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The Curfew

3.72 of 5 stars 3.72  ·  rating details  ·  899 ratings  ·  174 reviews
William and Molly lead a life of small pleasures, riddles at the kitchen table, and games of string and orange peels. All around them a city rages with war. When the uprising began, William’s wife was taken, leaving him alone with their young daughter. They keep their heads down and try to remain unnoticed as police patrol the streets, enforcing a curfew and arresting citi ...more
Paperback, 195 pages
Published June 14th 2011 by Vintage Contemporaries (first published January 1st 2011)
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1984 by George OrwellThe Handmaid's Tale by Margaret AtwoodThe Diary of a Young Girl by Anne FrankThe Carer by Scott  NelsonThe Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka
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325th out of 343 books — 125 voters
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Community Reviews

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I'm being a bit tough on this book with only three stars, but I think that's a solid rating. Problem is I kept comparing this in my head to Herta Müller's masterpiece, The Land of Green Plums. Both books are minimalist, with short sections. Both books take place in police states, where paranoia is a way of life. And there's even in a similarity in the tone.

But Müller's novel is work of poetic genius, while Ball's spare approach veers a bit more towards postmodernism. I cared deeply about Müller'
I think I've been hesitant to include Jesse Ball near the top of the list of my favorite authors only because he's so young. Part of it is definitely the fact that, so far, we have only a limited library to choose from. But with The Curfew, his third novel, I can finally cave and claim Ball as a favorite. The Way Through Doors, novel #2, is one of the best books I've ever read, and with The Curfew as a follow up, Ball has proven himself to be a mind apart, crafting beautiful, bizarre, and though ...more
Minimalist, poetic, Kafkaesque, pretentious. A short novel, not really even a novella, but it its brevity it tells a large story. Jesse Ball gives you the outline, images, ideas, and tools from which you flesh out the story with your own experiences and reading, a pretty neat trick. Two elements of The Curfew made a strong impression on me: William's secondary occupation (which he took up after society became a police state and the curfew was imposed -- he had been a concert violinist before mus ...more
Dreamy, minimalist totalitarian state lit. Sometimes has the scent of Paul Auster around the edges but with a more self-concious attachment to formal experiment. It's told in fragments, which generally works for me, but I found some of the novel's individual shards and pieces greater than the sum of its parts.
Nanu ♔
Leí este libro hace un par de meses y decidí no calificarlo hasta terminar de procesar lo que me dejó su lectura.
La historia de Toque de queda transcurre en la ciudad C. en una realidad distópica, podríamos decir. El gobierno es totalitario; los ministerios y la policía, invisibles. Nadie sabe con certeza quiénes están al mando.
Dentro de este clima "kafkiano" están William y Molly. Él es un violinista retirado que se dedica a escribir epitafios porque, desde que existe el toque de queda, está pr
After reading his other two books, The Way Through Doors and Samedi the Deafness, a few years ago, I was ready to declare Jesse Ball my favorite living author and eagerly awaited his next book. The Curfew, is Ball's third novel and it does not disappoint. This story is set in a dystopian police state and follow a (forcefully) retired violinist turned epitaphorist, William, and his young mute daughter, Molly. William finds out that an old friend may have some information about the disappearance o ...more
To begin: When the publisher claims at the end of their synopsis that Jesse Ball’s “The Curfew is a mesmerizing feat of literary imagination,” you may think it an excitable exaggeration. It isn’t. Nor is Minneapolis Star-Tribune’s observation that “There seems to be no other novelist writing today who is capable of so thoroughly disarming one’s narrative expectations.” Writers and Readers alike: prepare to be equally intimidated and inspired.

Those who have read Jesse Ball–and adore him, I would
This was a novella really - pages sparse and book very short.
Which is why I finished it.

I kept thinking - this has got to change.

It's one of those books that is written in such as way as to make the reader think there is more than meets the eye - but it is smoke and mirrors. Granted, there are a few well spaced philosophical truths thrown throughout - and it is symbolic. But just not good enough or consistent enough to create any sort of train of thought or overall development.
Mar 28, 2015 Lobstergirl rated it 2 of 5 stars
Recommended to Lobstergirl by: James Wood
Shelves: fiction

Personally I'm glad to see experimental, postmodernist fiction like this get some affection from reviewers, (view spoiler). The protagonists, a 29-year old widowed father and his 8-year old mute daughter (or is she 9? on one page she's 8, a few pages later we're told she's 9...), have the makings of characters you could get attached to, if the novel were longer, but it's extremely short. The dystopic setting is objectively horrifying, but again there's so lit
holy fucking shit the goddamn asshole
Some books get described as “rich with detail.” “The Curfew” is not one of those — it’s the opposite. But that’s good. Jesse Ball has a gift for conveying the complexities of a scary new world in remarkably few words.
The story takes place on a single day in an unnamed city in a not-very-pleasant-sounding future, a police state of unwritten rules, violent deaths and abrupt disappearances. The curfew referred to in the title is vague, but menacingly real: “The government’s official word on the mat
Q: Good book?
A: Good book!

