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3.31  ·  Rating details ·  1,920 ratings  ·  275 reviews



A hilarious, surprising and poignant love story about the way families are invented, told with the savvy of a Zadie Smith and with an inventiveness all Ian Williams' own, Reproduction explores unconventional connections and brilliantly redefines family.

Felicia and Edgar meet as their mothers
Paperback, 464 pages
Published September 3rd 2019 by Vintage Books Canada (first published January 22nd 2019)
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Pamela Poetker We talked about it in my book club and we agreed (as you suggested) that it reflected his worsening cancer. The first misspelling was very minor but i…moreWe talked about it in my book club and we agreed (as you suggested) that it reflected his worsening cancer. The first misspelling was very minor but it became worse and worse as he declined.(less)
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Average rating 3.31  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,920 ratings  ·  275 reviews

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Oct 01, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This Giller shortlisted book opens with 23 sections, alternating between 19 year old Felicia Shaw from an undisclosed Caribbean island and Edgar Gross, an affluent, middle-aged German, heir to some vague family interest. They meet in a shared hospital room, tending to their respective mothers who are both near death.

The 23 sections represent the number of chromosome pairs found in DNA. From there the novel begins to reproduce. Part 2 jumps ahead a few years and we alternate between 4 voices tim
Penny (Literary Hoarders)
This wasn't the kind of book for me at this time, unfortunately. Williams experiments with many different writing styles- there are diary entries (that solidify the strong dislike for Edgar), charts, poems, sections that could be described as rapping, and other disjointed styles of storytelling. I tried to give it breathing space, but a strong dislike of Edgar and his treatment of Felicia -- a love story you can't call this? There was also too great a shift of time to introducing Army. There was ...more
Nov 24, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: can-con, 2019
At first, Army was 99 percent sure, then 98 percent sure, and now he was down to 96 percent sure that he couldn't be the father. It was biologically impossible from what he understood about reproduction. He would have had to had had, have had to had had, sex.

Ian Williams is an award-winning poet and that fact is totally apparent in his first novel, Reproduction: word choices are precise and often surprising; he plays (repeatedly) with structure; and I constantly had the feeling that somethin
Jill S
Oct 25, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, canadian, bipoc
Reproduction is much more an exploration of form than narrative. The structure of the book itself reproduces: Part 1 in 23 sections to represent 23 chromosomes; Part 2 told by 4 people in 4 parts = 16; Part 3: 16x16 = 256; Part 4 = the story develops cancer and parts of the previous sections bleed into the text, the past a cancer on the present.

I have to say that I found the format of this book compelling, even if it does inhibit the book from having an overarching connecting narrative. I partic
Paul Fulcher
Nov 07, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2020
Winner of the 2019 Scotiabank Giller Prize in Canada, Ian Williams' Reproduction is certainly formally ambitious (see other reviews for details) and, had the author been eligible, would have been an excellent fit for this year's Goldsmiths Prize in the UK.

However for me the story: innovation ratio was too skewed to the former, at 446 pages long, and the story, particularly the latter sections where the focus moved away from Felicia and Edgar to a wider cast (e.g. the girlfriend of the son of the
Natasha Penney
Such a disappointing book. There was an interesting narrative style, but a little way in even that failed to entertain. The downfall for me was in the characters themselves. I admired Felicia initially. Then I felt sorry for her. Then I became annoyed. I wanted better for her, and it was frustrating to want that when you realize she doesn’t want it for her own life. So as a reader you realize you’re settling in for a slow slide to a predictable ending. Egdar? I haven’t felt such a visceral disli ...more
Emily M
Jun 30, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: canadian
Energetic, creative, funny, sad and postmodern in a (mostly) reader-friendly way, Reproduction feels like a breath of fresh air in Canadian literature. This is maybe unfair; I’ve been out of the country for a decade and don’t keep up much, but it was the only book on the Giller longlist that appealed and I was pleased when it went on to win.

It’s a book about being a family that isn’t really a family, about being a woman, being an immigrant, being a teenager, being black, being mixed race, being
Barbara McEwen
Oct 14, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: canadian
A story of family, an unconventional family, maybe, but that is what makes it interesting. My library stuck a "people" sticker on it and I agree, it is totally about the characters and their relationships. They are not all likeable characters, one is completely unlikeable, but it's part of the story and real life has unlikeable characters. The author tries out a lot of interesting/unique writing styles and I was mostly on board, but it did feel like he was playing a bit much. I had fun though an ...more
This was not the book for me, although I'm glad it's out there. I have some thoughts.

