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The End of Alice

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From the 2013 Orange Prize-winning author of May We Be Forgiven

Only a work of such searing, meticulously controlled brilliance could provoke such a wide range of visceral responses. Here is the incredible story of an imprisoned pedophile who is drawn into an erotically charged correspondence with a nineteen-year-old suburban coed. As the two reveal—and revel in—their obsessive desires, Homes creates in The End of Alice a novel that is part romance, part horror story, at once unnerving and seductive.

272 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1996

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About the author

A.M. Homes

60 books1,194 followers
A.M. Homes is the author of the novels, The Unfolding, May We Be Forgiven, which won the 2013 Women's Prize for Fiction, This Book Will Save Your Life, Music For Torching, The End of Alice, In a Country of Mothers, and Jack, as well as the short-story collections, Things You Should Know and The Safety of Objects, the travel memoir, Los Angeles: People, Places and The Castle on the Hill, and the artist's book Appendix A: An Elaboration on the Novel the End of Alice.

In April of 2007 Viking published her long awaited memoir, The Mistress's Daughter, the story of the author being "found" by her biological family, and a literary exploration and investigation of identity, adoption and genealogical ties that bind.

Her work has been translated into eighteen languages and appears frequently in Art Forum, Harpers, Granta, McSweeney's, The New Yorker, The New York Times, and Zoetrope. She is a Contributing Editor to Vanity Fair, Bomb and Blind Spot.

She has been the recipient of numerous awards including Fellowships from the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, NYFA, and The Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers at The New York Public Library, along with the Benjamin Franklin Award, and the Deutscher Jugendliteraturpreis.

In addition she has been active on the Boards of Directors of Yaddo, The Fine Arts Work Center In Provincetown, The Writers Room, and PEN-where she chairs both the membership committee and the Writers Fund. Additionally she serves on the Presidents Council for Poets and Writers.

A.M. Homes was a writer/producer of the hit television show The L Word in 2004-2005 and wrote the adaptation of her first novel JACK, for Showtime. The film aired in 2004 and won an Emmy Award for Stockard Channing. Director Rose Troche's film adaptation of The Safety of Objects was released in 2003, and Troche is currently developing In A Country of Mothers as well. Music For Torching is in development with director Steven Shainberg with a script by Buck Henry, and This Book Will Save Your Life is in Development with Stone Village Pictures.

Born in Washington D.C., she now lives in New York City.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,090 reviews
Profile Image for karen.
3,968 reviews170k followers
June 28, 2018
i just realized my "greg gets three" shelf only has one. i am a failure.

greg told me to write a review for this book, and i started to think about it, and realized this is going to be one of those reviews that will reflect poorly upon me when my enthusiasm for the book is weighed up against the subject matter. so - a warning.

***it is an ungentle book. you can stop reading here if you are not into the rough stuff.***

basically, it is about a man in jail for being humbert humbert with a knife. his lolita was named alice. hence. now, enter a nineteen-year-old girl who is hatching her own plan to consummate her desire for a very young boy. she wants someone to commiserate with about her exploits, and who better to "get" her drive? best pen pals ever.

a.m. homes does not hold back here. and i may sound sexist, but that fact that a woman wrote this book is astonishing to me. not because of the violence or the subject matter - that's just nouns and verbs. but the level of detail, and the tone, and when she writes in the voice of the various male characters,there is a pervasive masculine sensibility that sounds completely authentic. (and,yes, those are also nouns and verbs - don't fight me when you know what i mean)

the book is gross and uncomfortable and is far and away the best thing she has ever written. and i wish i liked her other books as much as i like this one. the others were fine, but to me this was a perfect book. music for torching got outta hand at the end there - just silly. but this has just the right mix of tenderness and danger. she tells a difficult story, and she tells it well. and manages to have a very convincing masculine voice throughout. (even though she is a woman whose actual voice sounds so cute like sara vowell's.)

and of course, the impulse here as a writer of more-literary-than-just-shock-value material would be to humanize the convict and make him all cuddly and sympathetic and make the girl, who is still free and among us, into the real monster. but she doesn't do that, which is such a relief. she gives some backstory, and some explanation, but it never really humanizes him. he remains a monster, although a more overt monster than the girl, with her ponytail babysitting and tennis lessons. with her dirty smelly young boy who saves his scabs to snack on. i am so thankful that i cannot relate to how these kids are supposed to be sex objects.

