Kenneth Foreman's Reviews > Replay

Replay by Ken Grimwood
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Oct 07, 12

it was amazing

For me, Replay is perhaps one of the most fascinating books I've ever read. When I first read it, I remember being dismayed by the endless opportunity that Jeff Winston faced in replaying his life. I panicked a lot at the notion that any moment of my one-life was a mis-step or a mistake. Like listening to Pink Floyd's Time and thinking that you really were "ticking away the moments that make up a dull day". We don't all have the luxury of stripping back twenty years' worth of life and starting again. I was horrified.

The message that I'm interpreting from this book - certainly from the ending - is that we don't have the luxury of rewriting our past lives or living them differently. The universal truth is that we don't replay, so in life we shouldn't put up with situations where we're patently unhappy or dissatisfied. In later replays, Jeff walks away from his tepid marriage, knowing that there's nothing he can change. He makes sure his wife is comfortably off, but leaves her - with the wisdom that to continue the cold war between them will slowly destroy both of them.

I think perhaps we all look backward to a 'golden era', defined by innocence and optimism. These things sometimes become eroded by the simple process of living. We call it baggage, we become jaded. But surely the message of Replay is that even in middle age, we still have options. (I'm not middle aged yet, by the way!) Isn't that what happens when Jeff stops replaying and starts living the rest of his life? The certainty of the replays is replaced by the uncertainty of the future. Rather than be disturbed by what's ahead of him, Jeff embraces the fact that all bets are off.
Summary

For me, Ken Grimwood created a masterpiece of modern fiction. Replay is a time travel story that reflects lifetimes of opportunity and regret. For all the requisite science-fiction elements, it's the passage of time and its effect on people. Maybe I'm at an age when I can appreciate the contrast between a young and optimistic me and the current, older model complete with regrets and sometimes jaded by the events in my life.

It's the human element in the book that speaks to me - the 'what if's and possibilities that Grimwood explores. He's one of those rare authors who immerse you in their fictional world to the point where you wonder if they've experienced this world.

There aren't many books that I have this kind of relationship with. Replay has been an inspiration to me on some levels, a cautionary horror story on others.
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02/01 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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Larry It is at times like this that I begin to appreciate Goodreads more fully. As I bask in the contemplative afterglow of my second read of this book, some 26 years after reading it "hot off the presses", I remember why the book made such an impression on me at 21, and why it has stuck with me all this time. It has stuck with me despite forgetting a few major plot points over the years. I don't generally re-read fiction books due to the lack of suspense. However, reading this book again as a "more experienced" adult, I find myself looking in from the other end of the lens, and indeed it seems a completely different story to me now. Thanks for the thoughtful review. :)


Kenneth Foreman Thanks.

'Replay' is one of a short list of books I revisit every so many years and re-read, gaining a fresh perspective with each read. Like Robert Pirsig's "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance" and Haruki Murakami's "Kafka on the Shore", the message I take from each read seems to be a reflection of where I'm at in life or what I most need to hear. It has enough depth to it that I drink a fresh draught each time.

I'd love to see this done well as a dramatic movie, but I fear it would either become "Groundhog Day" or "The Cloud Atlas". It's easy to do a great novel as a poor film, but a true challenge to make a great movie from a great book. Frank Darabont's treatments of "Shawshank Redemption"' "The Green Mile", and "The Mist" are the best examples. If any screenwriter or director were to tackle "Replay", I'd want it to be someone like Darabont.


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