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This Is Not a Novel

3.53  ·  Rating details ·  141 ratings  ·  22 reviews
Johnny, an outstanding swimmer, went missing nearly thirty years ago. He drowned, or so everyone, except his sister believes, but how could that have happened, he could easily have been an Olympic champion!
Published July 7th 2003 by Headline Review (first published 2002)
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Aug 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Thirty years ago, Imogen’s older brother went swimming in the sea off the Cork coast and was never seen again. Now, convinced that he may be still alive, she pieces together their family history and puts it down in a book, hoping Johnny, “somewhere in the world, may read it and may pick up the nearest telephone”.

This is the premise behind Jennifer Johnston’s This is Not a Novel, which was first published in 2002, making it her 13th work of fiction.

When the story opens Imogen has just sold her
MJ Nicholls
Sep 29, 2011 marked it as dropped
This Is Not a Novel is not some David Marksonlike mosaic of quotes, wisdom and fractured narrative, it is the exact polar opposite of such an approach: a directly emotional novel in the first-person intercut with letters and assorted correspondence. Nonlinear approach aside, there could not be two more opposing novels with the same title. Markson’s This is Not a Novel autopsies all fictional tropes and invites the reader to reassemble their components into a strange, original work. In Johnson’s ...more
Jun 04, 2007 rated it liked it
I was a little divided on this one, to be honest. Johnston's prose is as beautiful as ever. I love the sense of echoing and silence she sets up throughout the novel, generation echoing generation, the peculiar reverberations and the dying away which shows not only the decay of this particular family, but the decay of the Irish Ascendancy as a whole. The sense of healing and of distance is well-evoked, and it is easy to believe that these pains and hurts are ones which would take a life-time to ...more
Mar 27, 2011 rated it really liked it
Beautifully written, and despite some negative reviews on, I found I really enjoyed the book.
Cleopatra  Pullen
This is a novel and one that I think falls under the heading ‘literary novel’ with its symbolism and eloquent prose.
The story is mainly split between the 1970s with visits to World War I. Imogen Bailey’s brother Johnny is a champion swimmer. Their father is hoping that he will make the Olympic squad but maybe this is his dream and not Johnny’s. One day fifteen year old Johnny goes missing in the water in County Cork, no further sighting is ever made but Imogen never quite believes he drowned.

Donna LaValley
Nov 02, 2016 rated it liked it
The things to like in this book are the serious subjects being handled by the narrator, Imogen. In most of the pages she is a young, vulnerable teenager overshadowed by her older brother Johnny, liked by her father, somewhat ignored by her mother, and loved by Mathilde, the family's housekeeper.

Johnny is one of those "golden boys" -athletic, handsome, and intelligent. To the wealthy family, he is The Future of the family, with a quick stop at being an Olympic champion swimmer for Ireland. Her
Dec 13, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: contemporary
An awful title for a work of fiction. The story follows the lives of a Dublin family over the past century, focussing on the story of Imogen, the main narrator, looking back over the events of her teenage years. These are interspersed with memories of an older generation, with the present, or near-present, regularly echoing the past.
The blurb highlights the role of Johnny, a potential Olympic swimmer, and I was disappointed that we were not given more details of his daily life: perhaps this was
Kris McCracken
Sep 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I really enjoyed this one from Jennifer Johnston. She's taken an interesting approach to the story, which is framed around fragments of memory, letters, press cuttings and diary entries, which explores the various 'mysteries' and secrets of a family. I'm a sucker for books that explore the way that the dysfunctions of parents can fuck up their kids in a myriad of ways, and Johnston has plenty of grist for the mill here!
Jan 09, 2017 rated it it was ok
He will come, and still I wait
He whistles at another gate
Where angels listen. Ah, I know
He will not come, yet if I go
How shall I know he did not pass
Barefooted in the flowery grass

The moon leans on one silver horn
Above the silhouettes of morn,
And from their nest-sills finches whistle
Or stooping pluck the downy thistle
How is the morn so gay and fair
Without his whistling in the air?