it's true that in lolita she is also a dirty little kid, not the image of a nymphette that has grown up after her.and, if you are not similarly inclined, you should wonder what the attraction would be. it is even more pronounced in this book, when the object is a young boy. she loves him in his distraction, his stinkiness, his boyishness. it is powerfully realized, if still (again - gratefully) obscure.

so - yeah, a great book about terrible things. and another reviewer claims this book is bad and that zombie by joyce carol oates is a better treatment of the same subject matter, but that is crazy-talk. zombie is bad. really. bad. don't do it.

come to my blog!
Profile Image for Orsodimondo.
2,100 reviews1,592 followers
March 13, 2021
PROMESSE DA MARINAIO



A.M. Homes continua a deludermi: è il suo terzo libro che leggo, ed è la terza volta che rimango deluso.
Nelle sue parole non sono mai riuscito a trovare quello che aspettavo: la quarta di copertina è sempre più ghiotta delle pagine scritte – le recensioni, la presentazione cui sono riuscito ad andare, tutto suscita interesse e attesa. Ma ogni volta, manca qualcosa e rimane il sapore d’amaro.
In questo senso, La fine di Alice è il peggiore dei tre che ho letto.

description

È la storia di un pedofilo, Chappy, rinchiuso da ventitre anni nel carcere di Sing Sing, che ha una fitta corrispondenza con una ragazza di diciannove anni.
Chappy potrebbe essere il maestro di Hannibal Lecter, per intenderci.
Lei gli racconta di come sta iniziando al sesso un ragazzino di 12 anni. Se dico che la ragazza potrebbe essere un’ammiratrice di Chappy, credo di non fornire nessuna anticipazione, di non sciupare nessun passaggio dell’intreccio.
Leggendo le lettere, Chappy ricorda ciò che ha fatto, ciò che gli ha fatto sua madre, come è diventato quello che è, e come è arrivato in prigione.
Mentre lei gli spiega con minuzia come sta seducendo-corrompendo il ragazzino, lui continua a leggere con crescente interesse e coinvolgimento, e continua a subire tutto quello che un detenuto subisce in carcere.
Aggiungo che non è chiaro chi sta dentro e chi sta fuori dalle prigione.

Si tratta di un argomento poco affrontato, almeno per le mie conoscenze, quindi, evviva, c’è da credere che l’autrice ci porterà a fare un viaggio nell’ignoto. Un viaggio nella mente dell’assassino. L’argomento potrebbe rivelarsi disturbante, ma se si ha talento, disturbare diventa allargare la prospettiva.
In realtà, il romanzo tocca tutti i possibili tabù con un linguaggio diretto e volutamente quasi pornografico: dall'incesto al sesso orale e anale, dalla masturbazione alla violenza sui bambini.

description
Il cannibale Hannibal Lecter in “The Silence of the Lambs – Il silenzio degli innocenti”, magnificamente diretto da Jonathan Demme, 1991.

Solo che non aggiunge nulla di nuovo, non svela e non rivela, non spinge a riflessioni. Rimane appiattito sullo sforzo di stupire, e forse anche disgustare qualcuno.
Il viaggio non inizia mai, non si va da nessuna parte.
Pur essendo un soggetto non abusato, ho respirato aria di deja vu: probabilmente, perché mi è sembrato di aver già visto tutto in qualche film, anche se non saprei dire in quale. Homes scrive pensando molto al cinema, da cui trae ispirazioni (negli snodi, nel montaggio, ma anche nelle situazioni), e al quale, ho la forte sensazione, spera molto di vendere i diritti delle sue opere.

Mi ha subito lasciato perplesso l’uso della prima persona e la scelta di privilegiare l’uomo, il pedofilo, come narratore.
Fattori che aggiunti all’uso del flusso di coscienza accentuano l’impressione che Homes abbia soprattutto voglia di stupire e scandalizzare, piuttosto che esplorare e approfondire.
Il mistero non si svela, il viaggio nella mente di un criminale, l’esplorazione del male rimangono meri propositi iniziali. Non si scopre niente che non si sappia già, pur se non se ne sapeva nulla.

