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Time's Arrow

3.71  ·  Rating details ·  13,841 ratings  ·  1,013 reviews
In Time's Arrow the doctor Tod T. Friendly dies and then feels markedly better, breaks up with his lovers as a prelude to seducing them, and mangles his patients before he sends them home. And all the while Tod's life races backward in time toward the one appalling moment in modern history when such reversals make sense.

Paperback, 165 pages
Published October 1992 by Vintage (first published September 26th 1991)
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KimW Do you mean content? or Context? Those are two different things.

If you mean "content", like "what is it about" - it's about a man who's…more
Do you mean content? or Context? Those are two different things.

If you mean "content", like "what is it about" - it's about a man who's died right at the start - but then comes back to life again, except he's living inside the head of another person. And what's more - time is moving backwards. So it starts with the main character watching this other person "un-die", and then sees the part where he goes to the hospital for a heart attack, and then sees him as an old man puttering around his house....all the way back through this other person's life until the day of his birth.

It takes a little while for our main character to figure things out, but it makes him see everything in a really different way (with things going backwards, things like shopping or cooking and eating seem really strange), but you still can understand what's going on.

The real twist - which I won't reveal - is when you find out some things about the person you're watching live their life backward.(less)

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Average rating 3.71  · 
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 ·  13,841 ratings  ·  1,013 reviews


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Darwin8u
Jan 31, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2014
“They're always looking forward to going places they're just coming back from, or regretting doing things they haven't yet done. They say hello when they mean goodbye.”
― Martin Amis, Time's Arrow

description

I liked the prose and liked the execution, but there was still something a bit off. A tooth is missing in time's reverse cog making this Amis story rock rather
...more
Violet wells
In his Afterword Amis pays tribute to a paragraph by Kurt Vonnegut in Slaughterhouse Five where a character watches a backwards-run film of the American planes scooping up bombs from Dresden and miraculously repairing the ruined city, before the bombs are sent back to a factory where all the dangerous contents of their cylinders are separated into harmless minerals. Amis here uses Vonnegut's ingenious tactic of running everything backwards to investigate the holocaust and the men who carried it ...more
Jessica
Dec 21, 2011 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: backwards-minded types
She can't help it if her best isn't very good, but she's done it. She's ploddingly typed out her half-assedly apropos review, then clicked on the stars -- three of them, yellow and cartoony, her blithe summation of an author's painstakingly wrought offering to twentieth-century literature. He'll probably spend years writing then researching this thing, which she's already rated like it's an eBay-seller transaction, and reviewed with all the thoughtfulness and care of an Adderall-snorting thirtee ...more
Cecily
The non-U USP
A short book that is one long gimmick: clever as a writing exercise, but not worth publishing or reading. Once the novelty of a backwards story has worn off, there is little point to it and I lost interest (though I did finish it). And it's not even that original: Kurt Vonnegut had the same idea as a brief scene in "Slaughterhouse Five" (see my review here) as did Borges in the short story A Weary Man’s Utopia, which is in "The Book of Sand" (see my review here), and probably Fitzgerald's The
...more
Josh
Jun 11, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2015
We can never change our past.

No matter how bad we were, no matter how good we were -- time, the man-made structure that decides what we do in our lives, how often we celebrate occasions, when we are born, when we die, what people think about us after we die, does not discriminate.

The concept behind Amis's 'Time's Arrow' is gimmicky at its core, but works only by the intelligence and craftiness of its author.

When reading this, you see the outlook from a man with a possibl
...more
Jen
English Standard Version (©2001)
For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.


“What is it with them, the human beings? I suppose they remember what they want to remember.”
-Time’s Arrow


