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The Irresistible Inheritance of Wilberforce

3.49  ·  Rating details ·  1,445 ratings  ·  169 reviews
Chronicling the vintage years of Wilberforce's life, as he discovers a new world of friendship, adventure and fine wine, this is a haunting story of obsession and addiction, of loyalty and betrayal.
Hardcover, 308 pages
Published April 1st 2008 by Weidenfeld & Nicholson (first published 2005)
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3.49  · 
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 ·  1,445 ratings  ·  169 reviews

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Helene Jeppesen
Aug 14, 2017 rated it really liked it
4.5/5 stars.
Dec 15, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The Irresistible Inheritance of Wilberforce is the second novel by British author, Paul Torday. When Torday introduces his narrator, Wilberforce, it is 2006 and he is an enthusiastic wine drinker who owns an estate called Caerlyon Hall, the subterranean undercroft full of wine located under the Hall, and a flat in Half Moon Street, Mayfair. It soon becomes apparent, however, that Wilberforce is a virtually penniless alcoholic, a delusional widower who has alienated all his friends, squandered a ...more
Maria Raynal
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Dec 14, 2011 rated it it was ok
Had this been the first Paul Torday novel I had read, it would likely have been the last! No doubt a newish author wants to prove himself but this is just an exercise in trying to be different or show off, I think.

The whole book is a flashback starting at the end and working back to a vague beginning. Except it neither begins nor ends so the reader is left wondering what happened [if indeed, he is that engaged with the story or character].

This may be an interesting concept if you are an academ
Nov 09, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A much more bleak and sombre second novel from Paul Torday who debuted with the entertaining Salmon Fishing in the Yemen. The main character here becomes increasingly dislikeable as his wrong-footed life choices come home to roost. Wilberforce makes for a thoroughly unreliable narrator as he seeks to justify his alcoholism and betrayal of his friends. He's a man who ventures out of his depth and sinks rather than swims. The reverse timeline structure makes the story all the more poignant and at ...more
Jan 15, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Once I realized that the timeline of this book was not linear, I kept reading it, and then I began to see it as a minor masterpiece. I saw traces of Thomas Hardy in it, as well as Italo Calvino and other authors. No spoilers here, but if they were allowed I would right quite a bit about this book. I highly recommend it for anybody interested in literature that is being written right now.
Chantelle Atkins
Sep 28, 2013 rated it liked it
I didn't love this book, because it sort of depressed me, hence the three star rating. However, it is a brilliant book, very clever, differernt, beautifully written and constructed, and at some points was definitely a page turner. It just lacked warmth and joy for me, so I will explain why. Wilberforce is in his thirties, a successful computer software developer, but he has never been in love, never really had friends, and was never truly loved by his foster parents as a child. He has thrown him ...more
May 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A chilling and sad story of a young man's downward spiral. The story begins at the end of Wilberforce's existence, and his bleak tale is told in flashbacks. Years after reading this haunting book, I still frequently recommend it to friends.

The story is well crafted and clever. The main character is not likable, but his story is compelling. I could not put down this hugely depressing book. One might ask why I would so highly recommend such a sad story, and the answer is simply that it is a very
Jan 19, 2011 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: those with a concern about alcoholism: their own or someone else's; wine buffs
Wilberforce (he's never called anything else in the novel) is a driven but talented software developer, a child of unknown parentage adopted at birth by a well-meaning but wool-gathering woman and her academic but thwarted husband. He sees himself growing up largely loveless, though one of the things I feel is missing from the novel is more about his relationship with his adoptive mother. (His adoptive father either ignores him or disparages him.) He and a buddy find success in software developm ...more
Apr 03, 2019 rated it liked it
A thought provoking and well written book, which travels back through the recent years of an alcoholic's life. It was a sad tale, which left me feeling a bit deflated - so I guess it succeeded in telling the story it set out to do!
There were parts (obviously) which were off putting - the descent into illness and Wilberforce's self delusions, but also the characters being of an upper class, leisurely denomination, who weren't particularly likable, sometimes made it difficult for me to relate, and
Birgitt Krumboeck
Jul 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I absolutely loved this book. This author is pitch-perfect. I am so sorry that he is no longer among us.
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jun 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a strange book, one that I don't think will ever have a consensus of approval - my rating of 5 stars probably seems like a strange choice to most people who have read this book. This is one of those novels that will simply mean different things to different people. I found it difficult to get into but very worth persisting at, and I loved the way Torday used a nonlinear structure to turn a relatively simple plot into something mesmerising account of one man's strange downfall. Wilberforc ...more
Nov 26, 2017 rated it liked it
The introduction was interesting enough to make me want to read further. Skilled at describing setting and people, Torday drew me into the story and halfway through I found myself attached the to main character and the dilemma he was going through. There were two climaxes in the story but I feel they occur way too early in the book. What was a big disappointment to me was that the ending was flat. I waited for the punch line but there wasn't one. There were no surprises in store. Wilberforce nev ...more
Aug 14, 2018 rated it liked it
I often say that a good book is one that evokes emotion and great book is one that leaves you wondering if the characters are OK long after you have turned the last page.

