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Those Who Knew

3.44  ·  Rating details ·  1,705 ratings  ·  279 reviews
From the award-winning author of Ways to Disappear, a taut, timely novel about what a powerful politician thinks he can get away with and the group of misfits who finally bring him down.

On an unnamed island country ten years after the collapse of a U.S.-supported regime, Lena suspects the powerful senator she was involved with back in her student activist days is taking ad
Hardcover, 248 pages
Published November 6th 2018 by Viking
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3.44  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,705 ratings  ·  279 reviews

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Those Who Knew is one of the most timely, on point works of fiction for this era.

With the opening pages of Idra Novey’s sophomore novel, Those Who Knew, you will be hooked into the story of politics, intrigue, masculine abuse, secrets and lies.On an unnamed island, exactly one week after the death of a young woman is ruled “accidental,” Lena discovers in her purse a shirt that she is convinced belonged to the young woman, Maria. Her friend, bookshop/weed store owner, Olga tries to convince Lena
Nov 30, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2018-reads
While I appreciated this novel's ambition and stylistic difficulty - the non-linear telling, the slipping identities, the political plot, the elision of place names and the setting in an unnamed Latin American-ish island nation - I can't say I actually liked the book. I actually don't understand what it was about, which is to say it was "about" many things but I have trouble integrating the ideas. So I'm surprised at the novel's recent publicity that seems to center on the "bad man" storyline - ...more
Jennifer Croft
Sep 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is one of the most exhilarating novels I’ve read in ages. It’s an astonishingly perfect mosaic—intricate, gorgeous—on the topic of corruption, which feels both timely and timeless. It forms the most complete picture I’ve ever read of this subject, providing the reader with direct access into the minds of would-be revolutionaries, washed-up revolutionaries, those with good intentions and those without, those who’ve lost their way, sexy egomaniacs, blundering outsiders and many more. It’s a q ...more
Dec 20, 2018 rated it liked it
2.5, rounded up.

For much of Novey's sophomore novel, I was intrigued and reading quickly to find out how all the myriad and provocative plot threads would resolve themselves, interweave and form a cohesive whole. Unfortunately, the novel just ENDS with no resolution and without anything making much sense. Things which SEEMED to be important in the beginning (the sweater, the death of Maria P.) just fade away, as do most of the subsequent happenings. Perhaps that was the entire intention, that th
Nov 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Such a brilliant book of our now. Politics (plus figurative and literal political ghosts) connect (or ensnaring) the lives of an expertly rendered cast of characters. The result is as enraging as it is inspiring. Between this novel and WAYS TO DISAPPEAR, Idra is now one of my favorite contemporary writers.
May 26, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: audio
Idra Novey can write. Her prose is beautiful and she plays with stylistic elements to create a wholly unique reading experience. Unfortunately, I closed the cover on this nuanced work feeling somewhat confused. I got it...I think, but there was a lot going on, not all of which was clear to me. I blame me!
3 stars
Nov 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I consider myself very, very lucky that I got to read an early copy of this highly anticipated book. I loved Ways to Disappear. Novey's second novel enchanted in a different way -- it made me ponder what we let people get away with and why. Political and poetic.
Charlie Smith
Jul 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Let me begin with my ending: Idra Novey's Those Who Knew is beautiful, classically shaped, compulsively readable, an all too relevant exploration of the moral and ethical conundrums of our troubled times, as lavishly wrought as poetry, rendered in sensational, moving prose, a page-turner-work-of-art, layered, like prescient pentimento. Get your hands on a copy of Those Who Knew as soon as you can, move it to the top of your TBR pile, and glory in it. And be warned, you'll find yourself re-readin ...more
Nov 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing
5+ out of 5.
So very much my kind of novel. I loved what Novey did with the structure, dropping in scenes from plays and clippings from newspapers, and I loved the content of the novel itself: a propulsive look at toxic masculinity in politics, at American intervention in Latin America, at the scars we leave behind us that we might not even be conscious of...
And the writing, my god. It's playful even as it is serious, and the book practically dances along (perhaps due to the short chapter length
Jan 09, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: literature
“Those Who Knew” is a meditation on the passive role people play in physical abuse and the abuse of power. Lena is the main character, and as a college student had a temporary affair with Victor, which ended when Victor nearly killed her. Lena remained silent and told no one. Victor moves on to become a Senator, and other mysterious deaths of women close to Victor’s political life make Lena pay more attention.

