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How It Feels

3.27  ·  Rating Details  ·  483 Ratings  ·  87 Reviews
"I had no idea how free we were. That's how free I was."
An old friend, a best friend, a first love and the dreamer Neil Cronk who connects them all...

Four schoolfriends are on the verge of adulthood and the next 12 hours will change the course of their lives... Friendships will be broken, virginity lost, love unleashed and secrets buried.
A decade later, one is dead, one is
Paperback, 371 pages
Published November 1st 2010 by Picador
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Oct 29, 2012 Melanie rated it it was amazing
For various reasons I came to this book expecting great things, more than that, I anticipated that it would open up a bit of that magic, the kind that alters you subtly but surely among your people, so you see them all a little better. Why we place that kind of hope, and the burden of that hope on an author and his novel makes me a tad guilty, but I was so right with this book.

I read it in one sitting, overly fast, but I spent a lot of time marvelling over the rightness of the prose, the dead-o
Dominica Lowe
Jul 18, 2013 Dominica Lowe rated it did not like it
"Swanna's eyes were somehow harmless, like cardigans"

"I half-spewed some lemon chicken and punched the wall. My fist hurt because I had just punched the wall with it"

I would have liked this book more if I didn't read it.
Kee Kee
Feb 19, 2011 Kee Kee rated it it was ok
The main character is arrogant, egotistical and imploding (i.e. an arse) and it's hard to sympathise with him. I understand that the story is about intensity of youth, which can be stupid and destructive, but these things make How it feels an uncomfortable read.

I suffered through the first third of the book, waiting to understand the real motivations of Neil Cronk and his circle of troubled boys, but it became apparent midway through that they had no effing idea either. Each one is young, dumb
Sep 05, 2011 Mary rated it it was ok
I found this book to be extremely depressing. The writing seems to be really well done, and I can visualise the whole thing as it happens. I can easily see it being a movie, but the subject matter wasn't my cup of tea. It is extremely removed from my own experience of high school and being a young adult, that i couldn't relate to it. I was really glad when the book was over, just so i could put the whole experience behind me. As well written as it is, I wouldn't recommend it to anyone to read.
Sep 07, 2014 Sally rated it liked it
Shelves: literature, aussie
Hmmm, what to say about this one. I'm a little torn. I suppose I should say firstly that I couldn't put this down but at the same time I didn't enjoy it. It was like watching a train crash in slow motion, I couldn't tear my eyes away but it was horrific. This book contains some of the most hideous characters I have ever encountered. They are ALL very unlikeable, particularly the protagonist, Neil who is just about the most repulsive character ever. This is a book about selfish, narcissistic, ego ...more
Jacinta Fintan
Nov 14, 2010 Jacinta Fintan rated it really liked it
After spending four days with Brendan Cowell's main character, Neil Cronk, it has taken me a week to figure out what sort of head trip Cronk took me on. All I can come up with is that it's a bit like sex with the ex. Oh so good and oh so wrong. Particularly when the ex resembles all those remnants of the past that were littered with druggy 90s lost-its.

You know, the friends you knew, people you cared about, parts of your family, ex boyfriends and all those romances that existed in your own head
Nov 08, 2010 Louise rated it it was ok
A coming of age sob story about on of the most licentious and odious character I've come across yet.

How It Feels was for me, painful to read as Neil (protagonist) writes about a good decade of his life where he manages to repeatedly betray, forsake, decieve and hurt his friends who never seem to stop caring about him, although I can't imagine why. I feel like Neil's drug taking almost becomes a way to legitimise some truly inexcusable behaviour, and then I realise, drugs or not, that he was a je
Feb 14, 2012 Belinda rated it really liked it
This book engulfed me beyond anticipation, that's for sure.
Definately bluntly humourous, which complements the raw language used in Cronk's drug-induced experiences of his adult life and youth. This is one of those books that has moments filled in (numerous) paragraphs that leave you gripping onto the words and their meaning. The ending got to me, not just because it was the 'ending' and I had to farewell a very, very troubled protagonist but for the ill-fated desperation Neil/Cronk felt in the
Ms Tlaskal
Definitely for older readers 16 + as it is very explicit in places.

