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River

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3.69  ·  Rating details ·  176 ratings  ·  46 reviews
A woman moves to a London suburb near the River Lea, without knowing quite why or for how long. Over a series of long, solitary walks she reminisces about the rivers she has encountered during her life, from the Rhine, her childhood river, to the Saint Lawrence, and a stream in Tel-Aviv. Filled with poignancy and poetic observation, River cements Esther Kinsky as a leading ...more
Paperback, 357 pages
Published September 4th 2018 by Transit Books (first published January 1st 2014)
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Average rating 3.69  · 
Rating details
 ·  176 ratings  ·  46 reviews


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Hugh
Dec 03, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is an original book that is difficult to classify. Much of it reads like a memoir but there are occasional forays into more surreal territory that hint at unreliability.

The core of the book is the story of a period spent living at Stamford Hill in East London, and every fourth chapter describes her walks following the river Lea from there to its mouth on the Thames. These read a little like a hybrid of W.G. Sebald (especially The Rings of Saturn) and Iain Sinclair (Downriver), with a dash
...more
Paul Fulcher
The river meant dislocation, confusion and unpredictability in a world that craved order.

Esther Kinsky's Am Fluß has been translated into English as River by Iain Galbraith, and published by perhaps the UK's finest publisher, Fitzcarraldo Editions (Pond, Zone, Counternarratives ETC).

Her narrator has left her native Germany and is living in London and, towards the end of her time in the UK has, for reasons never really explained, moved to the outskirts of the town, to Hackney.

After many years I
...more
Neil
Dec 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Under a pale sun and in the whitish, shadowless light peculiar to this place and these seasons, I took to following tracks which, time and again, led me back through the alder grove. This partly mutilated wetland wood with its childhood flowers and wild birds secretly appealing to my memory was my gateway to the lower reaches, to the path downstream that gradually taught me, during the final months of my stay, to find my own names for a city I had already spent many years labouring to decipher ...more
Gumble's Yard
Jan 05, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2018
This book is published by one of the leading UK small presses, Fitzcarraldo Editions an independent publisher (their words) specialising in contemporary fiction and long-form essays .. it focuses on ambitious, imaginative and innovative writing, both in translation and in the English language . Their novels are (my words) distinctively and beautifully styled, with plain, deep blue covers and a "French-flap" style, and are often complex and dense (perhaps a little too complex and dense for my ...more
Joseph Schreiber
Aug 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
A large and endlessly absorbing, yet intimate meditation on memory, restlessness and leave-taking, delineated by the rivers that have flowed through the narrator's life, recounted during the course of an extended withdrawal from London where she has lived for more than a decade. Her reflection reach back to her childhood on the Rhine, as well as sojourns along rivers around the world.

My review for Music & Literature can be found here: http://www.musicandliterature.org/rev...
...more
Tommi
Mar 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
River is a peculiar novel, quite unlike anything I have read before. A woman reminiscences the years she lived in East London near River Lea, a river that provides the main narrative structure to the novel. Lea reminds her of all the other rivers she has experienced, from the rivers of the Continent to the Yarkon in Tel Aviv and the Ganges in India. Every East London chapter, which depict in detail the progress of Lea from Springfield Park to its flowing into the Thames, is followed by three ...more
Melanie (Mel's Bookland Adventures)
I am feeling very generous today.
Joe M
Sep 09, 2018 rated it really liked it
An interesting meditation and love-letter to rivers explored, and wanderings embarked on in the author's lifetime. River reminded of Annie Dillard's Pilgrim at Tinker Creek for Kinsky's dense, but beautiful descriptions of nature, and Reservoir 13 for the way she expertly captures the steady rhythms of everyday life. Waves ripple, birds warble, cows wander, flowers bloom, seasons come and go...if you're looking for action or conflict, be warned, there's really none in the book's 350 pages, but ...more
Val
Aug 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: world-extra
The River Lea and the land either side of it form a green ribbon through East London and it was the border between London and Essex. It was not the best cared for piece of green belt, until various initiatives associated with the 2012 London Olympics cleaned it up, but it was possible to walk along it. The author / protagonist does so, from Springfield Park downstream, and describes the area in great detail, illustrated with some photographs.
She also describes the streets nearby and the people
...more
Jennifer
Feb 24, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A woman takes long solitary walks along the Lea River in NE London, observing nature and the post-industrial wasteland of the area with its abandoned factories and housing settlements. The surrounding neighborhoods, once serving the workers in the factories, belong now to the poor immigrant population. She discusses her London neighborhood shopkeepers, Jewish and Croatian, and the many colorful characters she meets on her daily outings. On her walks along the Lea, she reminisces about other ...more
Chris Wolak
Couldn't get into this one at this time.
Taylor Norman
Aug 19, 2019 added it
Shelves: memoir
River Lea, London, England
Tel Aviv, Israel
Toronto, Ontario

