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Oxygen

3.31  ·  Rating Details ·  913 Ratings  ·  76 Reviews
Oxygen is a contemporary tale of courage, love and liberation. It is the latest novel from the winner of the James Tait Black Memorial, International Impac and Grinzane Cavour Prizes and one of the most celebrated debutants of the '90s, Andrew Miller.
Paperback, 336 pages
Published 2001 by Hodder & Stoughton
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(showing 1-30)
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MJ Nicholls
One of those novels where the reader is kept bobbing on the surface of interest, an empathetic reaction, or real excitement, for the entire duration, without ever experiencing interest, an empathetic reaction or real excitement for the entire duration. Miller is a good craftsman: a carpenter who gets the words in the right order, without the allusions to Jesus or Owen Wilson. No messing.

The book weaves three narratives together with an overly descriptive prose style, depressingly inept middle-ag
...more
Mark
Apr 23, 2012 Mark rated it it was amazing
Oxygen

Andrew Miller

Having enjoyed Andrew Miller’s beautifully crafted prose in ‘Pure’ it wasn’t surprising to discover the same elegantly perceptive writing in “Oxygen” except that my enjoyment was heightened by the sensitive unravelling of his characters facing bleak and challenging tasks, notably being forced to confront critical illness and difficult reminiscences, and imminent bereavement and loss. The writing throughout is moving and profound as his characters approach the climactic of thei
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Laura
Mar 31, 2013 Laura rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
There is such a quiet power to this book, such understated pain and beauty. While I love audio books, every now and then I encounter a book that I really regret listening to rather than reading, because there are so many gorgeous, astute lines that my fingers are just itching to underline so that I can ponder them later. Here is just one of many examples:

"He had given up trying to understand her, for unless you had grown up beside a person from the very beginning, breathing the same air, then th
...more
Konstantin
Nov 07, 2014 Konstantin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: serious
[rating = B]
Take a breath; and live. Two stories wrap around the ideas of life and death, things done and left undone. Alec and his brother Larry have an ailing mother, Alice, who will die any day. Laszlo, an aging playwright, is in search of something he lost in his youth. Each has to deal with what is to come. They have the opportunity to change or to cause some effect on the life or destiny of another. Choices, ideas, what to do. Andrew Miller writes with a very witty, perhaps more funny, han
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☮Karen
This is the only Andrew Miller book I've read, and 3 1/2 stars is appropriate. I thought at first it more of a "guy" book since all 3 main characters are men, and it is their lives, thoughts, and aspirations the reader is exposed to. The 2 brothers seem very much in need of some good therapy, and the playwrite heals his own wounds through a secret political assignment back to his home country, Hungary. In the end you really can only guess what is going to happen to the 3 characters. One Goodread ...more
Catherine
Jan 09, 2013 Catherine rated it it was amazing
Well, I loved, loved this book. I know I seem to say that about every book, so I'm putting it down to the exceptional reading tastes of the ladies of Allenheads. If Peter Stamm's narrative was Camus like in its sparseness and absurdity, then Miller is a bit like a modern day Dickens or perhaps a Thomas Hardy. The description flows abundantly throughout the book; in fact, it never, ever stops. Every minute detail of place and character, even every innimate object, is observed so keenly it almost ...more
Daniel
Feb 28, 2012 Daniel rated it it was amazing
When I first began Oxygen, I was taken in by the writing, by the author's deft use of words, his economy of language. I could tell right away that Miller knew how to work a pen (or, nowadays, a word processor). But I must confess that I wondered, for a while, if anything was really going to happen. There is certainly a story here (three in fact), but in all honesty, not that much happens. I was fully expecting this lack of grounded action to undermine the novel's rather deceptively simple and be ...more
Ian Young
Aug 10, 2011 Ian Young rated it really liked it
Oxygen by Andrew Miller is set in the summer of 1997, and tells the linked stories of four characters. Three are the members of a single family. Alice Valentine, an ex-teacher, is slowly dying of cancer in her home in the West Country. She reflects a little on her past and tries to cope with the expectations of her family while struggling with the relentless downward course of her illness. Her younger son, Alec, returns from London to the family home to stay with her. He has always lacked confid ...more
Tony
Jan 25, 2013 Tony rated it really liked it
32. OXYGEN. (2001). Andrew Miller. ****.
This is a fine novel from this respected writer that was a finalist for the Booker Prize in 2001. It explores love and loss, regret and self-discovery. Alice and her son Alec live in England. Alec is essentially the live-in care giver for his mother, now elderly and with terminal cancer. Alec’s brother Larry and his family live in California. Larry has been successfully pursuing a career in daytime TV, but has just had his contract cancelled. He has becom
...more
Marguerite
Jul 23, 2010 Marguerite rated it really liked it
Andrew Miller has a talent for putting words together beautifully. He also can tell a story or -- as he does here -- multiple tales. The story of the Valentine boys helping their mother at the end of her life intersects only marginally with the life of Hungarian emigre and playwright Laszlo Lazar but there are parallels of mood and imagery that knit together to form a lovely whole. This novel is about second chances, love and loss, and families, born and made. At times it's wickedly funny (the a ...more
Ryan Louis
Feb 26, 2013 Ryan Louis rated it really liked it
Such beautiful sentence structure (weird that I start a review with that) that seems to only be concerned with fluidity. It's as if Miller believes periods create blockages. Sometimes his sentences stretch on for paragraphs--always sustained; never running on. He exerts a masterful control over everything. And with that flow comes beautiful imagery. Some of the most wonderful, emotional-laden descriptions I've seen in prose.

