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The Long Take

3.85  ·  Rating details ·  2,026 ratings  ·  344 reviews
Walker, a young Canadian recently demobilised after war and his active service in the Normandy landings and subsequent European operations. Suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, and unable to face a return to his family home in rural Nova Scotia, he goes in search of freedom, change, anonymity and repair. We follow Walker through a sequence of poems as he moves th ...more
Published by Macmillan Digital Audio (first published February 22nd 2018)
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Average rating 3.85  · 
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Jul 23, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2018-mbp, 2018-read
Well-deserved Winner of the Goldsmiths Prize 2018
Wow, the poetic vision of this book is simply brilliant - what a haunting, atmospheric, and perfectly composed text! Robertson tells the story of a Canadian soldier who fought at the Western front in WW II and comes to the US to make a life for himself - or is it to get lost and to forget?

Our protagonist bears the telling name Walker, and he finds a new purpose as a newspaper reporter, roaming the city and covering mainly social issues, especiall
Gumble's Yard
I've travelled a fair bit. The Canadian Maritimes
that's where I'm from. I know that coastline, down to Maine.
I signed up, trained up in England, then fought in Normandy,
then on through the low countries. Germany
After the war I worked in New York City for eighteen months
and now I'm here. I read all the time. Novels, history,
I'm interested in films and jazz. Cities
'Yes American Cities'
'What about American Cities'
'How they fail'

Now winner of the 2019 Walter Scott Prize for Historical Ficti
Dec 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone
Recommended to Paula by: Booker, Goldsmiths
Winner of the Goldsmiths Prize 2018
Shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2018

This is my second book from the Booker longlist. I was already aware of Robertson as a poet having heard him on the radio and through a CD called Hirta Songs, a collaboration with the Scottish folksinger Alasdair Roberts that mixed songs and spoken poetry, telling the story of the last inhabitants of St Kilda.

This book is a bold experiment - it has the narrative arc of a novel but it is largely told in free verse. At its
Aug 12, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Antonomasia by: 2018 Booker longlist
I bloody love long narrative poems, and I wish there were a lot more modern novels in this form. Not sure why I find poetry faster to read - know it isn't the case for everyone. For me, it goes straight into the veins, and it omits the extraneous, leaving only the most vital impressions. Or maybe it's the presentation: shorter lines and more white space on the page make it visually easier to take in.

It was the form that made me keen to read this, but the US setting held little interest. If a pr
Jul 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry
The Long Take is a moody work combining verse and prose to depict a crumbling post-war America. It flickers between protagonist Walker’s present - the New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco of the late 1940s through the 1950s - and his recent past in Europe fighting in WWII, with occasional glimpses of his earlier bucolic home life in Nova Scotia.

The book fairly crackles with atmosphere and noir-ish sensibility. I especially enjoyed the early cityscapes, captured with cinematic vividness. R
Is it prose, poetry, a prose poem, narrative verse, a novel with many artful line breaks ? - I don't know but it is rather beautiful and achingly sad.

The Long Take is many things, a primer on late 1940s early 50s noir film as well as a beautiful evocation of cities in a state of flux. It’s about one man’s descent into post war despair. It also does rather a great job in describing shadows.

he walked the monochrome world of the city, after hours, in the dissipating heat. watching his shadow feed
Aug 04, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry
“ I’m interested in films and jazz. Cities.’
‘Yes. American cities.’
‘What about American cities?’
‘How they fail.’ ”

The Long Take is an incredibly raw look at the post-war experience, illustrating the particular trials and tribulations felt after the second world war ended, specifically as the veterans of the war returned to their home countries and tried to rebuild their lives. Written in verse, an epic of mini proportions, Robin Robertson lyrical writing conjures beautiful image
Paul Fulcher
'I'm interested in film and jazz. Cities.'
'Yes, American cities.'
'What about American cities.'
'How they fail'

Shortlisted for the 2018 Man Booker prize and now winner of the 2018 Goldsmiths Prize, The Long Take is, in the author's word, a narrative poem.