description

Homes non sceglie temi banali o quotidiani, è attratta dai grandi misteri, e questo è un bene: ma non riesce mai a entrarci dentro, non sa scandagliarli.
In questo specifico caso, non riesce a trascendere, ad andare oltre la perversione sessuale.
Mi viene da dire che tutto sommato, nonostante il grande uso di spezie piccanti, ci viene offerta una buona dose di banalità. Leggendo La fine di Alice mi è tornato in mente un libro che ha qualcosa in comune con questo: mi riferisco ad The Lovely Bones – Amabili resti di Alice Sebold, magnifico romanzo, che al confronto di ‘La fine di Alice diventa titanico, un capolavoro assoluto.

description
”The Lovely Bones – Amabili resti” di Peter Jackson, 2009, dal bel romanzo di Alice Sebold. Qui è il momento in cui lo psico killer Stanley Tucci invita Susie/Saoirse Ronan a entrare dove non sarebbe mai dovuta entrare.
Profile Image for christa.
745 reviews270 followers
April 12, 2009
I'll say one thing for A.M. Homes: She is one brave writer. "The End of Alice" stars an imprisoned pedophile who has become pen pals with a 19-year-old woman who is dabbling in a similar avocation with a boy who is at that in-between age where he wants to see a naked girl, but also keeps a collection of his own scabs for snacking on, aged to create different tastes.

The narrator takes the woman's words, visualizes the scenes, and gets curious and jealous. All the while, it's uncertain whether he is inventing this relationship, filling in her blanks, or whether she has dictated the events. At the same time, he is telling about his own lurid past: a mentally unstable mother who coaxes him into providing her with sexual relief while they are sharing a bath, and later his relationship with the 12-year-old Lolita-esque Alice -- the relationship that ends with the loathsome narrator in prison and a submissive in a relationship with another inmate.

This is not a comfortable read. It's violent and graphic and gruesome. It couldn't have been a comfortable book to write. The inappropriate relationships are more thorough, more detailed, than a duet penned by Anais Nin and Henry Miller. The characters play complicated roles: Alice is still young enough to enjoy a tea party, but old enough to sneak out and tie herself to the narrator's bed. Too young to understand menstruation; But with the vocabulary of a woman performing in a curtained cage, switching positions while an ogler feeds coins into the equivalent of a parking meter to keep her in motion.

Is this a good book? Not according to a lot of people. It's been banned and Holmes has been criticized. It has been likened to pornography in the NY Times and given a D in a 200-word write up in Entertainment Weekly. Me? I thought it was fantastic. It feels like I should apologize for admitting that. It is a complicated but well-executed story by a woman with some crazy writing chops. To me, this begs the questions: What makes a book good and why do we like what we like?

I like to read something shocking. I like to think "is this believable?" I like when my mouth hangs open in disgust. I like a protagonist who makes me squirm with hate. [The completely unlikeable protagonist isn't used often enough.:] I'd say this definitely is not a book for everyone, though. Obviously. Six-to-eight hours is a long time to spend with a vile creature.

There is a point in the story where Homes writes something in the voice of the narrator that feels like she is granting permission to read the book and feel okay about reading the book:

"Some might believe that I blither just to shock, but what is shock if not some ancient identification, meaning that I have touched a sore spot, hit a nerve -- think on it, you will-and some may believe that I blither to get a rise, and admittedly I've done that, too, but it is hardly my goal. True, I get trapped in my tirade, but would assume, would trust that you -- being who you are, where you are, out there and not in here -- have sense enough not to get caught up in it. I would assume that you are bright enough not to buy the surface of my grotesque but know how to push it aside in order to see what's really there."
Profile Image for Franco  Santos.
485 reviews1,326 followers
September 18, 2018
El fin de Alice, de Amy Homes, probablemente sea el libro más grotesco y perturbador que haya leído en mucho tiempo. Y esto, aunque pueda generar rechazo, lo considero un gran logro de la autora, que fue capaz de explorar los lugares más oscuros e inquietantes de la mente humana sin ceder ante lo falso o forzado, con una prosa fascinante. Jamás había leído un libro que tratara de una manera tan cruda la moralidad, manipulada con filosofía a través de un pedófilo (más exactamente condenado por hebefilia, en principio) recluido en la cárcel que, en sus memorias, va detallando con una precisión estremecedora sus delitos sexuales.

