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& Sons

3.36  ·  Rating details ·  5,643 ratings  ·  883 reviews
The funeral of Charles Henry Topping on Manhattan’s Upper East Side would have been a minor affair (his two-hundred-word obit in The New York Times notwithstanding) but for the presence of one particular mourner: the notoriously reclusive author A. N. Dyer, whose novel Ampersand stands as a classic of American teenage angst. But as Andrew Newbold Dyer delivers the eulogy f ...more
Hardcover, 434 pages
Published July 23rd 2013 by Random House
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Average rating 3.36  · 
Rating details
 ·  5,643 ratings  ·  883 reviews

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Feb 25, 2014 rated it liked it
If I had to guess, the first time anyone said that you don’t have to like the artist to like the art probably dates back to when cavemen were painting bison on walls. But reminders of that rule seem more frequent lately. We can appreciate Llewyn Davis for his artistic integrity even as we cringe at his lapses in kindness. And I suspect I would still laugh at Broadway Danny Rose, though since the news came out about Soon Yi Previn (even prior to Dylan Farrow) I came to see Manhattan in a differen ...more
Jul 12, 2013 rated it liked it
David Gilbert's ambitious & SONS is one hot mess. It's one of those books that will as easily garner 5 stars as one. There's that much to like -- and seriously wonder about. Let's start with the problematic aspects so we can finish on a high note. While the book centers on an aging, J.D. Salingeresque writer named Andrew (A.N.) Dyer and his three sons, it is supposedly narrated by Philip Topping, son of Andrew's best pal Charlie, whose funeral opens the book. Seems innocent enough, but the point ...more
Lars Jerlach
May 14, 2020 rated it liked it
The bond between father and son is always a complicated affair, and inevitably imbued with a profusion of unresolved disquietude, frustration and despair. & Sons is an intelligent, engaging, and well-written addition to the genre of father/ son relationships, that in sometimes humorous, sometimes tragic ways highlight this ambiguous connection.

Gilbert is no doubt an accomplished writer, and I though I thoroughly enjoyed his assiduous descriptions of NY City, I couldn't help feeling that there w
D. Krauss
Nov 21, 2013 rated it liked it
This novel is extremely well-written. Unfortunately, it's extremely well written.

Uh, what?

Well, it starts to dawn on you, after about a 1/4 way into it, that you are seeing more of the author than you are the story, that cleverness of phrase and subtlety of reference is more important than arc. Oh, don't get me wrong, it's a genuine pleasure to read this, but I found myself rolling eyes and saying, "Okay. You're clever. Just get on with it, will you?" Now, don't get me wrong again, I much appre
Barbara Burd
Sep 01, 2013 rated it it was ok
I really wanted to like this book. It seemed like it had all the ingredients for a good read--two parallel stories of fathers, one very famous, who had strained relationships with their sons. A.N. Dyer wrote the great American novel but can't relate to his two older sons. The youngest son becomes the object of his obsessions--the revelation of the son's parentage is just too strange in the context of the story. Much of the story is told through the eyes of Dyer's best friend's son, who has an un ...more
Oct 08, 2013 rated it liked it
This is a big, ambitious novel about a J.D. Salinger-like novelist and his three sons, told from the perspective of his long-time (now dead) best friend's son. It's about literature and New York and reclusiveness and Exeter and publishing and Yale and men. A whole lot of men, all of them white. There are four female characters in the novel of any consequence, though you only really feel like you know one of them (and she is pretty interesting, I'll give Gilbert that much); the remaining three ha ...more
B the BookAddict
Dec 12, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: literary-fiction
& Sons is a wonderful piece of literary fiction. As you would expect, it is about a father and his sons, in fact I sometimes felt overcrowded by all the men in the book and longed for a significant female character. It is not a light nor a quick read, quite claustrophobic at times but is an extremely well-written novel. I am looking forward to trying something else written by David Gilbert. 4★ ...more
Jul 28, 2013 rated it did not like it
Apparently, I read something completely different from the majority of reviewers. I thought this book was long, confusing and trying way to hard to be deep and meaningful. And it just wasn't. At all. The letters between chapters were probably important to the plot, too bad they were nearly impossible to read in the book. This book wants to be a classic or wants us to think it's a classic and it is not. At all. I wanted to slap every single character in this book for being self absorbed, whiny, o ...more
& Sons is an intelligent piece of literature, about art, friendship, family, regret, and what it means to find success, build a legacy, and live in somebody's shadow. Apart from some structural elements that don’t seem fully realised, and a strange choice in character perspective, there’s little to fault in this novel, and much to praise. Gilbert reveals depth, connectedness and universality in his themes, and his prose style is attractive, if occasionally too ambitious. Perhaps the novel’s grea ...more
John Robert Wooden, a retired American basketball coach, quoted about "fathers" as:

“Being a role model is the most powerful form of educating...too often fathers neglect it because they get so caught up in making a living they forget to make a life.”

