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3.23 of 5 stars 3.23  ·  rating details  ·  629 ratings  ·  58 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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Girl With a Pearl Earring by Tracy ChevalierAtonement by Ian McEwanThe Remains of the Day by Kazuo IshiguroNever Let Me Go by Kazuo IshiguroAmsterdam by Ian McEwan
The University of East Anglia
46th out of 68 books — 14 voters
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Titles that start with O, P, or Q
480th out of 527 books — 33 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,203)
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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

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...more
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
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
Ian Young
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
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
Ryan Louis
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...more
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
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
Melani 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.
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
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
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.
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.
Martin Boyle
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
Cyndi Chauvin
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
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
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
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
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
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.

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.
Written in what struck me as being a somewhat old fashioned style like a sort of cross between David Lodge and Martin Amis (bizarre) this book never quite dug deep enough to successfully join up some weak threads from a tentative political thriller story based around the 1956 Hungarian Uprising with a domestic tragedy of an upper middle class family in the South of England, the 3 male protagonists stumbling on a way to move on from a troubling past. Mildly interesting but a bit one dimensional a...more
I would give "Oxygen" 2.5 stars; however, that is not possible on goodreads, so I rounded up to three.

A. Miller's novel, "Oxygen", concerns the four central characters: Larry, Alec and Alice Valentine, and Laszlo Lazar. Each is seeking to redeem him/herself as s/he comes to terms with self and history. The writing is simple yet thoughtful. Over the course of the novel, there are some astute passages. These passages, however, last no more than a few sentences, and could be combined to fill a hand...more
Очередной депресняк.
A bore. Political lectures. 323 pages of cliches, minutiae, product placement--don’t make a novel.
This book captures the human emotions and relationships in the best possible way. Any reader who enjoys the subtlety of human emotions will admire it.
The author builds up the story till the end and leaves a lot of guessing to be done by the reader in the end.
Overall a good read but will not leave a lasting impact as no character is so definite (not denying the fact that every character is well defined and seems very true)that it will remain in your mind once you put down the novel.
This was such a surprise to me. I read it because I enjoyed "PURE" so much - writing and characters. "Oxygen" is nothing like that period tale but so thoughtfully written, i.e. good writing but well developed while drawing really excellent character sketches and interesting 'stories'...

Alas (I suppose and you will note if you read any of my 'reviews' at all) I am not an introspective reader but - my gosh - Andrew Miller had me thinking away on his themes. Wonderful. ..I'm back for more!
Good book although I felt it lacked a turning point, something during the story that took your breath away or shocked you. It was just a tale. Well narrated, as usual, but only a tale.
'Pure' and 'Ingenious Pain' definitely rank a couple of steps above this.
I found this tortured and overwritten. Rather than creating vivid characters and a captivating narrative, the author used a cliched cancer story to try to evoke sadness in the reader. I could almost feel him going "Look how artsy that sentence was!" and "Are you sad yet? How about now?" and "I am clever, as proven by this analogy about flowers!"

Not for me.
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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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