This is a timely novel in that our culture is allowing and encouraging the voices of vi
Nov 14, 2018 rated it really liked it
Subtle and smart. It's like a watercolor of a book, not totally clear.
Robert Blumenthal
Apr 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Another winner from Idra Novey, whose first novel, Ways to Disappear was another fine effort. In this novel, which takes place in an unnamed Island in the Western Hemisphere as well as an unnamed city in the dominant country in the north (obviously New York). It follows Lena, who worked with a progressive senator who had a habit of coming on a bit strong to young women and may have murdered one of them.

Lena ends up pregnant with the child of a very blond northerner, and she has kept their son a
Jan 11, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2019
I only had about a quarter of this Audiobook yet to listen too...and realized I wasn't really paying attention to it anymore and didn't care...not one bit, where it was going. So I stopped my self-imposed torture. Since I only gave this a try, in the first place, because it fulfilled a reading challenge, anyway.

Overall, I think it was a little too smartly written for me...or it was just too confusing. Actually, I think know it's both these factors. I also have no clue if this is a dystopian futu
Mar 14, 2019 rated it it was ok
This book had a unique and ambitious idea behind it, but many of the style choices the author made kept me from fully engaging with it and in the end I didn't really like this as much as I thought I would.

One of my ultimate book pet peeves is present throughout the book - that being the lack of quotation marks during dialogue. I've said it in the past (probably multiple times) that the absence of quotations really pulls me out of a book because it makes the flow of reading it feel jerky any time
Nov 12, 2018 added it
"People are too desperate for a hero."

Lena, a college student from a wealthy island family, turns activist and gets involved with the charismatic future senator, Victor, and has a fling with him while they are planning and organizing demonstrations in support of reduced tuition for the islanders. The people who live on this unnamed island have barely recovered from atrocities committed against them while under a fascist regime supported and financed by the North (the USA?) Victor is a rising pol
Nadine Jones
Recommended for fans of: Before She Sleeps

And there’s more, Freddy had murmured, even more brutal.

I don’t know anyone on this island, Alex had replied, who isn’t one degree removed from more brutality than they can bear to admit.

If you loved the dreariness of Nineteen Eighty-Four and The Children of Men, and you don't mind a complete lack of quotation marks (why, authors? WHY????), then you must read this book.

I'll be honest, by page 10, I was really annoyed by the lack of quotation marks, li
Margaret King
Nov 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
I generously received an advance copy of this book from Viking Press. I got hooked into the story right away, and it only took me a few days to finish it. This is an extremely timely novel that is told in an innovative way, with multiple points of view across many years and a couple different nations. I love Idra Novey's writing and style, and can't wait to read her poetry collections after this. I really liked how the book used different ways to shed light on complex layers of trauma, revolutio ...more
Dec 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A lot of the articles written about this book mention the #MeToo movement. While I see the connection, I don't think this book is just about that. The book takes on a lot more including U.S. relations with despotic leaders, government corruption, and relationships in general.

I particularly enjoyed the interactions of Oscar and Lena when they are reunited years later. We've all wondered if things could have ended differently in a previous relationship. We all try and look back and see if there w
Erin Glover
Jan 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: five-stars
Stunning political thriller. Comments shortly.
Corey Preston
Jan 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing
The very best kind of fiction, to my mind, subtly reminds, and expands the notion of, what fiction can do.
This fine book is the best kind of fiction. It also happens to be propulsive, painful and deeply human, which is pretty great too.
Thanks AIP.
Jan 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I absolutely LOVED this book and was so incredibly glad one of my book clubs chose this as their January pick. This book is completely ideal if you are looking for fuel to light an intense debate between readers.