The world is calling, I must go,
How shall I know he did not pass
Barefooted in the shining grass?

The main topic of
Melanie Vidrine
Jul 31, 2019 rated it it was amazing
In the tradition of Edna O’Brien, followed by Frank McCourt......Twentieth century Irish literature at its best. The cheerful Ireland of St. Patrick’s Day parades is nowhere to be found. Reality through the lens of secrets, poetry, music, memory. Excellent.
Oct 16, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-2017
wow very well written. you would nearly have to read it again to grasp everything. follows one women thorough a difficult period in her life where she stopped speaking. the story is about why this happened. the concept of family and family history traits are examined.
Amanda Patterson
Nov 16, 2010 rated it it was ok
I had to review this novel because of the clever title. Quite frankly, I wish I hadn’t. Johnston is correct. Her book is not a novel. It is self-indulgent drivel. It is 214 pages of large print prose. If I’d paid for the book, I would have felt cheated. mogen Bailey, the narrator is the "benignly neglected" daughter of cold, selfish parents. She tells us of the events leading to her brother's drowning and her own breakdown at 18.
The book is an appeal to her brother, a former champion swimmer,
May 19, 2011 rated it it was ok
Last night when I finished this book I was going to rate it three stars because it is incredibly well written. However, now that I am actually writing a review I can't go higher than two stars. It is written very well but the plot was absolutely blindingly unavoidably predictable. Some great novels are about the journey not the destination, but unfortunately this is not one of them. A major plot point of the book is the effect World War I had on the family, but then the book skips to the '70s ...more
Oct 24, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Jennifer Johnston is probably my favorite Irish author. Her books -- and this one is no exception -- are short, compact, understated, and filled with tight symbolism. Usually she even has a puzzle-like aspect to her novels, where you're waiting until the very last scene to figure out how all of the pieces fit together. However, it's surprisingly hard to find her work in the US.

This book was a real delight. I read it in one day. It follows a young woman who has been mysteriously stuck in a mental
A. Mary
Dec 31, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: irish-novels
A Johnston novel is a busy novel, and I think there's often a bit too much going on. She pushes her stories over the edge of the plausible--some, maybe even most, of the things in them could happen to a small group of people, but not all. I can't decide if it's my problem or hers. This is Not a Novel is not a long book, but it deals with generations of a family and their losses, secrets, betrayals, memories. There are diaries, letters, poems, and narrative. A few characters are gay, and a couple ...more
Jul 20, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2016, kindle, library
I read this in a couple of hours (on Kindle) and was surprised when it ended so quickly and disappointed that there wasn't more to it. It tells the tale of Imogen, daughter of a well-to-do, professional, Irish couple whose adored older brother, an expert swimmer, disappears while swimming in the sea. The book uses first-person narrative from Imogen, old letters and other written items and is beautifully written. The structure of the work is at times confusing as it jumps between WWl and the ...more
Sep 26, 2015 rated it really liked it
A beautifully written book with wonderful and enjoyable prose. It is quite predictable from early on what will happen and the characters secrets are, there is nothing intense about this book, but human nature and the effect of family and friends is caught very well.

The echo of the past and the reverberations actions in the present cause is in the written very well
Jun 22, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Jennifer Johnston is a great Irish writer and such a wonderful person to hear talking about her books. I read this after hearing her talk at the Dun Laoghaire Literary Festival last year. This is a great novel - despite the title!
Kate North
Jul 05, 2015 rated it really liked it
of course, it IS a novel. I really like Jennifer Johnston. She's under-rated, I think (at least by the general public, perhaps not by the critics), and is very good at observing human nature. Her books are frequently short, but always well-crafted and interesting.
Aug 17, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-2016
As ever, Jennifer Johnston's writing imparts gentle delight. Beautifully structured, achingly described.
Aug 01, 2011 rated it did not like it
The author is correct - this is not a novel!
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Jennifer Johnston is an Irish novelist and playwright.

Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the GoodReads database with this name. See this thread for more information.