he taught for several years at Wayne State University in Detroit. In 1989, he moved to the Department of English at the University of Michigan--Ann Arbor and its MFA program. He now teaches at the University of Minnes ...more
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“The point is that although love may die, what is said on its behalf cannot be consumed by the passage of time, and forgiveness is everything.” 15 likes
“You know, there's something heartsick about parties like this. Look at us. We're all pretending to be smart, as if intelligence were the cure for our anguish.” 8 likes
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