Q: Really good book?
A: Really good book! And short!

Q: Not too short?
A: No! Just the right length! Like that episode of Twin Peaks in the black lodge where you learn who killed Laura Palmer. This book reminded me of David Lynch, btw.

Q: David Lynch? Without images or music? I won't believe it.
A: No, seriously. Here's a demonstrative passage:

A young woman with a very short skirt and a thin blouse came out of a building in the distance. Because she was so beautiful, he s
What happened? Not much and yet a lot.

Did I enjoy the book? Not much.

Did I put the book down even though I was not enjoying it? No.

Do I know what happened? Not really. That said, I hardly cared about most of the characters enough to care about what ultimately happened. The exception being the daughter but one could assume she stayed with the puppeteer and go back to not caring all that much.

With very few words, lots of white space and use of mystery, the author is able to describe a life of l
The Curfew is about the individual's, the family's and the larger community's, struggle to maintain control in a world that is ultimately out of our control. The Curfew is a novel written by a poet with spare, lyrical, insightful writing. There is no shortage of lines to savor and repeat in one's head or aloud.

There is a wonderful recent interview with the author: I especially found illuminating:

"Jesse Ball: We’re all put in to difficult circumstances in
As I loved Ball's The Way Through Doors I decided to read everything the guy has written. While The Way Through Doors was a Lynchian mind**** this book was a straight up gut punch. I was very quickly emotionally involved with the relationship between the father and his daughter Molly. Maybe it's because I'm a parent now and I couldn't imagine trying to raise my son without my wife but this book really hit hard. It's the tale of a man trying to raise his daughter in a dystopian future, where his ...more
I sort of complained that Ball's prior novel, The Way Through Doors, was treacly, so I don't really have grounds to whine that this one is a stone cold bummer. It's an odd complaint especially given that I usually love distopias. I think, though, that my problem is rooted in the dissonance between the gravity of the Curfew's themes and plot, and the persistant cutesy-wootsiness of Ball's prose. Even with its subject matter of invisible violence, state hegemony, death, and rememberance, The Curfe ...more
Aug 10, 2011 Elizabeth rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: fans of Dr. Seuss and the secret police
Shelves: 2011
This book is like you were walking along on a grey day, picked up a rock and living underneath that rock was a whimsical alternative universe. Seussian ideas within the confines of human characters. Even with all the whimsey though, it is still essentially a universe living underneath a rock and all that entails. Epitath-ists, riddles and puppets nestled up against the Stasi, so to speak.

It took a few pages to get into the alternative format of the book and I really enjoyed that some pages had
An odd little book. I read a description of this one in the newspaper and was intrigued. Reminded me of books they want you to read in college to alter the way you think.

It's a book of frightening images set in a near future where "the system" has taken over--everyone is watched, people are controlled and killed when they rebel. A father is trying to care for his small daughter after his wife "disappears." Much of the book is told as a puppet show that the little girl writes. I thought the endin
Rarely do I give a novel 5/5 stars. It has to impact me deeply with such a full sense to my entire being that I feel like I've been changed by it. That said, this is definitely the case for Jesse Ball's The Curfew. It had such an effect that months later I am still thinking about it and reliving first moments I felt when I read some of the pages. It has to do quite a bit with living in a climate where independent thought and artists are being suppressed...there is darkness and fear but also quit ...more
Cenhner Scott
A ver.
El argumento es más o menos este: en la ciudad C hay toque de queda y quien lo viola es asesinado. No hay mucha más explicación que esa, ni para lector ni para los habitantes de C. Hay un hombre cuya mujer desapareció hace un tiempo y ahora cría él sólo a su hija muda. Un día le dicen que alguien tiene información sobre el paradero de su mujer, pero tiene que violar el toque de queda para encontrarse con ese alguien. Esa noche deja a su hija a cuidado de unos vecinos y va a buscar esa inf
In many ways, I felt this novel was more interested in style than substance … actually, much like poetry in a way. The author seemed to only give the basic outline of a plot/characters, and dared the reader to keep going. Oh, I’m all for novels that challenge me, plunge me into a world that forces me to keep up. But this is not the case here. The truncated opening style seemed so bare bones; a bit of a cheat, I think. Eventually, I couldn’t make it past pg. 30.
Bill Krieger
"The Curfew" is different, but not good. I like different, and I admire authors (any artists) that take chances. But in Curfew, the plot and characters are maudlin. Seriously, when your main characters are an ex-violin master, his mute daughter, and their kindly neighbor, the puppeteer... well, it just came off as rather silly and unmoving to me.