This is what I want to remember: that I bought this off a wheeled cart for two quarters. That in a bad economy, this was a great investment. Amis is genius in this book. Pure genius. His structure starts with the la/>“What
...more
Peter
Feb 15, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
As science fiction concepts go this was interesting, but in the hands of a respectable sf writer this could have been so much more. While the odd idea breaks, through such as the child who is able to crawl forward for a few seconds is intriguing he never takes it further.
The usual amusment with reverse poo is there and why not
Not a good starting point for my first Amis (or for anyone really) but will try again.
Chris
Jan 07, 2011 rated it did not like it
After reading the first page of this book and realising that Amis was actually going to write a novel with time moving backwards I thought he must have some brilliant notion that required and would more than excuse the use of such an gimmicky device. I was willing to overlook all the technical and conceptual failings and inconsistencies in execution, on grounds of artistic licence, with the faith that the payoff would be so clever, insightful and illuminating theses trivial concerns would pale i ...more
William2
Mar 24, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: uk, 20-ce, fiction, signed
Second reading. Just brilliant. See my review of Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse-Five for my theory that Time's Arrow was inspired, at least in part, by a sequence in that earlier novel in which the protagonist watches a war film running backwards. Highly recommended.
David Lentz
Jan 21, 2012 rated it it was amazing
"Time's Arrow" is a very fine and powerful novel by Amis who, for me, had a tough encore after reading his genius novel, "Money," of which stratospheric literary level "Time's Arrow" falls a smidge short. However, "Time's Arrow" is very well conceived, highly inventive, lyrically narrated and powerful in its dire themes ultimately relating to one man's poignant personal relationship to the Holocaust. Amis deploys with great skill the narrative device of telling one man's story backward in a disc ...more
Beverly
Jan 20, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: People who don't care for Martin Amis's other books
It continues to amaze me how those who claim to be fans of Martin Amis haven't heard of or read Time's Arrow. This book is a masterpiece in experimental fiction. He literally, methodically, writes the story backwards as his character experiences time going backwards. I don't know of any other author who has attempted and succeeded in doing this. It's been a while since I read it, but what I remember was the uncanny sense that I was experiencing time backwards as I read it. I began questioning wh ...more
Roy Lotz
If an author were to narrate my experience reading this novel in reverse, they would depict me getting progressively less and less frustrated with the book, until the very moment I finally put it down.
Allycks
May 11, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Normally when I sense that a writer is going to pull a stunt with the entire conceit of his or her novel, I end up with a slow disdainful Billy Idol-style grimace developing on my face before thudding against the glass ceiling of disgust and shutting the book for good.

Don't do it, Martin. You don't have to dazzle us with a technical feat like this. You're too good for that. And it's called "trying too hard..."

Still, Martin must've been kicking around novel ideas when, pro
...more
Michael
May 19, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I can't say enough about this novel, though a quick glance at my friends' reviews reveals that they liked it but were not quite as blown away by it. I loved how Amis took a conceit (running the world backwards and witnessing it from a naive viewpoint that must make sense of backwards-living) and used it to make new something that had grown shopworn and overfamiliar: Literature about the Holocaust. The novel is howlingly funny, and just when you want it to gain in seriousness and gravity, it does ...more
Bunny Burns
Mar 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Warning: This book will mess with your head. Like, properly. It can't be quite frustrating a times but I love the way it turns everything you think you know about cause and effect, and our perception of the way events unfold, on it's head - and then spins it around a few times for good measure.
Faye
Read: November 2016
Rating: 5/5 stars, best of 2016

The plot: the narrator of this story inhabits the dying body of a man named Tod Friendly, and it soon becomes clear that the narrator is living backwards in time, as Tod becomes younger, loses and gains lovers, and moves from his current country back through Portugal and then to Poland and Auschwitz.

I loved this book. It is so beautifully and cleverly written. It is a wonderful contrast to Counter Clock World by Philip K
...more
Emma
Hmm, everyone's reviews say he wrote the book backwards, when it's untrue; the book is written from beginning to end, like all of them. It just tells the story from the end to the beginning, but in order.
My age-old Amis question remains: why is he so drawn to the dark and nasty? I was reading over my infant son's shoulder while I was feeding him, and it was so icky I felt like I was transferring some kind of violence to him bodily. There's always a - prurient, almost - attraction to violence. W
...more
Stela
Jul 02, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A Future to Remember


“We should be born old/ Come to life wise/ Be able to decide our place in the world/ Know from the first crossroad which way to go…” says Ana Blandiana, a Romanian poet, in a beautiful poem that seems to anticipate the extraordinary novel of Martin Amis, Time’s Arrow.

Indeed, the inverted time seems to be the main theme, developed with a narrative technique that uses the back to back story to answer an intertextual question through a narrator whose role gets new valences.

It is t
...more
Jenny (Reading Envy)
Aug 01, 2012 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Jenny (Reading Envy) by: Dale
"An old lady descends from the black branches of the fire escape every morning and wearily gathers it all up and clambers home with it in paper bags: the food left for her by the birds."

Before I say what I think about this novel, I should acknowledge that this idea of traveling backwards in time is not one that comes from Amis. Several people have accused him of stealing it from Vonnegut in Slaughterhouse-Five, in fact Amis himself acknowledges that inspiration in his afterward. A fe
...more
Craig Stone
Mar 12, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I thought this was exceptional. A book that you can read in a day, that challenges the brain into thinking backwards. Throw in the holocaust, suffering and a general bleakness coupled with horror and it's a book worthy of your time. Some people have complained that the words didn't effect them emotionally, but the narrator is the consciousness of a Nazi war criminal raised in pre-war Germany - a dead man in a dead time entering a dead zone. Perhaps there is no emotion, but if there was, it would ...more
Jonfaith
Sep 12, 2012 rated it liked it
I had to drop a star. Bruised sleep revealed that I should not uphold my immediate image and adjust downwards. This situation was vivid in that I couldn't stop imaganing Amis in a smoking jacket writing about the Final Solution.