On its back the river carried the sky, the trees along its banks, the withered cob-like blooms of water plants, black squiggles of birds against the clouds (19).

I would picture the photographer against the landscape of my childhood: the astonishing spectacle he must have presented as half of him disappeared under the black cloth he had spread over his camera in order to work wonders that would survive the people he had photographed; the
...more
Travis McGuire
Sep 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
Fantastic novel. This is a writer at the top of their craft, words flow seamlessly together creating poetic observation and realistic scenes. It's difficukt to believe these events did not happen. The shear detail, down to the minitiuae of a place is truly astounding. The end of each chapter is finished with profound and often introspective paragraphs urging you to read on into the next or maybe stop and contemplate.
A couple of negatives. First, it is long. Perhaps too long though I hesitate to
...more
Denzil
Feb 15, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A woman takes a series of Sebald like traipses along various river banks and around their adjoining areas, mainly the marshy parts of London by the Lea and a Jewish neighbourhood next to the river. The writing is great and there is plenty of mystery and wonderment throughout. Works well as a novel or the chapters can be taken as individual pieces. A definite reread needed and I've a feeling it will get that fifth star.
Gary Homewood
May 12, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Outsider perspective psychogeography of liminal London. Acute and poetic observations of nature, light industrial detritus and banal, quotidian, multi cultural suburbia.
Michael Rieman
Feb 13, 2019 rated it liked it
Esther Kaminsky's hybrid work ( part memoir perhaps, part novel, part meditative essay) is characterized by precise, sometimes evocative writing about landscapes close to rivers, especially the Lea in the outskirts of London, in which the narrator takes various walks. These walks form part of the structure of the work, while other chapters describe the narrator's experiences near other rivers outside of the UK. Sometimes, the book seems like a meditation on the state of nature and of a society ...more
Mary Foust
May 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This read like a memoir even though it was fiction.
Spoilers below **

This narrator is a person who has obviously been through something tragic. She mentions the death of her father a few times but she also mentions once that she has (or had?) a son, and never mentions him again and the son is not with her and doesn't seem to contact her at all. It makes me wonder what happened to him? She talks a few times about how rivers demand sacrifices and there is a whole part where she visits a river in
...more
H
Feb 13, 2020 rated it really liked it
This book puzzled me and so finally this is how I read it: River gives the experience of the entropy of a city, the decay of objects, torn by the wind, bent, ripped by the people who pass through, done in by the rain and flood, things pile up, are discarded and used again.