The central metaphor is spectacular, too: oxygen. He sets it up near th
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Deborah Moulton
This is the kind of contemporary writing that makes one realize there will never be shortage of remainders to fill the bargain bins at the local bookstore. Was it well written? Kind of. Was there a good plot? Well, no. Were the characters engaging? Definitely not. It seemed like a tired story. You know, the one where the almost middle-aged sons return home to the English manor to watch their mother die. One neurotic and needy. The other a fading soap star who has become bankrupt (in more ways th ...more
Caroline
Jun 13, 2007 Caroline rated it liked it
This book was lovely, langourous, hypnotic. Written (like so many novels these days) from several perspectives and each of the characters had a different undercurrent of desperation about him/her and what I especially admired was that the other characters recognized and found embarassing those notes of desperation and weakness as well. There was a connection between the inner life of the characters and the outward perception of them. Also had some brilliant similes and beautiful use of weather s ...more
Steph
Jan 01, 2015 Steph rated it really liked it
At first the characters annoyed me, with their flaws clear from the outset. As I continued to read though I found myself drawn into their lives and eager to discover their fate. Beautifully written and with a perceptive understanding of the human psyche, this is a good book for those soul searching.
Melani
Mar 09, 2014 Melani rated it did not like it
Shelves: gave-up
...giving up on page 85. I heard NPR's Nancy Pearl recently say something like, "there are too many good books in the world. If you don't like one, don't feel compelled to finish it; move on." I feel no attachment to plot, characters or prose in this novel. I'm moving on to those many other good books in the world.
Boyce
Jan 29, 2010 Boyce rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a wonderful book. A dying mother, her two sons who have come to their English home to be with her, their stories, a Hungarian playwright in Paris - all their stories woven together. The writing is quite beautiful. A quiet, thoughtful book. Highly recommended.
Helen
Apr 05, 2013 Helen rated it really liked it
3.5 rather than a 4 because I thought the ending let this book down. I was left wondering what was going to happen to several of the characters and their situations. Would have preferred just one more chapter to tie up a few loose ends. Beautifully written though.
Sue
Feb 21, 2015 Sue rated it it was amazing
Marvellous, loved this. Wasn't expecting it to be so different from the only other book of his I've read (Pure) which I loved too.
Tuck
Apr 11, 2013 Tuck rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: europa
This multi-story line novel centers around the valentine family, mom alice is on her death bed from big c, alec is on the verge of a nervous breakdown and back at family home taking care of alice (dad is dead, suicide by alcohol and car), big brother larry is washed up soap opera actor in California who is reduced to secretly doing porn movies for cash (this is set in 1997), but comes back to uk to be with alice and family, a fourth story line is lazlo lazar, Hungarian (but living in france sinc ...more
Jill
Nov 08, 2016 Jill rated it really liked it
This was an excellent read, a 4.5 star review (if Goodreads had such a thing). Tells three stories, two of which are closely interwoven and the third has a loose connection. Brothers Alec and Larry are living diverse lives, Alec in the UK, struggling with demons which aren't fully explained and taking the reins when mother Alice is diagnosed with terminal cancer; and Larry in the US, struggling with demons which are explained in some detail - a failing acting career in a long running daytime soa ...more
Angela
Jan 30, 2017 Angela rated it liked it
After reading Pure I was so impressed with Andrew Miller's prose that I was eager to read more of his work and to my surprise I found I'd had Oxygen lying on my book shelf for years. However I didn't enjoy it even half as much. With Pure, I would read parts over again as the prose was so enthralling but with Oxygen I was reading them over again because my attention had wandered. I found the stories a bit disjointed, especially the Hungarian playwright whose script 'Oxygène' is being translated b ...more
Hubert
May 16, 2013 Hubert rated it really liked it
Two parallel stories: a family comes to terms with the slow and anguished passing of the family matriarch, Alice, to cancer, and a dissident writer, Laszlo, finds closure from an act of betrayal from years past. Alice's older son, Larry, comes to the UK to reunite with younger brother Alec and witness her final days. We learn of the difficult relationship that the brothers have had over the years.