- Anyway -

A novel, a theme, that requires one to pass over it in silence. Marty refers to the Shoah as an autobahn to the reptilian mind. I tend to agree. Reading the dialogue in reverse was afeat. Language, sentences rather, are often so pailindro
...more
Jafar
May 09, 2010 rated it really liked it
Not much of a plot, but a really great idea for a novel combined with some great writing. The consciousness of a dying doctor, Tom Friendly, starts living his life backward as soon as he dies. This is not just telling the story of his life backward. Tom’s consciousness experiences his life with time literally reversed. Eating means throwing up food and putting it back on the plate. Constipation is quite a bizarre situation. Tom breaks up with his lovers, then is with them, then seduces them, the ...more
Nicola
Jul 10, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 1001-books
Life never really makes a lot of sense at the best of times. All of the philosophical ponderings on the eternal question of 'Why are we here?' haven't been able to come up with anything more convincing than 'Because'. Some people may wave other explanations such as 'The ineffable plan of God', which obviously, being ineffable means that it's not going to cut it as an explanation – if it can't be explained then it might as well not exist. Even if it did, which is another eternal question to some peoplcan't ...more
Sentimental Surrealist
A frustrating experience. See, I'd had Martin Amis hyped to me as one of the funniest writers of the whole goddamn 20th century; a classmate of mine referred to The Rachel Papers as the funniest book he'd read besides Infinite Jest, and anyone who knows me knows an Infinite Jest comparison is going to pique my interest. Well, Amis' style of humor may have worked for him, and maybe it's different in the Rachel Papers (being Amis' first novel, it's entirely possible), but it didn't really work here. If the h ...more
George
Mar 20, 2008 rated it really liked it
The premise of this book is well-recorded in earlier reviews: We start with the death of a doctor named Tod Friendly, and then move backwards through his life (much life hitting the Rewind button on a VCR while the tape was still playing). In reverse, the doctors take healthy patients and leave them sick and injured, while love affairs begin with arguments and end with shy flirtation. The key here is the defining period of Tod's life, towards which we are carried, our suspicions growing along th ...more
Ova - Excuse My Reading
haunting, poetic and disturbing...Amis is a great writer.

I am annoyed he didn't win the Booker with this book!
Lorenzo Berardi
Aug 13, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2005, british
I read this book while I was living in Oslo on 2005.
Then, for some reason I forgot to add it to my booklist.

It might have been amnesia.
After all in those five months I spent in old Christiania my attention was diverted by many things. I recall the London bombings, hurricane Katrina and its aftermath, the Norwegian parliamentary elections, the Indonesian national day, my struggle with bokmaal pronounciation and two or three juvenile infatuations with unaware girls.

Well, n
...more
Manny
Nov 21, 2008 rated it liked it

Not my favourite Amis. The idea of telling the story backwards is clever, but I never really warmed to it. I think it's a device that works better in a movie, e.g. Memento or 5x2.
Jeremy
Jul 15, 2015 rated it liked it
If you can get over the fact that the whole premise is basically a high concept gimmick (Lets tell the story of a Nazi Doctor's life! In reverse!) there is some strong writing in here. Amis uses this setup to generate a palpable tension as we move farther back in time, shedding one identity and locale after another, eventually reaching the 'climax' of the Holocaust years when Tod Friendly's 'true form' as it were, is revealed.

I'm generally inclined to enjoy high concept stuff life th
...more
Genia Lukin
This is an interesting conceit.

I needed a short book to read as I was trying to pace myself between two sequential novels, and as Holocaust Remembrance Day was right there, this one seemed apt.

This is the story of a Nazi doctor who was stationed in Auschwitz, escaped, fled to America and is haunted till the day of his death by the people he killed. It's all in a day's work for a Holocaust book, really... except this one is told in reverse.

We meet the persona l
...more
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Reading 1001: Time's Arrow - Martin Amis 2 11 Sep 22, 2019 07:24PM  
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2,666 followers
Martin Amis is an English novelist, essayist, and short story writer. His works include the novels Money, London Fields and The Information.

The Guardian writes that "all his critics have noted what Kingsley Amis [his father] complained of as a 'terrible compulsive vividness in his style... that constant demonstrating of his command of English'; and it's true that the Amis-ness of Amis will be recognisable in any piece before he/>The
...more
“It seems to me that you need a lot of courage, or a lot of something, to enter into others, into other people. We all think that everyone else lives in fortresses, in fastnesses: behind moats, behind sheer walls studded with spikes and broken glass. But in fact we inhabit much punier structures. We are, as it turns out, all jerry-built. Or not even. You can just stick your head under the flap of the tent and crawl right in. If you get the okay. ” 71 likes
“Probably human cruelty is fixed and eternal. Only styles change.” 40 likes
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