The Style and Structure: this is the kind of book that I think makes some people wrinkle their nose about post-modern literature. Williams is experimental, using short viewpoint chapters, series of conversations between unidentified characters, and longer sections with superscript and subscript additions to the narration to delineate subtext and memory. I thought this was well-executed, and thought the superscri
Jul 09, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
As a reader I come across different categories of books : mediocre reads, books that are ok but I know I won’t read them again, really well written books that are rich thematically and the totally unique read, which appear in my life just once or twice a year.

Reproduction is a Totally Unique Read.

How to describe this book? well it’s about two people : Felicia, who comes from an unnamed island in the Caribbean and Edgar, who is German. These two characters are in the same hospital room as their m
Nia Forrester
This one, I think, would have gotten five stars from me just because of its sheer ambitiousness. I'm not a fan of experimental fiction, and frankly would probably not have requested this from NetGalley if I knew that's what this was. But, surprisingly, it worked for me on just about every level: superb character development, an intriguing premise, mind-blowingly courageous, and filled with humor, insight and multiple levels of emotional resonance. It also didn't hurt that there were subtle treat ...more
df parizeau
Oct 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I'm honestly rather speechless after reading this book and I'm not entirely sure how or where to start unpacking my thoughts.

This book is a merciless deconstruction of a reader's expectations; whether we are talking from a structural standpoint or from that of the characters' story arcs. I'm not entirely sure one can simply read this book once and understand everything that is at stake.

Perhaps the most genius element of the book is hinted at in the title. Reproduction, both in the biological and
Reproduction is outstanding! As in, I will be out standing around telling everyone to read this book. I work in a library. There's a lot of people to tell.

I LOVE the way Williams writes. I laughed out loud so many times and found myself often surprised. I love the way he constructs this narrative. Stories are told and retold and revised and sort of told and most importantly, not told.

I love these flawed and wounded characters and the truths they embody. I love Army's dry wit and Felicia's stoic
I hate to give this such a low star rating but I really didn't like it. I read 6 chapters, skipped ahead and read bits and pieces all the way to the end. Nothing caught my attention and made me think I should read it all.
So, this is one of those stories I don't finish.
Jan 10, 2020 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
As demonstrated by my rating, I strongly disliked this book. The only reason I finished it was because it was a book club book, and I only had it on a one week loan from the library, so I was motivated to read quickly.

I hate artsy fartsy weird writing styles. You can write beautiful prose and still use basic punctuation. I was honestly shocked when I saw the author was a professor, yet apparently he doesn’t know how to use quotation marks, the most basic punctuation in any novel with dialogue?
chantel nouseforaname
-dnf, I can’t even rate it.. // yo honestly, this book was painful to read. It was so boring and the storyline was interesting to begin with because the meetcute was wild but it devolved into tediousness that was testing my patience. The characters were ridiculous, Edgar being the most ridiculous. I got about a third of the way twice and had to give it up.
Jun 13, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.5 to 4 stars

With an unorthodox structure, a tale of family, through changing perspectives, unravels a story about the many meanings of reproduction.
-Not everyone should reproduce- Edgar
Nothing about how this book is put together is orthodox, there is injection of lyrics from popular songs, past conversations interspersed between current ones, and the talks that explore our MCs reproductory arrivals. Ian Williams uses play on words, slang, and Caribbean-infused language
Allison ༻hikes the bookwoods༺
An unusual story of family that I found difficult to get through. I really struggled with the style towards the end of the book. I’m sure it’s quite clever (the Giller jury sure seemed to like it), but I just wasn’t interested enough to give it due consideration.
Katrina Witteveen-roth
Feb 20, 2020 rated it did not like it
What was that? What did I just read?
What a clusterf*ck of styles.
I never could have handed that in in any English/writing class.
I will never trust the Scotiabank Giller Prize judges again.
❀ Susan G
Dec 29, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2019-reads
Sadly, I missed attending the Scotiabank Giller Between the Pages event and was not as engaged in the short-listed books. With some downtime this week, I tackled the 446 page novel which intertwined the lives of Felicia and Edgar who met at the hospital as both of their mother's were dying. over 3 decades, these two led separate but blended lives filled with many other interesting characters, challenges, poor choices and struggles. A strong message is that family is not always DNA.