Pero esto no se queda ahí, puesto que en la vida del pedófilo entra en escena una joven que lo admira, y que tiene el propósito de conquistar y aprovecharse impúdicamente de un niño de 12 años, mientras cuenta sus planes y progresos a través de cartas impactantes que intercambia con el preso. Y con esto comienza la verdadera historia, que se va desplegando con una calidad insuperable, mediante el uso de la fragmentación narrativa y saltos temporales que ciertamente muchas veces me dejaron desconcertado. A medida que uno va avanzando en el libro, al lector se le van a ir revelando las caras ocultas de estos dos protagonistas, que van a despegarse poco a poco de lo que quieren mostrar para exponer lo que realmente son. Brillante lo de Homes.

Creo que no hace falta aclararlo, pero aun así menciono que esta es una novela profundamente explícita, de modo que no es apta para todos. En El fin de Alice leí algunas de las descripciones sexuales más horrorosas con las que me he encontrado, y no solo se limita a eso. Este es un libro que sin lugar a dudas no puede dejar indiferente a nadie, en especial teniendo en cuenta el final, que es una locura. Lo recomiendo si se tiene estómago.
Profile Image for Blair.
1,726 reviews4,080 followers
November 20, 2014
The narrator of this book is a convicted paedophile, serving a life sentence in prison. He starts to receive letters from a 19-year-old girl who believes she is developing a sexual predilection for young boys, and intends to act on this obsession, preying on a neighbour's 12-year-old son. The End of Alice is the story of both the narrator and the girl, but all of it is seen through the narrator's eyes. It is, in fact, difficult to distinguish between what the girl is acually telling the narrator, and what he is embellishing in his own mind: it is certainly clear that he often fantasises about her, living vicariously through her stories. The narrator and the girl both remain unnamed, and the Alice of the title is one of the narrator's victims, a child he revisits in dreams and memories until the story builds to a terrible climax and we discover what form 'the end of Alice' took.

I thought this book was excellent but, for obvious reasons, it is one I would hesitate to actually recommend. On top of the sexual abuse of children - which is frequently depicted in great detail - there are also graphic descriptions of incest, prison rape, general violence, and horribly violent fantasies. If any of these things are likely to upset you then I would definitely give it a wide berth: the author doesn't hold back with explicit scenes. The effect is - obviously - incredibly unsettling, but also car-crash compulsive. I read the book in one sitting - it took me no more than a couple of hours to fervently page (or should that be click, in this digital age?) through it, and I don't think I could have put it down before finishing even if someone had tried to pry it from my hands.

Any book with a plot like this is inevitably compared to Lolita, but I think the comparison actually holds up here for reasons other than the paedophilia theme: the writing is lyrical and clever, describing some things in terrible detail but then romanticising others, dancing around the truth - and the narrator is so palpably real he might give you nightmares. He is a brilliant, if disgusting, creation: Homes doesn't make the narrator likeable in any way, but she makes him human enough that the brutality of the ending still comes as a shock.

Disturbing, uncomfortable and provocative, The End of Alice is short, sharp, horrifying and astonishing. It may not have been the most 'enjoyable' reading experience, but the author's skill in creating these characters and making the story such compelling reading took my breath away. Not everyone will be able to tolerate the explicit natutre of this book, but if you think you can stomach the themes, you MUST read it.

I am indebted to Karen's excellent review for my interest in The End of Alice: I would never have read it otherwise, and what a memorable discovery it was.
Profile Image for Brian.
Author 1 book950 followers
August 17, 2015
Vivid, brutal, unrelenting.

How does an author inhabit the place necessary to construct a work like this? In an interview Homes said, "I write the things we don't want to say aloud." I'd add that she also writes about things we didn't ever want to witness with such intimacy.

The story is a fictional memoir of a convicted murderer and pedophile. His musings are not for the squeamish. There were several times when I had to put the book down for a day or two, the imagery as grotesque as a freshly made highway pileup.

I purchased this book somewhere around the turn of the century - it has sat unread in my library for 15 years. I wonder how I would have approached this book had I read it in 2000 for the first time when I didn't have a 10 year-old daughter?
Profile Image for EPI.
118 reviews
April 11, 2010
Ok, I get Lolita. I get American Psycho (even think it might be a work of genius). I don't get this one. Yet another exploration of the mindset of a truly sick fuck. Sections of this book are just gross beyond belief. Ok, it's well described (but I can't even say the prose uplifts or illuminates or sheds understanding in any way -- nor does anything stick because it's a phrase that just had to be written). The content though -- if you're looking for something that sickens you to the stomach, this one will do the trick.

If A.M. Homes is hoping to skirt as close to the line between literature and pornographic filth, this one is a tour de force, it comes dangerously close.