Miller is particularly strong at building characters, layering psychological detail upon detail, all
...more
Cyndi Chauvin
Jan 16, 2012 Cyndi Chauvin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Even though the subject (terminal illness, failure in work and or marriage, etc) could sound depressing, to me it really wasn't at all.
I feel it was well written and thoughtful and inside the mind a lot which was really cool of Andrew Miller to me.
A few examples:
Alice who is dying cant sleep in the middle of the night ...what goes through her mind, the past, the near future, what to prepare for, etc. so realistic, so vulnerable, so strong all at once.
Larry one of the Brothers watches his Daug
...more
Jayne Charles
Aug 03, 2016 Jayne Charles rated it it was ok
If this novel had been set up as four short stories about loosely connected characters it might have made more sense to me. Written as a novel, the four stories intertwined but the main characters still felt disconnected from each other, despite three of them being members of the same family. Perhaps it was the incongruity of the family of three in England - two brothers and their mother with terminal cancer - and the fourth character, a Hungarian living in Paris, who is connected only loosely w ...more
Narumon
May 16, 2014 Narumon rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book deals with the ideas of loss, redemption, and hope with a quiet dignity. We follow a cast of characters, each suffering some sort of loss of self, as they come to terms with their loss and figure out what "hope" means for them. On the surface, it is a story about an English family, brought back together by the imminent death of the mother and about a playwright whose play is being translated by the younger son of the family.

I loved the quietness of the book and the meditation it broug
...more
Anne
Nov 01, 2014 Anne rated it really liked it
Completely different to the amazing Pure:

3 male lives are interwoven as they cease running from their pasts and face the future, which for Alice, the mother, is unravelling as her cancer advances.

A clever and beautifully written novel but one which might speak more to those of us who are facing the same rite of passage of a dying relative than others. I felt the brothers' pain and feelings of fear and inadequacy and was inspired by Laszlo and his ability to change behaviour, even at his age.

Th
...more
Trashpalace
Dec 06, 2010 Trashpalace rated it it was amazing
Shelves: finished, in, may, 2008
Due fratelli che si ritrovano per poi scoprire quanto sono lontani, una madre che combatte la sua ultima battaglia contro il cancro, uno scrittore che cerca di estinguere il rimorso colpevole che si porta dentro da anni.
Storie diverse che si intersecano, animi scavati e delicatamente esposti, provati dalla ricerca e turbati dalla vicinanza del baratro.

"My father used to tell us that happiness and unhappiness are two dogs that follow each other around. When you saw one, the other wasn't far off.

...more
Diotima
Dec 31, 2013 Diotima rated it did not like it
I absolutely loved Pure and eagerly looked forward to reading this book. What a disappointment. This is very different in so many ways, and none of them good. Unlike Pure, Oxygen is set in the here and now and is about family relationships as the Mother of the family lays dying. I didn't like any of the characters, couldn't even feel anything for the dying mother. Even the small child is obnoxious and has some serious issues (not surprising given the rest of the family). PS. The Introduction and ...more
Martin Boyle
Aug 03, 2014 Martin Boyle rated it it was ok
Shelves: reviews
This was a massive disappointment. The writing style felt too precious and the characters a patchy lot. Even for the ones I could believe in, I found it hard to maintain an interest in their activities.

I kept thinking, perhaps it is a comedy and I'm missing the joke, although the level of pathos rather belied that. The different threads did not link convincingly, even when there was a strong narrative link.

When I finished the book I felt that it hadn't been worth the time. Sorry, this one was ob
...more
Jishi
Feb 07, 2012 Jishi rated it really liked it
This is a book that I found in one of my morning jaunts in my favorite book shop in Cityland Tower. I just wanted to try a non-romance novel and I happened to pick up this book on the lower shelf.



Miller has shown me all kinds of love between people. A love of the favorite son for his ailing mother, a love of the un-favorite son for his dying mother, love that has fallen apart in the years of marriage, a love between two gay people and all the in-between.






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Andrew Miller was born in Bristol in 1960. He has lived in Spain, Japan, Ireland and France, and currently lives in Somerset. His first novel, INGENIOUS PAIN, was published by Sceptre in 1997 and won the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for Fiction, the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award and the Grinzane Cavour prize in Italy. His second novel, CASANOVA, was published in 1998, followed by OX ...more
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