I would have l
Nov 07, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, canadian
I actually laughed out loud at a few lines from this book! Creative writing at it’s finest.

The last section of the book, was a bit slower for me. The author did such a wonderful job at pegging family drama, and to suggest what is family?
Alan Teder
Experimentally Structured Family Saga
Review of the Vintage Canada paperback edition (Sept. 2019) of the original hardcover (Jan. 2019)

Reproduction has a genetically/mathematically inspired structure of 4 Parts (which each jumps a generation or so) consisting of 1) 23 pairs of stories, 2) 16 short stories, 3) 256 (i.e. 16 times 16) paragraphs, and 4) an extended disintegration. These are separated by interludes called The Sex Talk which can be read as sequences of short poems and fragments. The 4
Jan 24, 2020 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: january-2020
This book was just not for me. I found the style incredibly hard to follow, the characters horrible and one dimensional, and the whole thing was just a struggle to get through.
Kara Passey
I think this might’ve been a good book but I also think it needed more from me than I felt like giving it. Lots of really interesting stylistic stuff going on in this book, some of it worked more for me than others. There was a section in the middle that had an incredible flow that made it almost impossible to put the book down until the section was completely finished. The middle was definitely the best part of the book for me. I would recommend this book to others not necessarily because I lov ...more
Cicely Belle Belle
Truly a fascinating book. A little hard to get into at first and sometimes the experimentation with form really threw me off but honestly I felt so enraptured by the characters. Such a beautiful, raw, real portrayal of human beings and a refreshing perspective on unconventional family structures. I feel as though Williams' experimentation with language, grammar and structure are actually revolutionary and so bold that I would recommend reading it just to have the experience of your world view an ...more
Jul 09, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is an account of an unconventional family that comes together accidentally. I really liked the first two thirds. The characters were engaging and the story was interesting. But the last part was written experimentally and I felt it really bogged the book down.
Keely Langford
Jan 15, 2020 rated it it was ok
Character work was excellently done. You don’t “love” anyone, but damn, they’re real.
I like a multi-generational novel, and I appreciate that this one is about “people fall[ing] into other people’s arms” and that family isn’t necessarily about the DNA. So why form constraints and mathematical structure on to it all mirroring the 23 genes? The replicating to cancer? I don’t feel these experiments added to the overall theme, so I don’t appreciate slogging through the effort for the sake of a earl
Anne Logan
Reproduction by Ian Williams, shortlisted for the 2019 Giller Prize is a quirky read. Aside from this book being PAINFULLY LONG, I enjoyed it. It plays with lots of things: format, timelines, even phrasing. That being said, I’m a reader who doesn’t like freaky-deaky experimentation in my books, but I still found this story readable. Plus I love Ian Wiliams himself, I once attended an event where he spoke and it was fantastic.

There are a few things that will trip you up in this book, but it doesn
Jan 06, 2020 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
What did I just read? This book was infuriating and I still don’t know whether that was intentional or the author just liked writing infuriating characters. It doesn’t help that this book is overly lengthy and tries too hard with a variety of styles. I know it’s won the highest Canadian literary award but it baffles me.

What is the point of this book - it doesn’t entertain nor does it shed light on the plight of the world. It paints a vivid picture of a cast of vibrant characters and then procee
Alison Hardtmann
Felicity and Edgar meet when their mothers are assigned to the same room, in a Toronto hospital that is dealing with being flooded. One mother lives, the other does not. Felicity and Edgar develop a relationship based on a combination of need, compassion, and a willingness to take advantage. This is not a love story.

Years later, Felicity and her son are renting the downstairs portion of a split level home in a diverse neighborhood. Army is determined to make his fortune. His landlord and upstai
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Play Book Tag: Reproduction by Ian Williams - 4 stars 1 9 Apr 25, 2020 12:18PM  

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Ian Williams is the author of Personals, shortlisted for the Griffin Poetry Prize and the Robert Kroetsch Poetry Book Award; Not Anyone’s Anything, winner of the Danuta Gleed Literary Award for the best first collection of short fiction in Canada; and You Know Who You Are, a finalist for the ReLit Prize for poetry. He was named as one of ten Canadian writers to watch by CBC.

Williams completed his

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