The final rolldown to credits...it's as if Homes herself can no longer abide her monster. The last section of what happened with Alice is told in warp speed.

My humble opinion ---- if you're going to write about totally sick subject matter (one that might give the sick whacks out there a few good ideas), you'd better damn well blow me away with something worth my time (not this mediocre attempt at literary apotheosis).

Feel free to disagree -- frankly, I'd love to hear a different opinion. What an absolute waste of time this was.
Profile Image for Ruth Turner.
408 reviews112 followers
November 18, 2014

DNF

I doff my hat to those readers who managed to finish this book! And I’m not talking about the storyline. It was the writing that did my head in.

The author uses words, and words, and more words, and even more words, to no avail. So many words that actually say very little.

Here the narrator is speaking of the young woman who is corresponding with him…

“In a case such as this where one has been looking so hard for so long, it is within the range of possibility that a buildup of ocular imaginings exaggerates the Current draw so that the actual pressure within the eye from such frequent pupil dilation causes a discomfiture not unlike that found in other regions. At peak, it produces a kind of blindness—nearly classically hysterical—during which she does not see what she is doing, giving birth, so to speak, to the notion that her grabbing of his flesh is simply a hand reaching out for direction.”

And this little gem…my personal favourite...

“On the sixth day following her return, the previous days spent in a state of deep tranquilization, a close-to-comatose, chain-reactive, biochemically linked readjustment period replete with headaches severe enough to warrant the use of prescription medication, the stunning, stoning combination of Fiorinal and Percocet—pass the bottle, dear—and the development of a full series of symptoms fully related to the life of a female nineteen-year-old—anorexia, followed by gorging on mother’s good cooking, a bloating feeling, four tempers played against declarations of love, nausea, strange dreams buried in the sound sleep of one’s own bed, diarrhea—the closet cleaned and reorganized, still more of the unending supply of childhood remnants left in plastic bags at the end of the driveway for the Salvation Army to claim, purging.”


Then I read this…the narrator speaking to the reader…

“Before continuing I must also ask that you excuse the idiosyncrasies of my sound, of my thought, for I so rarely speak these days that all I do say seems to hurl itself forward, collecting references, attachments to both past and present as it goes.”

And with that timely warning on page 10, for which I am devoutly grateful, I stopped reading.









Profile Image for Arch.
33 reviews2 followers
February 21, 2013
i don't really understand why this book has so many glowing reviews on this site. sure, homes has written this well (hence the second star),but... i just don't buy it. it seems to me that she just really, REALLY wanted to shock you out of your cozy, middle-class, suburban old navy socks with this one. she tried excruciatingly hard to crawl under your skin and blow your mind with the depravity of her imagination. well, i'll tell you what -it's just too obvious that that was her mission. i mean, there are some incredibly detailed sex scenes in the book and all of them involve a minor - a pre-teen minor. and if that doesn't freak out the squares, there's also some S&M and other deviant sexual activites to make 'em faint. yeah! take that soccer moms! i don't want to sound too jaded or whatever but i just wasn't impressed. if you want to read a much better story written by a woman and told from the perspective of a male pedophile, read 'zombie' by joyce carol oates. this book is just a much less subtle trek through already explored territory.
Profile Image for Plagued by Visions.
178 reviews403 followers
January 20, 2022
2.5 ⭐️
When I was a kid, my mom bought me a yo-yo and told me that if I ever broke it she would never buy me one again. Not that she would have ever actually checked on the status of my toy, of course, but the moment she said that, I was hyperaware of my handling of the thing. I played with it nonstop, more than I would have had she not stated her warning. Then I stopped playing with it, and downright started testing the limits of its durability, how much tension the string could handle before snapping, how many hard surfaces it could smash against and still retain its form. I never broke it, but I meticulously, obsessively documented just how dangerously close I could come to doing so.
I never really understood that flirtation with disaster, that morbid longing to be at the brink of danger and destruction, but having read A. M. Homes’ End of Alice, I think I understand a little bit better. I think I understand the exercise in needing to test limits, in needing to “see” just how close you can get to breaching and violating a sacred rule. However, having had my yo-yo episode, I also understand that that journey is not necessarily illuminating, doesn’t have to be purposeful, is not even really fun, but I can also understand that as a creative endeavor it is tantalizing, all-consuming, and maybe, just in jolts and pangs, the retreat to safety can feel like fulfillment.
August 9, 2022
The obsession of Humbert Humbert, the sexual excesses of de Sade, and the twisted mind of a Hannibal Lecter. This book isn't for everyone, but if you can handle those things, it's quite a compelling read. Well written and an excellent execution of the unreliable narrator.
Profile Image for Jennifer.
376 reviews25 followers
September 10, 2015
WARNING: HORROR NOVEL. EVERY PARENTS NIGHTMARE.