The novel, set in the decade after World War II, is narrated Walker, a traumatised Canadian veteran. His reminiscences on the Normandy D-day landings forms a spine to the novel as, in the novel's present day, he drifts from New York t
Aug 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Robin Robertson’s The Long Take demanded a new type of reading for me. I started reading it as poetry or as Psalms, reading short passages slowly and then immediately rereading them. But at that leisurely pace, I soon realized that The Long Take would dominate my fiction reading for weeks or even months, leading me to spend the entire Booker season on this one novel alone. So while I started slowly, I finished it more rapidly, as a contemplative yet compelling read.

The Long Take is multi-layered
Finalist for 2019 Man Booker Prize
Longlisted for the 2019 Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction

Initial thoughts:
Really impressed with how Robertson tackled the issues of war, xenophobia, urban sprawl through a historical lense. His presentation as a novel in verse with flashbacks, letters, and news clippings was unlike anything I've seen. The descriptions gave the novel a cinematic feel. I am glad I came across Simon's post on the Walter Scott Prize.
Oct 15, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry, booker-2018, 2018
Hmm. I seem to be in the minority in not being completely enamored with this novel in verse, though in a lot of ways it's certainly an impressive feat. Robin Robertson's writing is elegant and immersive, the tone is achingly sad, and he uses the form to explore a myriad of subjects - PTSD, the development of post-war America, the advent of cinema... There's a lot of content packed into this little book, but while I found myself impressed by many aspects of it, there was also something a bit empt ...more
Jerrie (redwritinghood)
This is another fantastic Man Booker longlist pick. Moody and atmospheric, this poetry perfectly captures 1950s LA noir. A WWII veteran suffering guilt and PTSD travels to LA as it undergoes the changes that make it into a modern city of roads, parking lots, and homeless soldiers. Interspersed with flashbacks of the war, language is used expertly to evoke post-war America with its racism, fear of communism, and race to modernize.
UPDATE: Now re-read after its inclusion on the Goldsmiths shortlist and confirmed as a 5 star read. This time I found it even more poetic and devastatingly heartbreaking in its depiction of a man struggling with PTSD and in its depiction of racism in post-war America. Maybe more to come when I get back from holiday and am not typing on my phone.


It is hard to comprehend the horror of war if you have not experienced it. I know it is beyond me. In WWII, millions of people died, others survived.
Sep 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: best-of-2018
There is so much going on in this book, and all of it is good. The Long Take is so deserving of its place on the 2018 Man Booker Shortlist. I was hesitant about reading this- I’m always wary of extended narratives written in verse. I often find it gimmicky; that either the form or narrative suffers. This is not the case with The Long Take.
This book is about many things: post-war America, the veteran experience, isolation, poverty, and most interestingly to me, the life of cities. As an unapologe
Jul 19, 2020 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Faulkner meeting Steinbeck, meeting Döblin, meeting Capote, …
Honestly, not my cup of tea. I love a demanding read, and I love poetic prose. But this didn't really work for me. I recognized the story of the unsettling return of a World War II veteran, incapable of finding his way back to normal life, traumatized by what he saw back in Normandy in 1944. And I recognized the evocation of America at the end of the 40’s and the beginning of the ’50s, with its scores of homeless people, its great urba
Katia N
Feb 25, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
There is no shortage of good reviews of this book as it was shortlisted for the Booker prize 2018 and the winner of the Goldsmith's prize. So I would not go in details through main themes and characters. Instead, below are just are few of my thoughts.

It is quite an unusual novel. Not only it is in verse, but it is the opposite of a script in a way. Normally, I imagine, when a movie is being produced, it is being initially scripted in a scenario. Also, if it is a historical movie, the relevant re
Katie Long
Aug 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Oh, another gem from this year's Man Booker longlist. In this novel length poem, a Canadian WWII veteran is trying to rebuild his life while haunted by the fear that he has lost part of himself forever. From New York, to L.A., to San Francisco, he finds a country that seems to believe it has moved on from the war that he can't forget, but there is clearly fear at the root of all of the consumerism and commercialization. A beautiful, brooding book that I would recommend to anyone. Even if you thi ...more
Jonathan Pool
There are many ways to approach writing a review of The Long Take.
It’s a great, multi faceted work of fiction and one that is a novel, in a conventional sense, rather than poetry dressed up as prose. This despite the book’s livery describing it as ‘Picador Poetry” and despite the fact that Robin Robertson has an established, an esteemed, reputation writing poetry.

