Headhunter
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Headhunter

3.84 of 5 stars 3.84  ·  rating details  ·  938 ratings  ·  44 reviews
It doesn't take long to discover the literary classic at the heart of Timothy Findley's dystopian novel Headhunter. Lilah Kemp, schizophrenic and one of a triumvirate of main characters, announces in the opening scene that she may have released the character of Kurtz from the pages of Joseph Conrad's novel Heart of Darkness. Add to this fantastic formula a couple of psychi...more
Paperback, 440 pages
Published 1994 by Crown Publishers (first published 1993)
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Jennifer (aka EM)
This book hurt my head and my heart and turned my stomach - I guess that`s an appropriate response to a tale of the evil that lurks in the heart of men (and women, but here mostly men).

Headhunter is an inventive and possibly even brilliant re-telling of Heart of Darkness, set in Toronto at the Parkin Institute -- a thinly-veiled Clarke Institute of Psychiatry -- with Kurtz (yes, really) re-cast as the Parkin`s head psychiatrist, who has gone wayyyyyy up the river and over the edge into madness...more
Wendy Baxter
Definitely not recommended to my students. But my favourite of his books. Is that a terrible thing to say? It's kind of a terrible book. I mean, given its topic. But it is so well written that I couldn't help admiring it. For which I feel guilty. How does he get into the heads of those kinds of people?? And he makes the reader go there too!! yoikes! But yet you want to. Clearly, a master writer.
Megan Baxter
Headhunter is not a book to read if you want the word "settled" to enter your vocabulary any time in the near future. It is perhaps as unsettling a book as I am willing to read, and yet, I've read it three or four times now. It keeps drawing me back, for all its horror.

Note: The rest of this review has been withdrawn due to the changes in Goodreads policy and enforcement. You can read why I came to this decision here.

In the meantime, you can read the entire review at Smorgasbook
CynthiaA
Findlay is brilliant, but this wasn't one of my faves of his. Nonetheless, I enjoyed it. The parallels between this book and Heart of Darkness were fascinating. The discussion of 'madness' was interesting as well. The part I struggled with was the extremely disturbing sexual behaviours of some of the characters. I realize that to explore a theme of 'sex as power' these character's behaviours were necessary to the book, but it was just too edgy for me in some places.I found the ending to be a bit...more
McKenzie
“Headhunter,” is placed somewhere in the near future. Too close for comfort, I would say as this social dystopian novel looks at two elements; 1. species extinction as hallmarks for environmental collapse almost as closely as it examines the background behind 2. child pornography. (It asks the questions we find hard to ask as a community – what is the difference between deliberate apathy and obedience by likening the turning of a blind eye towards the bird pandemic and when society ignored the...more
Claire
Ok, so it's wierd and pretty graphic...I still loved it! Set at CAMH in Toronto, future where the birds are all killed to save us from disease, following a new pair of Marlow and Kurtz facing off as they always do (ref: Heart of Darkness)
Héctor
A good book but most disturbing and depressive. Don't read it in winter when it is too dark if you live far from the tropics! and also don't read it in Vancouver or anywhere close to the wet west coast!
Matthec
This book is a reread for me. I have been reading a lot of short fiction lately and want to sink into a long novel written by a Canadian.
Lux
Headhunter is fantastic. It is a story that takes you deep into our heart of darkness. This is a must-read for any fan of the author.
Catherine
I came to this book for Lilah Kemp, billed as the protagonist who unwittingly releases fictional characters from literary classics. She does not figure as prominently as expected. The book explores some interesting territory, particularly if you're able to recognize the literary references (not sure if I got them all). However, the book also explores some very horrible material, of a disturbing and sexual nature (abuse of power, sexual violence, pedophilia, etc.). I'm not sure that the interesti...more
Blair
This was a gripping story about a group of high-class elite in a dystopian-set Toronto. Wealth and power minus souls or empathy for the human race. The protagonist and antagonist in this book share the famous names of former fictional characters: Kurtz and Marlow a la Joseph Conrad's "Heart of Darkness". Their relationship is much the same as the originals. A bird-flu disease, psychiatric hospitals and patients, halluncinated fictional literary characters and The Club of Men. Findley's prose is...more
Shadallark
Sep 25, 2011 Shadallark rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Shadallark by: Lesley
Shelves: canadiana
This was a rather disturbing, somewhat incongruous, at times hard to follow journey through the lives of many people. The book was okay, the material covered was reasonably portrayed but rather disturbing, but all in all it did not engage me or keep me on the edge of my seat. I had been recommended this book by someone who said that Timothy Findley is a similar author to Robertson Davies... I failed to feel the connection. Perhaps if I were to read some other books by Findley I might see the sim...more
Marilyn Matheny
Jul 15, 2008 Marilyn Matheny rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Heart of Darkness readers, psychologists, psychiatrists
Shelves: i-own-this
I loved this book. I found it in a second hand bookstore and after a few seconds of browsing in it, I was captured. In the first paragraph: "Lilah Kemp inadvertently set Kurtz free from page 92 of Heart of Darkness. Horror-stricken she tried to force him back between the covers." I had to find out how that came out. I was glad it did.

