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3.13  ·  Rating details ·  2,952 Ratings  ·  469 Reviews
An epochal saga from the acclaimed author of Remainder, C takes place in the early years of the twentieth century and ranges from western England to Europe to North Africa.

Serge Carrefax spends his childhood at Versoie House, where his father teaches deaf children to speak when he's not experimenting with wireless telegraphy. Sophie, Serge's sister and only connection to t
Paperback, 400 pages
Published September 6th 2011 by Vintage Canada (first published August 5th 2010)
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Deb I agree. I didn't want to finish, but felt the need to complete it for some reason. It bored me to tears in some places, and yet somehow hit home runs…moreI agree. I didn't want to finish, but felt the need to complete it for some reason. It bored me to tears in some places, and yet somehow hit home runs in other areas. (less)
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Community Reviews

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MJ Nicholls
Dear Mr. McC,

I had occasion to read your latest novel, C, over the weekend. I know this will be difficult to hear, given the warm reception to Remainder, but this novel is bloated twaddle.

Don’t get me wrong – I think you have talent. Bags of talent. Why, however, you chose to waste that talent writing a bad novel from the 19th century is beyond me. I mean, you are a modern artist, Tom – why must you borrow from the past to “steer the contemporary novel in exciting directions?” Is this the exciti
Adam Floridia
The book jacket quotations claim this to be “a work of outstanding originality and ambition…An avant-garde epic, the first I can think of since Ulysses” and “The remix the novel has been crying out for.”

Among the many questions this book has left me with, perhaps the most pressing is this: What the hell were those reviewers thinking? This is a fairly straightforward narrative about the life, albeit a life that takes some unusual twists, of a rather dull protagonist. Serge is dull in the sense t
Oct 01, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
In my review for Jennifer Egan's newest novel I got carried away with digressions and forgot to mention the most remarkable aspect of the novel: the depth and richness she achieved even though the book was only two hundred and something pages, fifty pages were taken up by the powerpoint chapter, and each chapter had the difficult task of having to introduce a whole new cast of characters.

C has a similar-ish task that Egan's book does. Show a persons life through a series of chapters that captur
Marc Kozak
Aug 01, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
We live in an age of information overload. There's as much data around us, visible or invisible, as oxygen practically. I often like to think about what the internet will be like in 5, 10, 20 years. At some point, there's going to be a time when there is just SO much information on it - active and non-active, abandoned Livejournals, decades-old records of transactions, discarded emails, forgotten websites, log after countless log - it will all, theoretically, still be around, and still be availa ...more
Violet wells
The C of the title ostensibly refers to the novel’s central character Serge Carrefax but late in this novel we discover it also refers to carbon, the basic element of life. The fax in Serge’s surname provides a clue to the novel’s central theme. Communication in all its proliferating forms during the early part of the 20th century. In C we find ourselves in a world of coded transmissions. The establishing and plotting of networks pervades the novel. The continual extending outwards of technology ...more
Mar 23, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Conspicuously so
X-d out


Aug 10, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Dazzling, like an intricate puzzle with a variety of themes held together with delicate threads. The sets were superb. Each vignette was special and illuminating in its own way. Juxtipositions of science and art, attraction and repulsion, life and death were compelling. The writing was dense throughout, requiring utmost concentration to fully appreciate. For readers so inclined, well worth the effort.
Greg Zimmerman
Remember the mid-'90s tune "Everything Zen" by Bush? Remember how everyone loved the song 'cause it rocked, but no one had any idea what it was really about because the lyrics are a goofy mess of seemingly unrelated phrases and ideas? That's kind of how I felt about Tom McCarthy's uber-literary, Man Booker-shortlisted novel C.

There's a pretty straightforward story here that I enjoyed strictly on a "beat and rhythm" level. And then there's what it really means. McCarthy creates a laundry list of
Apr 25, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
McCarthy, as he demonstrated in Remainder (2005), is interested in the human capacity for perception and cognition stripped of affect, and in the tradition of European modernism he pursues the strange beauty of life's forms understood as forms. This is a way of saying that not every reader will have the patience for this book. I enjoy this kind of writing more than most casual novel-readers, and even I found it tedious at times. The "life story" of protagonist Serge Carrefax is a different kind ...more
I do seek out such novels as this that try to make sense of our place in the universe. But as usual I find such books a challenge to read and hard to walk away with an easy message (Pynchon's "Gravity's Rainbow" comes to mind as another example). The book "C" covers the evolution of young Brit Serge from the Edwardian period in rural England, through a stint as an aviator artillery spotter in World War 1, to multicutural Egypt around 1920 in the throes of independence. The overall theme appears ...more
James Pinakis
Dec 26, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I absolutely loved this book, though like a few others here I'm not completely sure why. I think it was something to do with the extremely weird feeling I had when reading it, which had a lot to do with the relative blankness of the main character, Serge. I think McCarthy displays a true mastery here, making Serge a kind of conduit (or even an antenna) for information rather than a fully developed human being. He seems to only exist to try and make sense of, and report on, his spectrum of experi ...more
Nov 26, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I loved the first 50 pages or so, then the writing started to get surprisingly lazy: the sister says something shocking to her brother, and he feels like the earth is falling away from him, stuff like that. And it deteriorates for a time, in the resort section that culminates in a shockingly figurative sex, then makes a come back with seances and the heroin flapper, and then kind-of tappers off again. Serge is boring and an asshole, so that one actively roots against him. Other characters act in ...more
Aaron (Typographical Era)