The nameless narrator walks along the edges of populated cities and towns, along rivers in different countries. The narrator is an observer, offering a view, a tableaux, of the disorder resulting from constant change through
...more
Ellen Turner Hall
Dec 25, 2018 rated it liked it
Over the course of the past twelve months I have read four books in the "flaneur" tradition: Teju Cole's Open City, Olga Tokarczuk's Flights, Vivian Gornick's The Odd Woman and the City and Esther Kinsky's Rivers.
In each, a melancholy loner describes in loving detail what goes unnoticed by ordinary people with a destination. The writing explores the vocabulary of misery, disarray and disorientation.
Strewn across a single page toward the end of Kinsky's book are these descriptions of the
...more
Rebecca Rouillard
Feb 28, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
River is the story of a woman who moves alone to a suburb of east London. In a place of isolation and alienation the River Lea is a cord that tethers the narrator to her past life. She walks the river and surrounding landscape and reminisces about other rivers she has visited: St Lawrence, the Yarkon, the Oder, the Hooghly, and the Rhine of her childhood home. She gathers found objects, and photographs odd bits of landscape, and the book is illustrated by a selection of eerie black and white ...more
Bert
Her life is a river. It flows, tough meandering, always straightforward. And yet, and still, there are always borders. Edges, fringe territories, places people won't come nor go. It's in the flocking against the edges that stories got created, memories shaped. She is crossing the borders, mingling with marginal people, to take a look through their eyes. She collects photographs, pictures that serve as reminders of rivers passed; lives that are over, long forgotten. And dwelled upon. More and ...more
Sarah
Jan 04, 2019 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: poets, nature lovers, photographers, those fascinated by voyeurism, atmosphere, and kafka
It is both fantastic and grueling to read a book with such little plot. Oh I was so excited to read this! As a nature poet it's hard not to love all of the glittering descriptions of landscape and atmosphere. As contemporary fiction, it's also hard to read thru this book as one normally does- it feels River must be read over seasons rather than individual days. At times, I felt myself drifting in an out of wakefulness and all of the rivers seemed to blur together into one giant delta or marsh. ...more
Dan Sherrell
Nov 29, 2018 rated it really liked it
A truly strange book, unique in its ability to skate by on essentially description alone for almost 400 pages and never lose my attention. Kinsky creates a language for the lackluster, haphazard peripheries of cities that deeply resonates with menot the dramatically derelict places, but the places most overlooked, the ones that lack any sort of drama or cohesion at all, whose surfaces and atmospheres are most resistant to evocation through language. The rivers she traces serve as guides into ...more
Alex
Feb 18, 2019 rated it really liked it
I read this book very slowly, over a course of weeks, and I can't decide if anything got lost or not - it's the sort of meandering, meditative text that doesn't rely on a narrative arc as such, although there are bookends, in terms of the time frame of the main setting. The writing is beautiful, and it reminds me of my favourite kind of non-fiction nature writing, but usually in more urban settings, which is a fascinating perspective. Overall, I really enjoyed the process of reading this book ...more
Gary Budden
A disappointing read. Im not sure if knowing the landscape of the Lea Valley intimately helped or hindered my enjoyment of this book; but in the end it was far too meandering (even for a book called River), with a narrator-as-ghost-in-their-life and a sort of 60s European art house cinema bourgeois ennui running through it. Nicely written with some good individual sections but, dare I say it, it got a bit boring. ...more
Atharv G.
Jan 16, 2020 marked it as dnf
Shelves: germany, london
DNF at 35%
Unfortunately, I really couldn't connect to this book. There was no central story, conflicts, or characters that I felt like I could latch on to, which is why I tend not to get along with autofiction. There were lots of interesting observations and her writing was beautiful, but that wasn't enough to keep me going with this one.
Ingeborg
Esther Kinsky writes about her surroundings while traveling to different rivers. This is a great example of "show, don't tell" where the history is in the little details and observations. The book is beautifully written, and the more serious issues are hidden just enough in the depictions to keep it from turning into a nagging quest of self-realization. Highly recommended!
Kim
Disappointed as I was really looking forward to reading this boo. I found it dull. I didn't find the writing to be as appealing as others found it, and there is no point or plot either. I found it boring and didn't make it much past page 50.
Oliver Dixon
Dec 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A unique and wonderful book, though not an easy read, and a superb translation.
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Esther Kinsky, geboren 1956, hat Slawistik und Anglistik in Bonn und Toronto studiert. Sie arbeitet als Übersetzerin aus dem Polnischen, Englischen und Russischen. Ihr übersetzerisches Oeuvre umfasst u. a. Werke von Ida Fink, Hanna Krall, Ryszard Krysnicki, Aleksander Wat, Joseph O'Connor und Jane Smiley.

Kinksy lebt in Berlin. 2009 wurde sie mit dem Paul-Celan-Preis ausgezeichnet und 2011 erhielt
...more

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