I just thought I should make that (the above) very clear.It starts out innocently enough a letter to a prisoner. But then the story evolves into something terrible, horrible. And lots of gruesome. Have I made it clear? This book is about a pedophile. A old one in prison and a new one...free. Your asking why did you read this? I do not know. I thought "oh it is less than 300 pages, it should be a quick read and it will be like a Dateline episode". Well, it was a quick read; once I started this was not something I wanted lingering around. You could have put it down you say. I could have. But I chose not to. The subject (at one point I considered vomiting) is repulsive. It is not something we should look away from. Hide from. Not talk to our children about. IGNORE. It is scary.



And it it not a nice clean sanitized Dateline episode. This is raw in your face sexual violence. This folks is the sad reality. It made me think of the documentary I watched on PBS about the camps of pedophiles in the woods in Florida.

One blurb on my book calls this a "love story". The Los Angeles times can FUCK OFF. Love story?! That is not okay. This is absolutely not a love story. Not at all. And if we fool ourselves into thinking that well, I am scared for all of us.

About the book, the writing you ask? I can say it was well done. I am not sure that I would really recommend this anyone I know. I advise to read at your own risk. I have nothing to offer. I feel like bathing in bleach after this one.

And yes. I gave it a high rating. It was thought provoking. Made me want to vomit. Made me want to educate my child better. These are the monsters we should worry about. The ones that walk among us. In order to know them better we cannot ignore them. We owe our children that.

Profile Image for paper0r0ss0.
648 reviews43 followers
December 14, 2021
Mediocre romanzo sulla/della perversione umana. Mediocre nella trama, nei dialoghi, nelle situazioni, mediocre persino nella perversione delle scene che sembrano scritte apposta per turbare le anime belle o come si diceva un tempo "pour epater le bourgeois". Niente che faccia supporre una vera volonta' (o capacita') di andare a fondo nei meandri del peccato e scoprire i veri demoni della mente.
Profile Image for Cathy.
1,582 reviews233 followers
February 26, 2016
Buddy read with MacHalos. And "9. A book that is outside your comfort zone" for my 2016 reading challenge. 

At 19%: So far mostly boring, unnecessarily verbose, lots of vague introspection. Some paragraphs feel like a word game--how many expressions for the same thing can I squeeze into one sentence? Is that really a sign of good writing? Or is the author simple trying too hard to be clever?

At 32%: Odd. It's not bad, once the narrative gets going. Jumps between her story, his story, his pasts and possible what-ifs. Disjointed, muddled. 

I had no difficulties to figure out, who is adressed by our main character at any given point. Comments and sentences, relating to persons not directly involved in a scene, are slipped in frequently. Cleverly done. Nice gimmick. And it did feel like a gimmick.

At 51%: I like the prison scenes. No idea what to think of the girl's relationship. I am not connecting with her, I don't get any good or bad vibes of any kind from her. I am in his head, so I see how he ticks. But she's just a blank. 

The sex scenes are either too clinical or uncomfortable and gross. The whole point of the book seems to be to shock with its increasingly disgusting imagery. I don't really feel an emotional connection, good or bad. I just read over these scenes and keep going. So far the book pretty much fails to engage me. Horrific scenes without a point are just that, horrific and gross, and have no redeeming value in itself.

At 73%, the plot thickens: She wears war paint and carries a quiver filled with white arrows ending in blue suction cups and a bow to match. She giggles and makes a gesture that points to my shriveled self down below.

At 100%: Done! And that was it? It's not as if we didn't know how it would end. What was the point of this book? 