Having just turned my last page, this bleak book has left me feeling sad and depressed and I'm not wondering if Wilberforce, Catherine and Francis are OK because I know exactly what has, or will happen to them. I think this is one of those book that will leave me feeling haunted, just like Lionel Shrivers, 'We need to talk abou
Sonia Jaidev
Feb 16, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Was it a comedy or a tragedy. Guess I will never find out. But that's what Paul Torday always does.
The moment a bottle of wine is opened it dies. But what doesn't die?
This is the story of a computer geek, Wilberforce told in the reverse order. Yes, Torday calls him Wilberfore right till the end, only then do you get to know his first name.
Pretty dark story. Wilberforce is a socially awkward, emotionally challenged, practically teetotal computer geek cum owner of a profitable company who finds hi
Jacquie South
May 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
4 1/2 ⭐ really, but I’ll round it up to 5.
A really sad and slightly frustrating book. Very well written, and I found the narrative device of telling the story in 4 parts in backwards chronological order was very effective. Obviously knowing how Wilberforce ends up and what happens makes each step back in time more heartbreaking.
I was left a little frustrated - I kind of wanted more closure than the author allowed, but overall I was quite impressed with this sad little story.
Dec 26, 2015 rated it it was amazing
It starts slowly, and I'm thinking, "Is he going to be drinking wine and visiting restaurants throughout the whole 300 pages?" But the story gets more and more interesting. Starting in the present and going back a year in each following part of the book makes for exciting reading - slowly filling the blanks in the story.
The only thing I wished for was to know how the story ends for Willberforce. Could he be Francis' son?
I highly recommend the book.
Mark Nunn
Mar 18, 2019 rated it liked it
A very clever book, like a fine wine it has many layers with subtle topnotes adding complexity to a robust base.

I did find that the reverse chronology to be a little frustrating, I feel cheated by not knowing what happens next, like the ending was stolen from me. However the exploration of Wilberforce's past is well done and allowed his character to be explored quite effectively.
Sep 23, 2017 rated it it was ok
The reverse timeline was interesting however I found the story deeply disturbing. IMO Wilberforce had all the classic symptoms of Asperger's Syndrome. His attitude to alcohol was not so much alcoholism as it was OCD. It was hard to know what to believe - his friends with incredible wealth, his seeming lack of personal responsibility...
And who was Francis Black? I'm not sure but he was probably the only character for whom I felt any empathy.
Mandy Setterfield
Oct 14, 2015 rated it really liked it
A gripping read. The story of an alcoholic told in reverse chronological order. Once I'd got to the end, I wanted to start again and read it backwards. During the early part of the book, when his illness is at its worst, I couldn't put it down, and if forced to, kept thinking "wonder how Wilberforce is?"
Chris Angelis
Dec 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is not a review.

If you want a deep, analytic review of The Irresistible Inheritance of Wilberforce, feel free to read it on my blog.

This is not a review.

I feel no motivation in leaving a proper Goodreads review for this book, because I don't think it would be appropriate for a general audience; the way this book is not appropriate, either.

If you're into impossible plots, dragons, or tall-dark-and-handsome sheikhs wooing independent-but-willing women, The Irresistible Inheritance of Wilberfo
Nov 09, 2018 rated it liked it
This was one of the most depressing books I've read in a long time. The writing is very good, and the construction of the plot (from present to recent past to more distant past) was interesting. But I really didn't care about the protagonist, and his life went from terrible (present) to bad to not-so-bad, showing how he got that way. If the writing hadn't been so good, I'd have only given it two stars.
Aug 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What a talented writer! Anyone who can take what would normally be a depressing subject and turn it into an enjoyable read deserves high praise. As Wilberforce's world spirals out of control by the seduction of wine, we walk backward through his life to try and understand how this happened. I so wanted to befriend this sad young man and offer him my sympathy and compassion. Not sure why, but expect it was due to the brilliance of the writing.
Ευρυδίκη Amanatidou)
Having already read "Salmon fishing in the Yemen" and "More than you can say" I came to simply adore Torday"'s writing. But I became a little disapointed by "The Irresistible inheritance of Wilberforce". I would have prefered an "orthodox" narrative, meaning the plot to happen from past to present times and not the reverse. Anyway, I liked the "digging"into Wilberforce's character.
David Mitchell
Jun 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I was very tempted to only offer four stars as the book concludes with many questions left open. And, then I recognised that this was part of the art of the book. Linked here are some further thoughts....(spoiler warning) ....
Lisa Sanders
Nov 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
I can see that this is well written but I really hated it. I dislike the miserable story and the unlovable characters. I struggled to finish this.
Jul 12, 2018 rated it liked it
The audio made the book.
Joseph Ramsden
Nov 28, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Painfully sad and infuriatingly vague. Left me with more questions than I’d have liked and I enjoyed it all the more for it. I think.
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Paul Torday burst on to the literary scene in 2007 with his first novel, SALMON FISHING IN THE YEMEN, an immediate international bestseller that has been translated into 28 languages and has been made into a film starring Ewan McGregor, Kristin Scott Thomas and Emily Blunt. His subsequent novels, THE IRRESISTIBLE INHERITANCE OF WILBERFORCE, THE GIRL ON THE LANDING, THE HOPELESS LIFE OF CHARLIE SUM ...more
“When you're in trouble, go and see your mother.” 1 likes
“Her expression was pleasant, but a trifle crafty, like Me Wolf at the window of the Three Pigs' house, asking to be let in.” 0 likes
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