There is not one false note in this novel. Every sentence is true and real. Here is a real antidote to the grotesque depiction of 'The Shire" on TV. As a theatre director Cowell skillfully weaves the time sequence of the narrative to explore every facet of the intoxicating love triangle between his alter-ego Neil Cronk (!), his best friend and his first love. A true insight into an extraordinarily creative man's mind, I will neve
Sunny Naicker
Aug 13, 2013 Sunny Naicker rated it liked it
I have very mixed feelings about this book; growing up in a small coastal town in Australia I could certainly relate to Neil and his friends, who could of been my friends; and the relationship between these friends is tender, raw and touching and certainly cuts to the heart of this story. However it all seems to unravel into a narcissistic, shallow and solipsistic mess and by the end of it I left liking no one and my initial empathy turned to sympathy and eventually absolute apathy for these sha ...more
Helen Morrison
Apr 11, 2011 Helen Morrison rated it it was amazing
A favourite, in line with other Australian brutal realists like Helen Garner (monkey grip) or Christos Tsiolakis (the slap). It wont be some peoples cup of tea, but for me I loved the raw Australian humour and recognizable situations and setting. As David Williamson once said "we [Australians] have to stop being embarrassed by ourselves."
There is a certain kind of middle-brow bloke-lit that I am drawn to read even though it frequently rubs me the wrong way, and How It Feels falls into this camp, or at least has one foot in it. I am actually quite a fan of Brendan Cowell's acting and screenwriting efforts; I think there is a wonderful realism in his work that comes across in this novel. What I didn't like - and this is not necessarily a specific criticism of Cowell but of bloke-lit generally (I define this as people like Venero A ...more
Dec 10, 2012 Kate rated it liked it
I have to warn you that you will need a strong stomache to handle this one. It wasn't the casual, chick-flick romance I was looking for, but still it took me into a world I have never thought about before and let me see how people in these situatiosn struggle and think that life is useless.

Other reviews have made mentions of a lot of sex and drugs (and I couldn't agree more!), but that's how life is for some of us, right? It kinda scares me to see Brendan Cowell (who I loved in "I Love You Too")
Jun 27, 2011 Tina rated it liked it
I found it very hard to like Neil. He's self obsessed, annoying and, at times, totally oblivious to the havoc he wrecks upon all those around him. Maybe it's a guy thing? Maybe it's how teen/post-teen guys think and behave, but it just made him so hard to like. Not that it makes this a bad book, but it does bring up a big question - can you like a book and hate the main character?
In the end, the book wasn't bad. Sure there's more sex, drugs and violence than you can poke a stick at, but I don't
Banafsheh Serov
Dec 14, 2010 Banafsheh Serov rated it it was ok
Four teenage friends living in Sydney’s Southern Shire, have finished their final exams and are about to embark on different paths. In one wild, drug and alcohol fuelled end of year celebrations their lives change forever and friendships are broken.