Author Tom McCarthy can write, there’s no question there, but what he chooses to write about in C, or rather the way he goes about it, can be painfully dull for a large chunk of the novel. The main character Serge isn’t very likable or relatable either. Though this isn’t always a requirement for a novel to be good, it would have helped if this character had at least some semblance of a direction or goal in mind. Instead he wanders through life as if noth
Jul 05, 2012 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
OK--I am SO not intellectual enough to enjoy this book. Either that or, it's a case of the Emperor's new clothes. I can't decide which, but I'm leaning towards the latter.

I found large portions of this book dull and tedious. The only reason I pressed on was because I'd read so many reviews of this book that insisted it was a rich and rewarding kaleidoscope of meaning, and how "everything ties together." I was convinced it was all going somewhere. Well, it wasn't--at least in my mind. Then again,
Jeff Jackson
Feb 14, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Tough to review: Some sections were blindingly brilliant while others were crushingly dull. C is about patterns and signals but the avalanche of information adds more static to the circuit than McCarthy probably intends. The surge at the heart of the book - the death of Serge's sister - doesn't quite trip the breakers either. But plenty still comes through - charging the parts about erotic childhood games, listening to early radio transmissions, flying planes in WWI, scoring drugs in London, and ...more
Aug 13, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A metatextual mess -- that is so intriguing you want to start over again with it the minute you put it down. Serge is a blank character who observes the advent of the modern world (ca 1890 - 1920). And he is also the most interesting of heroes caught up in circumstances he can't even begin to fathom. WWI flying Ace? Egyptian necromanticist? Freudian snitarium patient? Strange and inviting.
Aug 17, 2010 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: no one
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jun 27, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
C is the kind of book that takes a few days of rumination to determine how you feel about it. On the surface, it is a biography of a boy born at the turn of the 20th century. The boy travels from England, to Bavaria, to the fronts of WWI, to Egypt. Normally, this would seem like a mundane plot. But, the story is not plot-driven by any stretch. A friend of mine absolutely raved about how amazing it was, so I checked it out. While I didn't leave the novel completely floored, I was left with a sens ...more
Dec 30, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I loved this book. Never before have I read a book so cerebral, a writer so adept at describing how strange things seem to us when we're ill. Serge Carrefax's life is like one long fever in some ways, and yet lived completely to the full.

Great stuff - lots of beautiful prose, virtually all of it readable and relevant, though I still don't understand the key part of the plot that was the school show.

What's it about? To me.. grief, sibling love, death, life and the meaning of it, death, and histor
Wow, I hated this! There's maybe something intriguing about McCarthy's seedy descriptions of sex, biology and disease, but overall the book just seems like a barely-alive synthesis of 1970s literary theory – deathly! Which is probably the point, but wow, life is too short. Shades of Pynchon and Robbe Grillet, but not as charming as the former and not as icily brilliant as the latter.
Jan 09, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Falando do livro, falando da sua história, falando do que li, bem li o livro e não sei bem o que dizer/escrever dele.

Tom MacCarthy elege Serge Carrefax para personagem central deste seu livro "C" e tudo gira à sua volta. Logo no início do livro deparamo-nos com o nascimento de Serge, um parto realizado pelo Dr. Learmont, uma escrita que nos cativa logo à partida. Serge é filho de Simon uma personagem muito peculiar, seu pai é um inventor, um cientista e também um professor que dirige uma escola
A. Suiter Clarke
While C received a lot of critical praise, there are also a good number of bad reviews for the book. It's not because it's poorly written, and definitely not because it's badly researched. McCarthy is a great, highly intelligent, experimental author who is widely respected in the literary community.

So why didn't you like it, Amy? Such positive critical reception certainly must mean that it's a brilliant novel. Maybe you just have crappy taste.

Maybe, indeed. In fact, when I finally finished this
Jul 27, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The book follows the life of Serge Carrefaux through his early years, service with the British military in WWI, return to England, and final assignment to Egypt.

