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A Very Private Life

3.48  ·  Rating details ·  181 ratings  ·  24 reviews
A dystopian distant future novel. An inquisitive heroine, smitten by love & fuelled by angst, seeks to break free of her enclosed community to make meaningful contact with another.
The protagonist, Uncumber, begins life in privileged home. She's estranged from her family by their reliance on drugs to regulate emotions & social interactions. She leaves them in order to purs
Paperback, 144 pages
Published May 19th 2005 by Faber & Faber (first published September 3rd 1968)
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Average rating 3.48  · 
Rating details
 ·  181 ratings  ·  24 reviews

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Wiebke (1book1review)
This was a great quick read. Makes you think and look at solitarity and families differently.
Jan 16, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I read this once as a teen and then forgot the title and author. As an adult I went through hoops trying to find this book again. I kept describing it to everyone and it seems noone else has read it. It's a very telling post-apocalyptic book that is ahead of its time. ...more
Valancourt Books
Now available in the US:

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Website | Amazon US
Dec 24, 2009 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: fans of pessimistic dystopian tales.
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Simon Mcleish
May 11, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: owned
Originally published on my blog here in August 1999.

Michael Frayn is so well known today as a playwright that it is strange to realise that he was first a journalist and then a novelist. And his novels are very different from his plays, often being science fiction and written in a whimsical manner. Despite the tone in which it is written, A Very Private Life wants to say some fairly serious things about Western culture in the second half of the twentieth century.

The novel is set a fair way into
Pete Young
Nov 12, 2012 rated it liked it
Though it depicts a future dystopia, A Very Private Life is actually less a science fiction novel and more a futurist fairy tale. The young female protagonist Uncumber lives in a sterile underground world in which personal privacy is paramount, being a cultural reaction against the invasions of privacy that began in the 20th century. Emotions must be drug-induced to be acceptable, babies are made at the factory when you provide the ingredients, and dark glasses are the only item of clothing beca ...more
Iskren Zayryanov
„Имало едно време…” – така започват всички приказки, дори сагата на Лукас започва с „Преди много време, в една далечна галактика…”. Но защо пък всички приказки трябва да са в миналото? Не е задължително, нали? Та ето една, която започва така:

„Ще има едно време…”

Някога в бъдещето технологиите ще се развият толкова, че няма да е нужно да напускаш дома си, за да посетиш което и да е кътче по света. Няма да е нужно да пътуваш, за да идеш на почивка на плаж от златен пясък, под кристално синьо небе,
Sep 01, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Couldn't put it down, yet it disturbed me greatly, to be honest I won't read it again and I'm not interested in what happens next. But that could just be me, so a definite recommend to read it for yourself and see what you think. ...more
Rachel Adiyah
Dec 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: dystopian sci-fi readers, ecological sci-fi readers, those interested in 1960's literature
(To me, this book could represent our future with Generation Z. I could absolutely see those kids turning into the Inside people; they'd have different technology and mannerisms, but it would essentially be the same thing.)

At some unspecified point in the future, humanity has divided itself into two classes. The upper class consists of the Inside people. They barricade themselves in houses which they never leave. To meet someone means that you meet them on holovision. Everyone past the age of pu
Ralph Jones
Cute story, but the real message is: Don’t Do Drugs. Remember this 3-D people!

Michael Frayn’s A Very Private Life doesn’t actually made the point about having private moments in life nor having a private life. Our main character, named Uncumber, had to live with a family that relies too much on drugs to be emotionally stable (or maybe, mentally stable?). She doesn’t like that and she is also very distant with her family because she doesn’t want to join the drug family. Smart.

