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The Descartes Highlands

3.12  ·  Rating details ·  68 ratings  ·  20 reviews
One of the Philippine Daily Inquirer 's Top 10 Books of 2014

A NewPages Book Stand Editor's Pick

"Darkly spellbinding...With a keen eye for splendor amid the grotesque, Gamalinda writes with a poet's heart and a philosopher's mind, while enthralling readers with emotional, gritty storytelling."
-- Booklist

"A mesmerizing story full of mystery...intricate...beautiful writing.
...more
Paperback, 300 pages
Published November 4th 2014 by Akashic Books (first published October 13th 2014)
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David Ward
Jan 06, 2015 rated it really liked it
As a prefatory note: I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

This is the type of book that will be taught in literature courses in years to come. Whatever you think that implies, you’re probably correct. It is a book filled with complicated themes, emotions, and relationships, contradictions and contrasts and juxtapositions – just like real life. The situations described are, at once, beautiful and messy. Often times the prose is brilliantly written and
...more
Beth
I forced myself to finish this book. Eric Gamalinda pushed his story to extremes employing a jagged narrative and an attempt at dreamlike imagery that did not work. Instead of feeling like a deeply complex novel, it felt contrived and belabored. The existential philosophical thoughts espoused in its preliminary PR were lost within Gamalinda’s overworked meanderings. The title’s reference was far-fetched and overly emphasized. Like the rest of the novel it was a parade of excess.

So why did I give
...more
Jamie Crosby
Oct 04, 2014 rated it it was ok
I am sad to say I didn't make it through this book. The first chapter read rather choppy, that's the best way to describe it. It didn't flow well. The second and third chapter, got be extremely interested in the story and what was going to happen. But once I got to the four chapter I couldn't finish it. The graphic scenes and foul language was to much for me.
I am not even going to quote a piece for you to see yourself, I felt that uncomfortable

I received this book from Edelweiss for my review
Tom
Aug 14, 2017 rated it really liked it
I don't know.

Well-written, for sure ... couldn't put it down; needed to finish it ...

A cacophony of images ... stories ... all connected by sorrow, death, shreds of hope that never ever seem to pan out ... searching, never finding; unable to give or to receive love ... a lot of fucking and sucking ... An empty eroticism ... lost souls looking for the impossible ... WSOWOB - we speak only with our bodies ... and little toils of love ... held in place by gravitational forces ... stuck, if you wil
...more
Susan
Oct 10, 2017 rated it liked it
Three narrators, varied settings, including the Philippines, mystery, violence, trauma, and love ... The story was difficult to read, and somewhat difficult to follow, and I almost threw in the towel several times but Gamalinda's proficiency with language and the tantalizing plot threads he wove through the story kept me reading until the end.
Jerome Baladad
Apr 24, 2015 rated it really liked it
I've just finished reading this minutes ago. I find it very interesting & fascinating, such that I took my copy with me to & fro my trips in the many neighborhoods of NYC. For once, Philippine-culture bashing has been seemingly well-deserved & fair, given some misgivings I've got about it. The country's becoming economically more strong solidly --- so it does not matter much if a writer tends to highlight what's negative about the country. Also, that country's complex as it is, and i ...more
Luke Sherwood
Nov 29, 2014 rated it liked it
Since finishing "The Descartes Highlands" I have been trying to feel qualified to review it. Multiple parallel threads, set in two time periods, laden with high choler and sometimes mysterious motivations – these are the initial challenges of this book.

Mr. Gamalinda tells the story of two young men, born to two Philippine women but fathered by one American man, who pursue answers to their mysterious pasts through different channels. One was adopted by married French filmmakers, the other by a w
...more
M
Oct 03, 2014 rated it really liked it
Finished copy from publisher through LibraryThing Early Reviewers program.

This dark, gritty narrative is scattered over time, place, and viewpoint but at it's heart is the terrible underworld of the Philippines in the early 1970s. This is a "you will love it or hate it" kind of book.

Two men, one raised in the US and one raised in France, are half brothers who were sold as infants by their draft-dodging American father in Manilla. Their mothers were Filipinas. As adults, they set out separately
...more
Lisa
Oct 28, 2014 rated it liked it
I got this book from the Early Reviewers program at Library Thing. I hardly know how to review it. It was helpful to read another review that there are three narrators in this book and it switches between them from chapter to chapter with little to no indication that it's doing so. Once you know that going in, the book is a lot easier. It's not a pretty book -- sexual and violent, and yet, that's probably true to the history (and maybe even current state) of the Phillipines, at least in part. So ...more
Claire
Oct 03, 2014 rated it liked it
I received The Descartes Highlands as part of a Goodreads giveaway.