I 100% appreciate the remarkable unique structure and voice behind this book. Idra Novey has a very specific voice and this book is still echoing through my head. The work done to create very ambiguous, complex characters is second to none in this particular story. I don't think there wa
Caroline Hagood
Oct 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Idra Novey started her writing career as a poet, and she brings this lyrical sensibility to her two novels, the 2016 Ways to Disappear and her new book, out next week, Those Who Knew. She’s also an accomplished translator of a number of pivotal Brazilian works, including Clarice Lispector’s The Passion According to G.H.

Perhaps as a result of her movements between various linguistic spheres—whether it be poetry and prose or actual different languages—Novey’s novels telegraph the sensation of mov
Jan 25, 2019 added it
I'm really impressed by this author and the light touch she brings to heavy topics (political corruption, male domination, violence against women). The extremely short chapters allow her to shift easily between the multiple points of view, so that we get a multifaceted view of a carefully plotted story that culminates with satisfying surprises that stop short of feeling pat. I'm excited to read Novey's first novel now.
Hilary Reyl
Nov 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I could not put this book down. It's an intimate political thriller with a propulsive plot. The writing is very taut - not a wasted word. Yet the characters and story feel very deep and fleshed out, so a reader does not have the unsatisfied feeling that can sometimes come from a sparely written book. It's moving and beautiful, a very emotional read. The writing is poetic, but never overwrought, and the poetry is always in service of a great story. Highly recommended!
Hilary Zaid
Feb 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A brilliant jewel box of a novel with so much richness held inside. The first sentence is a master class in itself. At long last, a 21st c. novel of multiple POVs that feels coherent, compelling and whole. An excellent novel.
Michael Boyte
Dec 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
Gorgeous and layered, a blistering critique of Imperialism and toxic masculinity. I read this in two days, and had trouble putting it down.
Anita Lynch-Cooper
Mar 31, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: never-finished
Tried to read this, but just didn't care.
Linda Robinson
Jul 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Hold on. "The reception is better in Conspiracy." One of hundreds of sentences that are shamanic in the way each walks through dimensions like a spectral narrator. Olga is in her bookshop/weed den on the phone with Lena in this scenario. Olga is extraordinarily present in Lena's timeline, and present in the island nation's timeline with her journal entries. Past, present, seasons of political power; the young women who are attracted to that. Maybe you've seen the preview of the next gen Pennywis ...more
Jamise // Spines & Vines
2.5 stars Meh, didn’t do anything for me. This is my second novel by this author and once again I say if you’re looking for an amazing climatic plot, this is not the book. The premise was good but I felt like it fell flat. She has a nice writing style but at times I felt that it was all over the place.
Feb 25, 2019 rated it really liked it
I don't really know how to categorize this one... was it speculative fiction, an alternate history? What was the unnamed island? Cuba?

All I do know is that the writing was superb and I was hooked from beginning to end.
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Idra Novey is the author of the novel Those Who Knew, an Indie Next Pick and Best Book of 2018 with NPR, Esquire, BBC, Real Simple, O magazine and Kirkus Reviews. Her first novel Ways to Disappear received the 2017 Sami Rohr Prize, the 2016 Brooklyn Library Literary Prize, and was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for First Fiction. Her fiction and poetry have been translated into te ...more
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“that she was trailing him because trauma made a kite of the mind and there was no telling what kind of wind might take hold of it.” 1 likes
“A school she visited the month before had not even had a working water fountain. In the classroom she'd observed there, two windows had been patched with masking tape and cardboard. Halfway through the class, a scrawny, feral-looking cat had slipped beneath the cardboard and hissed at a boy seated near the window. The teacher remarked on none of it. He'd just gone on lecturing in a resigned monotone until the cat drew closer and the boy smacked it with a notebook.” 0 likes
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