It has become one of my current top three favorite books. The others are: Horse Heaven by Jane Smiley and The Instance of the Fingerpost by Ian Pears. They are all...more
Sara G
It was hard to keep everything in this book straight but I liked it a lot
Claire
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Nathan Burgoine
Liliah Kemp, librarian, spiritualist, schizophrenic, inadvertently lets Kurtz out of page 92 of "Heart of Darkness" and onto the streets of a slightly future-set Toronto streets.

The counterpoint of "Is she just insane or not?" comes into focus when the city suddenly starts falling apart, with flocks of disease-carrying birds, the rich are becoming even more depraved, and Lilah tries to hunt down a Marlow... And is Kurtz the new head of the psychiatric hospital?

Awesome reading experience.
Alexander Weber
Closer to 3.5 stars.
Really good read, and surprisingly fast for its size.
There isn't really a main character, but Lilah Kemp is sort of a main protagonist, who lets out Kurtz from Heart of Darkness, and needs to find her Marlow. The book follows many characters, including Kurtz and Marlow, both of whom are psychiatrists in Toronto. Marlow's quest down the 'amazon' into darkness reveals the horrors of a Club of Men doing terrible things to children and somehow Kurtz is all behind it. Super fun re...more
Patricia
Read it dome time ago but I remember thinking there was EVIL in this novel and find lye was presenting it
Guy
I was actually disappointed when I read this book. I suspect that it is actually very good, but coming after Famous Last Words and especially Not Wanted on the Voyage I had wanted it to be different that what it is -- which is unfair to the book and my reading it. So, it is on a very back burner of my to be re-read shelf.
Barbara McEwen
Wow, forget Conrad, I want to read more Findley. His writing is impressive and I love the characters, especially Lilah Kemp. I have a real soft-spot for Lilah. I can't help appreciating that Findley chose not to portray schizophrenics as the violent psychopaths they are often portrayed as in the media.
Dana
Disturbingly beautiful.

Even if you cannot condone the dark matter within the pages, Findley's ability to weave an intricate an compelling tale is undeniable.

One of my favorite authors. I was delighted to make his acquaintance after he read from this novel at the University of Calgary.
Kate
Heart of Darkness (and The Great Gatsby) for an ageing civilisation that hasn't learned from history. Eerie and effective, but scattered a little more than need be for the desired effect and ultimately will leave you primarily with the longing to re-read Conrad who says it all better.
Janet Adams
Of the three Findlay books I read, this was the least interesting to me. I didn't find that the narrator held together, nor were any of the characters developed enough for me to care. Certainly not the way I did with Not Wanted on the Voyage or even Famous Last Words.
Dbraico
this book was pretty trippy. really confusing to me. is the guy in the book in real life or is the woman just going crazy kind of confusing. read it when i was younger. may need to read it again if i can find it.
Jeffrey
I loved this novel. I enjoyed the literary allusions... or rather intrusions... that cropped up through. I enjoyed the near portents of the future. I just found it an amazing read with compelling characters.
Kate
great book... particularly interesting because I can picture many of the places that are described since it's set in Toronto. always interesting to read books where the main character is a little crazy...
Kat
Wildly disturbing, haunting and surreal. There's more darkness than light in this book, and it's not for the faint of heart. Be prepared to enter the world of the absurd.
Cyril
Very interesting and absorbing, although quite unbelievable at times. Biting satire. I'm not sure I would ever trust a psychiatrist after reading this.
Loretta Lee
I think this might be my new favorite book! What a tale - what style! This is my first Findley book, but sure not to be my last!
Hanna
A rough read at times but definitely worth it. Findley showed just how fine a line there is between sanity and insanity.
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happy ending? 1 6 Aug 08, 2011 09:49AM  
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Timothy Irving Frederick Findley was a Canadian novelist and playwright. He was also informally known by the nickname Tiff or Tiffy, an acronym of his initials.
More about Timothy Findley...
Not Wanted on the Voyage The Wars The Piano Man's Daughter Pilgrim Famous Last Words

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