In the turbulent Philippines of the 1970s, two baby boys were given up for adoption by their American father. One, Jordan, grows up in America with a single mother, while Mathieu is raised by French filmmakers. Their respective journeys to discover their pasts are interspersed with contemporary accounts by their father, Andrew, who was thrown into prison under the Marcos regime.

This is a gritty, dark, opposite-of-a-feel-good nove
...more
Jane
Jun 19, 2015 rated it did not like it
This American dude sleeps around a lot in the Philippines and ends up selling his two infant sons to an illegal adoption ring. Book is told in three alternating perspectives (the father and the two sons), but somehow they all sound exactly the same: sad, horny asshole cannot make mature or rational decisions. Like, bonus points for 2/3 being half Filipino? And for having the Philippines and the relationship between the US and Southeast Asia be prominent aspects of the background? And there were ...more
Larry Hott
Nov 29, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I just finished Descartes Highlands. I thoroughly enjoyed the ride, although I had to stop and think about where I was going and what I was feeling many times along the way. I particularly liked that the narrative was not straightforward or predictable, nor were the characters. I don’t think there was a cliche in the book. It's a beautifully written, powerful and very original book. It will also give you insight into the Philippines during Marcos' rise to power, something I knew very little abou ...more
Karen Soanes
It's not a good sign when the reading strategy is one chapter at a time and inbetween each chapter is reading another more interesting book. It took me a long time to figure out what was going on and when I did I really didn't care all that much. All I can say is I finished it. I picked it up as part of the Book Riot's Read Harder challenge- this falls under the category of an Independent Publisher.
Desiree Zamorano
From the first page the author hooked me.
"My letters were addressed like this:
Mr. Brezsky
The Descartes Highlands
The Moon"
With a back drop of global and international events, Eric Gamalinda explores the depths of isolation and the attempts to connect. Alternating storylines between three different characters, we wonder, will they intersect? The tension between turning the page and savoring every sentence is constant. Terrific. A classic.
Andrew Ilagan
Jun 18, 2015 rated it really liked it
First time to read an Eric Gamalinda novel, and it was nothing short of satisfying. In a podcast interview, Gamalinda acknowledged that he was influenced by arthouse movies in writing the novel—and it showed. Some of the scenes had a very cinematic feel and staging, and they appealed to my mind at least on a visual level. Excellent writing through and through.
Jmolentin
I picked this up at the library because I heard an interview with the author on a local radio show. He said he lived in SD for a while as a child. It has nice big print, so I brought it on a trip to NJ as an easy read on the plane. Pretty boring and repetitive, hard to keep the characters straight. Would not recommend it.
Davec
Dec 13, 2014 rated it it was ok
You know what I want in a book? Clear concise and if ever the point needs to go on a zig zag part, at the very least some point to it. This book is all fluff.
Shelley
Oct 14, 2014 rated it did not like it
Shelves: first-reads
I'm sorry - I could not finish reading this book. I made it through a few chapters but I found the writing choppy and disjointed. Plus the graphic sexual episodes added nothing to the story line.
Holly Ziegler
Oct 20, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Wow! Quite a story! The author weaves the details and characters and imagery together like a cloth of the finest quality. Remarkable writing for such a young and up and coming writer!
Phyllis
Jan 02, 2015 rated it it was ok
To dark for me. And confusing...difficult to keep up with the changing stories and characters.
Jaymee
rated it it was ok
Dec 12, 2014
Eugene Yu
rated it did not like it
Jun 03, 2016
Miguel
rated it liked it
Jul 17, 2017
Sooey
rated it liked it
Jan 15, 2015
Ernest Genesis
rated it liked it
Oct 27, 2014
Greg
rated it it was ok
Nov 16, 2014
Cat Tutt
rated it really liked it
Jan 15, 2015
Aubrey
rated it did not like it
Dec 06, 2014
Don Jaucian
rated it liked it
Feb 19, 2018
Ronald Dylan
rated it liked it
Jun 21, 2017
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Eric T. Gamalinda is a poet, a fictionist and an essayist. He took undergraduate courses at the UST for three years and the UP for a semester. He was a local fellow for poetry of the UP ICW in 1983. In 1990, he went to Great Britain to represent the Philippines in the Cambridge International Writers’ Conference and to attend the Hawthornden International Writers’ Retreat in Scotland, 1991. he got ...more
“There's a strong message of divine righteousness in dictatorships. Every megalomaniac has to believe his actions are sanctioned by God.” 1 likes
“People who think they have the full support of God, any god, think they're invincible. They will do anything and not even think twice about it.” 1 likes
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