I particularly liked the fact that The Long Take provided a number of easily understood points of reference. I’m not American, but my
Katie Lumsden
Apr 02, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really liked this. A very strong and powerful novel in verse, exploring the aftermath of WWII. The form was unique and clever and the examination of that time in American history fascinating.
Aug 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Oct 10, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: man-booker-nod, 2018
The paper said he could try out on movie reviews, 
so he went to see
Deadly is the Female in the Cameo, or the Star, 
one of those theatres next to the Arcade. 
He thought about it all night. That long take 
inside the getaway car: one shot lasted three minutes easy 
and was just real life, right there.

The Long Take is another Man Booker shortlist title that I wouldn't have picked up if not for its place on that list; another book this year that challenges my idea of what makes a “novel”. Written as
Eric Anderson
Oct 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Robin Robertson is a Scottish writer who has published several successful collections of poetry. His book “The Long Take” is described on the inside flap of the dust jacket as “a noir narrative written with the intensity and power of poetry.” I'm all for cross-genre novels and blended forms of writing. I don't think categorization of books makes an impact on the actual reading experience. But I do get slightly anxious when self-proclaimed poets write books which are classified as novels as I des ...more
Sep 10, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
“The bird has gone from the branch
but he reconstructs it from its after-image,
what he remembers of its song.”

A very sad book for me. It’s the story of a WWII veteran struggling with PTSD, about people living on the streets after the war, and about the destruction of cities—the ripping apart of the places where people lived their lives-- in the name of progress. I told you it was sad.

The style, however, is a breath of fresh air amidst the sadness. It is a poem in novel form, told in verse and wi
Aug 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
4.5* rounded up. Thoughts to follow once I get my head around it and after I see the author in person next week (it was pretty bleak but great).

Updated 30/8: After seeing an interview, hearing Robin Robertson read in his dramatic Scottish accent and speaking to him about this book and other’s I give all the stars. 5**
I really feel I need to read this again with his voice in my head and appreciate all the little nuances and themes he discussed.

These were his thoughts that struck me the most:
- Thi
Sep 02, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm generally not fond of poetry, but this transcends the genre in not getting overly flowery in its language, and having a strong narrative drive. I really liked the noirish elements, and especially enjoyed the glimpse of my native San Francisco around the same time I appeared on the scene there as a baby (yay shout-out to Spenger's Fish Grotto, may it RIP). I could have done without some of the more gruesome passages, especially the war scenes, but appreciate why they were necessary. Don't hav ...more
There was a blur of neon as he fell,
headlong, into his own shadow,
a shadow the length and breadth of him.

The city was watching. He got up. Walked.
When he stopped, so did the footsteps,
so he couldn't stop: he just had to keep moving.

A few lights still on.
Hall lights shining through the stained-glass windows,
each porch a tiny sunset.

He's like the faded lettering on old buildings, old advertisements
for things you can't buy, that aren't made any more:
ghost signs.


The coyote was watching.
Tail bushe
Poetry and the Second World War - two things I often struggle with in books. I needn't have worried. The Long Take is a stunning look at how the War impacted upon one man, Walker, a Canadian soldier who was demobilised after fighting in Normandy. Dreading the prospect of going home to rural Nova Scotia, we follow Walker as he moves to New York, and later LA and San Francisco, and experience his PTSD (flashbacks to which increase as the story progresses).

I think the poetic telling of the story wo
Sep 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Verse and prose come together for superb results. I loved this book. Loved it. It’s magnificent. An unflinching prophetic look at the unrelenting desperation and loneliness of PTSD. This is what war does to many of those who fight in them.
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There is more than one author with this name in the Goodreads catalog. This entry is for Robin ^3 Robertson.

Robin Robertson is from the north-east coast of Scotland. His four collections of poetry have received the E.M. Forster Award and various Forward Prizes.

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