So, she left her hom
Geoffrey Fox
Aug 17, 2019 rated it liked it
Uncumber, a restless child, tires of the inside life where all is secure & all material and pharmacological needs are met, & escapes to join Noli, a man she has met by holovision after marking the wrong number. Thus she discovers a distant community of outside workers who speak a strange language (Finnish?). Tiring of him & this life, she tries to walk to the rocket port to fly home, but gets lost, is denied entry into any of the inside people's homes, then is captured by brigands ("sad men" — t ...more
BookWorm Liv
May 18, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is the perfect read in times of Covid19 .. amazingly prophetic
Scott Morrison
Feb 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Unbelievable that this was written in the 1960s. Brilliant.
Jul 15, 2016 rated it really liked it
Modern literature is rich with dystopian visions of the future – do you really need to read another one? The answer is no, not really, but this is a classy example of the genre and has the virtue of being a compact and very readable novel. The set-up is straightforward and not particularly original: human society has separated into wealthy, privileged Insiders who lead long, disease-free lives and rely on three-dimensional ‘holovision’ and an endless variety of recreational drugs for entertainme ...more
A Very Private Life is a book based on a futuristic fairytale reality inhabited by a teenage girl named Uncumber, whose rebellious impulses lead her on a journey to a world she has never encountered from her shielded insider lifestyle.

I was intrigued by Michael Frayn’s approach to this original storyline. A Very Private life, of course, is set as a fairytale in the future, not the past. Interesting though, the chapters are separated into increments only a few pages long, making it effortlessly
Nog ééntje uit de pocket-collectie van mijn vader (nog een tachtigtal te gaan). Dit had ik ergens in de jaren '80 al eens gelezen. Typisch SF-verhaal uit de jaren '60, de hoogdagen van de SF.
In feite wel gedateerd omdat een aantal van de beschreven evoluties de dag van vandaag ondenkbaar zouden zijn. Bijvoorbeeld: holovisie is ten tijde van het verhaal de standaard maar men moet de verbindingen wel maken door lekker ouderwets een telefoonnummer in te toetsen.
Vermakelijk. Makkelijk op een dagje u
Sigue el clásico tema de la joven que se rebela contra el sistema, tratando de buscarse a si misma, pero dentro del contexto sci-fi de los 60 influenciados sobre todo por la obra de Robert Heinlein, es decir donde se habla abiertamente de drogas, sexualidad, se cuestiona las familias nucleares, etc. Es una lástima que los libros de Michal Frayn (al parece ninguno) hayan sido traducidos al castellano.
Dec 06, 2007 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: fans of dystopic fiction
it's a small book so a nice short read, but i didn't care for the ending. here's a small synopsis: "Dystopian forecast and pure moral fable mingle brilliantly in Michael Frayn's chilling account of Uncumber's adventures as she rejects anaesthetized nirvana for the raw outside of none-too-noble savages." ...more
Erik Graff
Dec 02, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Frayn fans
Recommended to Erik by: no one
Shelves: sf
I read this without knowing of Frayn's reputation as a playwright, novelist and essayist--but, then, this was rather early in his career. I read it as a dystopian science fiction novel and was somewhat put off by its humor, some of which was reminiscent of Terry Southern's Candy, but not as funny. ...more
Scott Golden
Jan 08, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Well-written, somewhat prescient (the main character basically hangs out in her room, communicating with friends by webcam); this is an interesting short book by a British author mainly known for his literary novels and stage plays.
Peter Greenwell
Aug 31, 2013 rated it really liked it
Well, isn't this just one short and sweet little tale? Cleverly written, smart and wholesomely engaging. Not to mention ironic.

All good fun.
jim reid
rated it really liked it
Jul 09, 2018
Steve Pimentil
rated it it was ok
Apr 15, 2014
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Feb 14, 2014
Jim Cleaveland
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Jun 01, 2020
Chris Hanada
rated it it was ok
May 18, 2014
rated it liked it
Aug 17, 2020
John Burgess
rated it it was ok
Sep 04, 2019
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Mar 19, 2013
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Apr 17, 2010
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Michael Frayn is an English playwright and novelist. He is best known as the author of the farce Noises Off and the dramas Copenhagen and Democracy. His novels, such as Towards the End of the Morning, Headlong and Spies, have also been critical and commercial successes, making him one of the handful of writers in the English language to succeed in both drama and prose fiction. His works often rais ...more

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