I am obviously not well suited to A-list authors. I don't get it. I like my stories with a suspensefull cliffhanger or a satisfying ending with a bow tied on. Not this. No suspense, no twist, just a running out of prose and nothing. What was I supposed to take away from this, besides some gross imagery that I do not need to have stuck in my brain? I need bleach and distance and maybe I will have an attempt at a proper review at some later point. But probably not.
Profile Image for Patrick.
260 reviews90 followers
September 17, 2009
It's hard for me to give this book a proper review, mainly because it was hard for me to read. I'd like to say that the reason for this is because of the lurid and explicit detail the author goes into in telling the story of an incarcerated pedophile exchanging letters and depravities with a similarly minded young woman on the outside, and maybe that was part of it, certainly. However, more than anything else, aside from the graphic nature of the storyline and details therein, it's actually pretty boring. The "twist" at the end of the book is pretty apparent early on (so much so that I'm not sure it is even meant to be considered a twist, although I'm sure some people would be surprised), and the story, such as it is, isn't all that interesting outside of the titillating explicitness of disgusting acts.

That said, it is a very well-written and constructed novel. I felt a little dirty reading it in public, almost as if passing strangers were judging me for the details contained within the pages (not that anyone could tell based on the cover; they just knew, man). Homes is clearly a talented writer, although I think the shock-and-awe factor seemed to weigh a bit heavily in the writing process. It gets explicit, perhaps unnecessarily so, but I suppose that's part of it's charm, such as it is.

I guess what I'm trying to say is I liked the book; it was, on the whole, an interesting read. However, there were stretches were I simply could not be bothered to pick it up, despite my desire to continue on with the story to it's inevitable conclusion. Take from that what you will, but on the whole, consider it recommended (though not for the prudish or faint of heart).
Profile Image for Ruby  Tombstone Lives!.
338 reviews405 followers
December 1, 2015

As you've probably guessed by the 5 stars, I loved it. Far more than I expected to. I was particularly impressed with the writing, and that there was plenty of room for interpretation. I don't like being spoon-fed stories. I've included some of my thoughts below, cobbled together from a Chaos Reading group read that we did in 2014. For the full group discussion, including spoilers, go here: https://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/...

*What elements in the writing style did you like/dislike?
I loved the frequent alliteration. For example p37, "..some sharp thing slipped, and his prize patient, Mrs Mavis Gilette, woke to find a harpoon hole through her cheek and her lost licker languishing on the floor."

I also loved the way the narrator speaks directly to the reader at several points. For much of the book, you can tell yourself that the graphic scenes aren't gratuitous, that it's not voyeuristic reading, but then the narrator practically looks you in the eye, tells you that it absolutely IS gratuitous, and calls you a pervert and a hypocrite besides. I think it's really cleverly done.

*What else did you enjoy?
Chappie is the most unreliable of unreliable narrators (for a whole bunch of different reasons), so you find yourself sorting through everything he says to figure out what is real and what is not. That ambiguity makes for a great mystery, in a way.

*What do you think were the key points?
I think there are a few points made in the book, but this is a key one for me:
We pretend that children aren't sexualised, aren't fucked up in their own ways, don't have any role in these situations. We also forget that the abuser is almost always abused themselves. I'm (obviously) not justifying pedophilia, but there are shades of grey, and the book points these out in graphic detail. It shows us Chappy as the abused, the abuser, the villain, the hero, the patient.... all sides of the story in a way. That's why the ambiguity is important, I think.

*Do you have a favourite passage? In the text, I mean.
Here Chappie talks directly to the reader about himself being in jail and the unwritten contract prisoners have with the outside world. The point is so well made, while still being self-serving and spurious, I thought it was magic: "And while you might think I'd find it heartening that such accidents do happen to others, that in all this random senselessness we are all of us caught in a kind of forced criminality - you are in error. You are breaking your promise, the very terms of our agreement - the one that puts me in here and lets you stay out there - if I commit the crimes for you, you must be good for me. You and I, we're in this together, best not to forget."

* Which aspect of, or scene within, the book disturbed or challenged you the most?
Definitely the scene. That literally had me eol (eeuuwwing-out-loud).