David Gilbert, is one such American author, who has spun an incredible tale which explores the whole dimension of a father-son relationship in an all new angle, in his latest release, & Sons .

Told from the first person narrative, Philip T
Dan Wilbur
May 20, 2013 rated it really liked it
I enjoyed this book and will likely force others to read it. It has everything a literary snob needs: an unreliable narrator, daddy issues, letters, great prose about technology, museums, and the gripes of the New York literary world. At its heart, the book is a love note to NYC and the sad reclusive artists who live there.

BUT: without spoiling anything, there is an almost plot twist in the middle of the book that doesn't work for me. I say "almost" because the second half of the book barely con
Aug 13, 2013 rated it it was ok
Throughout this book describing the next generation (at least four sons) of a pair of Etonians, I wondered why on earth I was reading it. The experience of their drug-infused, largely unhappy, ridiculously literary lives felt about as captivating as War and Peace the reader's digest version. Maybe I don't understand the male psyche, of which the book was full. Maybe I'm just not part of the club to which all these boring men belong. Maybe I'm just not as interested in sex per se. Certainly I fel ...more
Sep 02, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Disappointed... After all the hype, this turned out to be a pretentious, so in love with itself kind of book. I only finished it because it was an audiobook, read beautifully. One reviewer had said that this author can write great scenes, but no cohesive story. I fully agree. There were plenty of memorable scenes and short stories, like the filming of a dying woman story, or the possible clone story, or the 16 y.o nephew of the 17 y.o. uncle story, or the hopeless quest to lose one's virginity s ...more
Leo Robertson
Jun 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Okay so I haven’t yet finished this book—thought I’d be able to do it this morning, but I stayed up too late last night reading it!—but I can safely say this is one of the best books I’ve ever read and a new instant favourite.

I picked it up because I was in Glasgow and in Fopp they have a 2 for £5 deal, which meant I got 6 books cheaper than one back here in Oslo, and it had a pretty cover and promised to be about NYC and writers. And, not so secretly, I LOVE it when writers write about writing!
Patrice Hoffman
Mar 27, 2013 rated it really liked it
After spending a week with this novel and getting to know A.N. Dyer and his sons, I am finally done with & Sons (And Sons). & Sons is the debut literary fiction novel by David Gilbert and it is quite a treat. & Sons opens at the funeral of Charles Henry Topping, Dyer's oldest and dearest friend. After speaking at the funeral, Dyer pretty much loses it and begins trying to get all his sons together under the same roof so he can make some sort of amends for being a crappy father.

Phillip Toppin nar
Mar 24, 2013 rated it really liked it
This came so close to being a five-star, but the occasional (all right, more than merely "occasional") bout of overwriting and a lack of clarity as to why this was being told by Philip at a remove of several years dropped it down.

The & is important: Ampersand was the brilliant novel written by A.N. Dyer, set at a fictional version of Exeter and loosely based on his friends and experiences. His other novels have also sold well, all seeming to be in the Louis Auchincloss mold of "Upper East Side/S
Aug 01, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
This novel had a neat premise. Gilbert imagined the upbringing and life of a famous reclusive author, A.N. Dyer, and his sons. The story is mostly told from the point of view of the son of the author’s close friend, Philip Topping, who alternately felt rage and admiration for the “otherness” of the family.

We are meant to draw parallels between J.D. Salinger and A.N. Dyer, though one knows there are few enough points of overlap. & Sons contains some pages from Dyer’s breakout novel, Amper
Larry H
Aug 05, 2013 rated it liked it
I'd rate this 3.5 stars.

"Fathers start as gods and end as myths and in between whatever human form they take can be calamitous for their sons."

So says Philip Topping, near the start of And Sons, David Gilbert's emotionally rich if overstuffed novel about familial relations, primarily fathers and sons. The death of Philip's father, Charles Henry Topping, is not much of an event by New York standards—except for the appearance of reclusive write A.N. (Andrew) Dyer, Charles' oldest friend, who is pe
Chris Blocker
Oct 10, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: sa-clegg
At its best, & Sons is amazing. Not only does David Gilbert write prose with beautiful construction, but he crafts excellent scenes and interesting characters. Along the way, he travels unexpected avenues, adding twists and turns that may be jarring for some readers; personally I found them to be creative, well-placed, and fun. & Sons is a multi-layered novel, and is probably best enjoyed at a slow pace, among readers who take time to dissect its many meanings. That being said, it can be an over ...more
Jul 23, 2013 rated it did not like it
Still trying to slog my way through this rather miserable book about miserable people. Nothing really happens ...people ponder their pasts and their mistakes. All very "cleverly" (not) dropping hints or revealing "truths" about a illegitimate son really being a clone or a long time friendship really being a gay passion on one side. Very contrived ..few nuances...and mindnumbingly long. It reminds me of something written in the 50s as "literature" ..or so very clever. I have had to periodically s ...more
Sep 23, 2013 rated it it was ok
A friend recently received a diagnosis from her doctor: "TMB." "TMB?" "Too many birthdays."