I liked the density of the visual imagery and the tinges of incest (e.g., when his sister uses him like a small telegraph key). Sometimes we are left with very little information about things that may have narrative import (e.g., when the officer in Cairo mentions his father, then breaks off abruptly), but I found this in keeping with re
Sep 28, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A história começa de forma bastante aliciante e cativante para o leitor. Um médico é chamado para fazer nascer uma criança. Esta criança é o nosso personagem principal “C”. Há um prenuncio de boa sorte para este bebé, pois quando vem ao mundo, vem envolto numa coifa.
Na casa onde Serge nasce o pai dá aulas a crianças surdas. Uma escola onde é proibido gesticular!
Comunicar faz parte da vida, mas segundo o pai de Serge, é fundamental que se comunique através da fala “aqui ensinamos-lhes a linguagem
The first pages of this book were immensely difficult to get through. I kept spacing out, losing track, feeling unconnected to the story and confused about where it was heading. Writing that now, I feel it was rather apt, although I'm not sure it was intentional.

I had wanted to read this book for a long time before buying it. The blurb interested me, the life of a young man born with the century, growing up with the century, participating in all those fascinating events and lifestyles that we as
Jed L
Jan 03, 2014 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
What a dumb book. I was excited for this because yet another failed computer algorithm suggsted it as a period piece along the lines of "The Lumineers" or "Life After Life." While this was a period piece it was more of a piece of work than a piece of literature.

The book actually starts out pretty good. It introduces an interesting setting, an English school for the deaf and dumb. The protagonist is the son of the founder of this school--neither of them are deaf--and shows both of them and the be
Mar 18, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: fans of pseudo history, WWII stories, etc
Maybe I'm being too hard on this novel. I thought it was pretty interesting to see how the plot evolved in one sense but in another sense, it felt a little disjointed and I'm getting sick to death of creative pseudo historical fiction. I like my fiction more fiction-y and my non fiction a representation of true historic fact. Perhaps it's also that all of the creative based on some historical events, however vague, books that I've read lately are also from the same time period and if I have to r ...more
Alysson Oliveira
Mar 03, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016, reviewed
A letra “C” do título do romance de Tom McCarthy (homônimo do diretor de “Spotlight”) pode se referir ao sobrenome do protagonista (Serge Carrefax), ou à cocaína (seu vício), ou ao CQ (do rádio amador da tecnologia que fascina o seu pai), ou, enfim, ao elemento químico Carbono presente em toda matéria orgânica, e também importante quando a trama se desloca para o Egito.

Nascido na virada do século XIX para o XX, Serge é filho de uma era, é uma criança que cresce cercada pela modernidade e excent
Oct 16, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
i'll keep it short. i liked this book. because i like mccarthy's writing. but i didn't love it. because i don't think i really got it.

on the surface, there is a lot of clear plot happening. interesting life of an interesting young man. the pacing is both slow and hurried at the same time... in that mccarthy lingers on certain aspects of the boy's life that you sense are plot progressions, but at the same time, as one continues to read, seem not to have the importance in the overall context of th
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Who/What is C? 2 53 Jun 02, 2011 02:17AM  
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Tom McCarthy — “English fiction’s new laureate of disappointment” (Time Out, September 2007) — is a writer and artist. He was born in 1969 and lives in a tower-block in London. Tom grew up in Greenwich, south London, and studied English at New College, Oxford. After a couple of years in Prague in the early 1990s, he lived in Amsterdam as literary editor of the local Time Out, and later worked in B ...more
More about Tom McCarthy...

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“As far as Serge can tell, Sophie only takes breakfast, and doesn’t even seem to eat that: each time he visits her lab over the next few days he sees sandwiches piled up virtually untouched beside glasses of lemonade that, no more than sipped at, are growing viscid bubbles on their surface like Aphrophora spumaria. Above these, on the wall, the texts, charts and diagrams are growing, spreading. Serge reads, for example, a report on the branchiae of Cercopidida, which are, apparently, “extremely tenuous, appearing like clusters of filaments forming lamellate appendages,” and scrutinises the architecture of Vespa germanica nests: their subterranean shafts and alleyways, their space-filled envelopes and alveolae … Bizarrely, Sophie’s started interspersing among these texts and images the headlines she’s torn from each day’s newspapers. These clippings seem to be caught up in her strange associative web: they, too, have certain words and letters highlighted and joined to ones among the scientific notes that, Serge presumes, must correspond to them in some way or another. One of these reads “Serbia Unsatisfied by London Treaty”; another, “Riot at Paris Ballet.” Serge can see no logical connection between these events and Sophie’s studies; yet colours and lines connect them. Arching over all of these in giant letters, each one occupying a whole sheet of paper, crayon-shaded and conjoined by lines that run over the wall itself to other terms and letter-sequences among the sprawling mesh, is the word Hymenoptera. “Hymenoptera?” Serge reads. “What’s that? It sounds quite rude.” “Sting in the tail,” she answers somewhat cryptically. “The groups contain the common ancestor, but not all the descendants. Paraphyletic: it’s all connected.” She stares at her expanded chart for a long while, lost in its vectors and relays—then, registering his continued presence with a slight twitch of her head, tells him to leave once more.” 1 likes
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