Also, the length, richness and depth of this book makes it a novella really, not a novel.
yow, bill
Jean was different. I didn't give up, but that was because it was short. I liked the writing style. The plot was very interesting and unusual (no spoiler here) and the characters were (all 2 of them) sort of believable. All I can say is that you won't forget it. Just try it. It's one of those books that you probably need to discuss with smarter people than I! I recommend with hopes that my smart friends read it and discuss.
Alicia Durett
I want to marry this guy....

"…There are times when something is asked of us, and we find we must do it. There is no calculation involved, no measure of the necessity of the thing itself, the action that must be performed. There is simply an acknowledgment that we will do the thing in question, and then the thing is done, often at considerable personal cost. "
Jesse Ball is the real deal. This is a page-turner in the best sense: you can't imagine what new delights and what effects he will achieve next. It seems to me he is working a rare vein in fiction, setting out on his own, the way Vonnegut did, or Donald Barthelme, or in music Coltrane, or in film Godard.
het is extreem chill hoe die jesse ball boeken schrijft die je in één sessie kan uitlezen. deze keer is het een verhaal over een suffe dystopie waarin, hou je vast, muziek en andere creatieve uitingen niet toegelaten zijn om de ene of de andere onduidelijke reden. we volgen een man die grafschriften schrijft (een "epitaphorist") en zijn dochter. de wikipediapage van de schrijver zegt dat hij zijn mosterd bij borges en calvino haalt en een bedrijver van metafictie is, in dit boek komt dat tot uit ...more
This was a beautiful story. An oppressive government, a mute child, a missing mother, an illegal puppet show, and the attempt to make peace in an ugly world. I would share more but then the story would be ruined. The writing is simple and sparse. It is a sad novel but it is filled with broken people who wish only to connect with a not so distant past. There was a moment in the book where I had to stop reading for a few minutes because I knew what was about to happen and I wanted to hold onto the ...more
I found this unsatisfying. There are poetic elements of Ball's writing that I really enjoy reading, but overall this story folded in a bit too much on itself, and I didn't find the atmosphere of terror that terrifying.
Oct 23, 2014 Jay rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: fiction
Anyone who has ever read a book with the thought in the back of their mind of one day writing one, should read this book. I didn't fully understand it, but Jesse Ball can write. I'm not big into poetry, so maybe that's why this book was so unusual to me, but reading it was like looking at a piece art that you longer you look at it, the more you notice and appreciate it. I found myself reading the same sentence over and over again because I appreciated the..rhythm? Metrical structure? I don't kno ...more
Interesting, if a little pretentious writing. I like artsy, but if you're going to be THIS artsy, I appreciate a few more details, maybe a whiff of closure.
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Jesse Ball (b. 1978) is the author of The Way Through Doors, Samedi the Deafness, Parables and Lies and March Book, and co-author of Vera & Linus. His drawings were published in 2006 in Iceland in Og svo kom nóttin (And Then Came the Night), a volume of poetry by his wife, Þórdís Björnsdóttir, with whom he wrote Vera & Linus. He won the Plimpton Prize in 2008 for his novella, The Early Dea ...more
More about Jesse Ball...
Silence Once Begun Samedi the Deafness The Way Through Doors A Cure for Suicide Vera & Linus

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“…There are times when something is asked of us, and we find we must do it. There is no calculation involved, no measure of the necessity of the thing itself, the action that must be performed. There is simply an acknowledgment that we will do the thing in question, and then the thing is done, often at considerable personal cost. "

"What goes into these decisions? What tiny factors, invisible, in the jutting edges of personality and circumstance, contribute to this inevitability?”
“I'm an elephant today. I will need to have lots of room and also a bowl of water on the floor.” 11 likes
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