I am afflicted with TMB as I try to appreciate this novel. Some of the topics he pursues: strained family relationships, relationship between children of old friends forced into the next generation of pseudo closeness, betrayal within family and between friends, are worth pursuing, and Gilbert has a gift with words, an ability to paint a scene so the participants come alive. In the final section, Gilbert g
George Witte
Aug 07, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I loved this novel, was utterly engrossed from beginning to end. No need to summarize the plot--others have done so--but having worked in New York (in publishing) for nearly 30 years, and lived here briefly (without a spare penny, distant from the world described in this novel), I was delighted by the author's eye and ear for the city. The walk through Central Park, the party at the Frick, the odd erotic obsession of the Pale Male watchers, the delicate negotiations at the Morgan Library, and al ...more
Sep 09, 2013 rated it liked it
Reading David Gilbert’s “& Sons,” I couldn’t help but think about “The Great Gatsby.” Not that this often digressive novel has much structurally in common with Fitzgerald’s slim masterpiece. Perhaps just as Gatsby brings to mind the shapely flirtatious elegance of the 20’s flapper, “& Sons” owes much to our cultural tendency towards self involved intellectualism. Yes, both are narrated by apparently secondary characters that careful readers will recognize as being at the center of the action. Ni ...more
Laura ☾
Apr 19, 2020 rated it did not like it
& Sons centres on recluse author AN Dyer (who seems loosely inspired by JD Salinger), who wants to reunite with his three sons after his best friend passes away.

This was a very ambitious book, with an interesting premise, and while definitely well-written in terms of language, this doesn’t quite achieve what it sets out to do. The POV was convoluted and confusing, supposedly narrated by Philip Topping, AN Dyer’s godson, whose father was his best friend, but incredibly inconsistent and confusing
Jessica Jeffers
Mar 25, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction, netgalley
I've only made it about halfway through this one, but I think I am going to put it on hold.

A.N. Dyer is a literary giant in the vein of J.D. Salinger. His breakout novel, Ampersand was a classic of adolescent angst comparable to Catcher in the Rye -- in Gilbert's world, you're either a Dyer fan or a Salinger fan much as you're either a Beatles fan or a Stones fan. Dyer has three sons, but he hasn't spoken to Richard or Jamie much since the sudden appearance of their half-brother Andy -- the resu
Shawn Camp
Jul 23, 2013 rated it it was ok
Every so often the media's hype is loud enough, or a reviewers enthusiasm bursts out like a bottle rocket that you just have to pick up the book and start reading it sooner than now. But if I had just waited a few more minutes I would have noticed that bottle rocket was a dud and just exploded a scant few feet and the excitement was over.

I love the title. I love the hidden title. All the little innuendoes creates a desire to take this book and embrace it like the Catcher cult embraces Salinger.
Jun 17, 2013 rated it liked it
Really fun read and excellent characters/one-liners throughout the book but I agree with everyone who thought it was overly ambitious for a writer like Gilbert to handle. He drops in big twists related to the plot and characters but then never follows up on them, leaving the reader to wonder why he bothered introducing those concepts/people in the first place. I got @ Sons through a book group and we got to speak with Gilbert about his book - it turns out he was a screenwriter before becoming a ...more
Sep 01, 2013 rated it did not like it
This book was awful. Unlikeable characters, dreadful story line with clumsy and ludicrous plot. Especially annoying was starting several chapters with handwritten letters that were basically illegible. Avoid.
Jun 06, 2016 rated it really liked it
One of my favorite quotes:
"It was one of those moments, thankfully rare, when you can spot another person's core needs, almost by accident- absolutely by accident since those needs are almost graphic when blatant, like seeing the musculature and tendon required to prop up hope."

This is a family melodrama with nuanced and unstable characters, bookish references, symbolism, details on the arduous writing process, unreliable narrators, and the meaning of life and legacy. New York City is a main
Megan Chance
May 16, 2013 rated it really liked it
A good book, if not perhaps the work of genius that all the quotes on the cover want you to believe it is. It's the story of a famous literary author (ala J.D. Salinger) and his sons--both real and psuedo--and the relationship between them. When it comes to privileged white celebrity fathers and the effects they have on their sons (angst, self-destruction, never measuring up to a father who was mostly emotionally absent), there's really not much new here. What elevates this book from the morass ...more
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I hate the characters 4 77 Jan 09, 2014 09:37PM  

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David Gilbert is the author of the story collection Remote Feed and the novel The Normals. His stories have appeared in The New Yorker, Harper’s, GQ, and Bomb. He lives in New York with his wife and three children.

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