This is a strange and unusually crafted novel. I confess I left it half way through mainly because of my irritation with Neil and his narcissism. The characters live on a daily orgy of promiscuous sex, alcohol and drugs that seem over exaggerated and
Mar 05, 2011 Danielle rated it it was ok
I have mixed feelings about this book. The beginning is beautiful and the analysis of Cronulla was really interesting as well - The Shire is portrayed as a haven for white racists (however, no mention of the bra boys). Whilst I really enjoyed the writing style - at times really beautiful and poetic, I thought the book was a tad badly edited (lots of obvious typos), and to be honest I found it all a little disappointing. Like 'The Slap' - it is so hard to connect with characters who are such self ...more
Apr 23, 2012 Jenny rated it really liked it
So, how does it feel? Like a nightmare. From an artistic perspective, this is a masterpiece. (For this reason and this reason only I'll give it 4 stars.) ButI can't for the life of me work out why the world needs it. The story, rife with drug-taking, sex and every unimaginably disgusting act a human is capable of, holds all the fascination of a four car pile up on the highway: something you don't want to look at but just can't help yourself. Similarly, it leaves you feeling ashamed and disgusted ...more
Mar 28, 2012 Kelly rated it it was amazing
I just changed my rating of this book from four stars to five in the space of an hour. Initially I gave it four because after I read it, I felt as though my heart had been ripped out. I sat with that feeling for a while and realised I had been completely moved by the story. It is truly a rich and wonderful book and is a quick succession of high after low after high. I can't stay mad with this book just because it left me feeling so sad, I loved every bit of it. Growing up in Bathurst and knowing ...more
Nov 13, 2010 Nicholas rated it really liked it
I read this quickly and that means I must have liked it. It kind of felt odd reading a story that was so close to home in many ways, which then made it even more strange when many events seemed so over the top and unreal (does that make any sense?). Everything is so dramatic and full on, but I guess that's the point, hence, the title...
Looking forward to the follow up novels (no pressure!) where the focus is more narrow and he doesn't feel like he needs to chuck everything in the mix. Bloody goo
Oct 30, 2015 Maddie rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Aug 12, 2015 ~ rated it really liked it
'How It Feels' is an aptly titled book given its obsession with exploring and evoking a wide swathe of strong emotions. It sweeps from sweet to sickening within the space of sentences, compelling more with the friction between these feelings than the conflict of the characters themselves. Which is not to say that they aren't good chaaracters, just coarse ones; too blunt and caustic to ever charm, but sympathetic for the fact that any Australian can see so much of them in people they actually kno ...more
Dec 26, 2012 Lucy rated it it was ok
Why didn't Brendan Cowell just write a memoir? Having not denied majority of this story happened to him directly, this story lacks imagination. An egocentric, self indulgent, and recycled piece of work - I could have sworn I have read this story before? It's well written and funny at times - I'll give him that - but above all reeks of self pitying, lazy, tormented artist that's all too easy to despise! We've heard it all before! Cowell should stick to acting.
Mar 11, 2011 Bella rated it it was amazing
I started reading this book earlier in the year and then work sucked me in another direction regarding literature and life.
I recently picked it up again and devoured it in a couple of days, in spite of said work.
It made me feel like there was nothing wrong with me and that everything would be ok, or it wouldn't (but that's also ok)
Thank you Brendan Cowell.
Matt Kelly
Mar 22, 2015 Matt Kelly rated it it was amazing
At times devastating, but so real that I found it extremely hard to put down
Mar 06, 2011 Thomas rated it it was amazing
Dark and honest. Loved it.
Brooke Carter
Feb 20, 2016 Brooke Carter rated it it was ok
I really don't know what to think of this book. It's one where the blurb doesn't doesn't prepare you properly- in a bad way. It tries to make it sound like it's going to something with a lot of wisdom or at least the main character learning something or at the very very least be someone you can relate to.

As a person currently in my final year of uni I absolutely did not feel that way. The book felt like an exaggeration of all the different ways you can not have your life together. As well as sa
Emma Linton
Sep 09, 2015 Emma Linton rated it it was ok
‘How it Feels’ is dark, poignant and depressing. So why did I read it from cover to cover, in a single sitting? I was accompanied by an ever-present feeling of discomfort, yet I was still completely hooked to this story throughout its entire course.

Cowell shows an astounding ability to bend and manipulate language in unique ways, to create mesmerizing insights and imagery. Evidence of this is randomly scattered in the novel, wound into the observations and perspectives of Neil, the protagonist.
Jan 12, 2011 Lisa rated it liked it
Recommended to Lisa by: Gift from Greg
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Steve lovell
Oct 18, 2013 Steve lovell rated it did not like it
A 'Sunday Telegraph reviewer reckons (Brendan) 'Cowell looks destined to be one of Australia's finest novelists'. I wonder what book of this author he/she was reading to make that assertion. I sincerely hope it wasn't this one!

Now I like Cowell – still best known, I think, for his acting. I have loved him in such television and cinematic features as 'Love My Way', 'I Love You Too' and 'Save Your Legs'. Listening to him being interviewed by Ellen Fanning for 'The Observer Effect', he comes acros
Nov 05, 2014 Carmel rated it it was ok
Not a good read in that the subject matters (copious amounts of drugs and sex, suicides pervading several characters lives) were so unrelatable to me, yet I couldn't put this book down. It was depressing but intriguing. Harshly written, reminds me of Helen garner books, or as some other reviews suggest, tsiolkos, there is nowhere to hide with these ugly characters and their troubles lives. Enjoyed it and hated it at once. 2.5 stars. Don't think I would recommend it.
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Does Neil die at the end or not? 3 14 Aug 20, 2013 06:02PM  
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“We were the wrong age for love and yet it was all we could think about.” 17 likes
“Because it was all I wanted to fucking know. It was all I wanted to know in this fucking world: where did the beautiful boys go? Where did the beautiful boys go? Where the hell did they go?” 8 likes
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