Profile Image for Mel.
84 reviews234 followers
August 6, 2010
Haunting, oftentimes disturbing, sometimes disgusting, and one of the best books I have ever read.
This book has come to be the book with the most profound impact on me. Not just because of the haunting disturbing content, but because the author managed to create a narrator's voice that felt as though he was a real person of flesh and bones speaking to you through the text on each page.
Reading the book I felt like I suddenly shrunk and was placed inside a small cage. And someone carried me around inside this cage, that someone being the narrator. And he took me into his world, showing me around every nook and cranny of every corner. And I, helpless and unable to escape this cage and tear myself away from this disturbing world, was trapped and unable to miss a single detail. Occasionally he would look at me through the bars of my cage and speak directly at me.
Reading this book was like looking into a whole new world, and it sucked me in from the first page onwards and would not let me rest until I kept reading that book. Though I loved this book very much, I would not recommend it for many. There is some really disturbing stuff in there, and if you are someone who is really squirmish about that stuff, don't go there. However if you're like me and are able to tolerate even the deepest level of the underbelly of the taboo then have a go at reading this book.
Profile Image for Clarissa.
48 reviews24 followers
October 24, 2010
I suppose I picked up this book because I felt something akin to the emotion of having been "double-dog-dared". I have read a few of A.M Homes short stories (the one that springs to mind is the one about the boy and the barbie doll), and enjoyed them immensely, and greatly admired her writing style and unusual subject matter. Like a lot of people (whether or not they admit it), I do enjoy being horrified, grossed out, disgusted and mildly traumatized by art. Books and movies that people hype as being extremely disturbing, raunchy, racy, horrifying, etc, rarely bother me to the extent that I'm led to believe I will be bothered.
So obviously, after reading the summary, and the reviews, I felt like I just needed to see if it was all true.
It was.
The book details the correspondence between an incarcerated pedophile (who has been locked up for twenty-three years), and a burgeoning female pedophile- the latter of whom is nineteen years old with sights set on the twelve year old neighbor boy. Our narrator, the former of the two, lured me in with his Humbert-reminiscent articulation. Like someone standing at the oceans edge, rip-current well concealed, I dipped my toe in, then my foot. And then it was too late for me.
By the end of this book, I felt assaulted. I hope I do not trivialize the horrors of being victimized by a pedophile by saying that, but it was how I felt. I feel like the first few chapters of the book "groomed" me for the lurid and sickening descriptions of pedophilic rape, incest, and torture that followed. There were several moments where I thought " I know what she is about to describe, but surely she wont be that graphic " , and then she WAS, and then some. By the end of it I felt like I'd been forcibly subjected to it all against my will and was then left to deal alone- desolate, and shameful.
I made it through the whole book basically trying to answer the question "why the hell am I reading this?". I know better than to look for a "happy ending" or anything redeeming, so why? Did I take pleasure in reading about the torture of children? NO. Did I enjoy being disgusted? Well yes, but not to that extent. Maybe just to push my limits. I still don't know.
It has been said that this book is a gratuitous piece of filth, and worse, that it is the kind of child pornography in the written form that a true pedophile would get off on. I fear the latter might be true.
But it is more than just a piece of filth. Homes stated in an interview that she desired to narrate from the perspective of a murderer, a sex-offender of the worst kind. That it wasn't a place that many authors had dared to go. And she did it well. Maybe too well. I felt that "Chappy" was a living, breathing being, locked up in the prison just a few towns over.
The major conflict I keep going through in my head was this: did this book really need to be written? Our culture is so inundated with shows like "to catch a predator" and to an extent, sensationalizes sexual crimes with shows like Law and Order SVU. I would argue that it is thrilling to watch things like these, and then tell ourselves it's ok to be thrilled because of the punitive nature of these shows. We feel glorious and self righteous in our hate for people like Chappy and the nineteen year old, and take glee in their punishment. We are never forced to actually go inside their heads, or consider their upbringing.
PLEASE NOTE that I believe child molesters deserve everything they get, and maybe more.
However, this book doesn't smack with said self-righteousness. If you expect that Homes is going to come in and make you feel ok about the sickening slurry of horror-arousal you may feel throughout this book by shivving the main charachter, she wont. And this is what makes her a truly great writer. She pushes our heads in and says "LOOK" in such a subtle way, it is hard to tear away. And makes us confront sides of ourselves we may not have wanted to in the process.
Profile Image for Lisa *OwlBeSatReading*.
288 reviews115 followers
October 23, 2020
I don’t know what to do with this book.

I’m torn between putting it on my forever shelf or immersing it in boiling water and turning it into an unrecognisable pulp.

It’s brutal, graphic and sickening, I could never ever read it again.

A M Homes’ writing is phenomenal so I’ll be reading more from this author, no question.
Profile Image for Stela.
909 reviews345 followers
Read
November 6, 2017
I tried to keep an open mind, but I couldn't help comparing the narrative voice with Humbert Humbert's and founding it wanting.

A pity, because I quite liked the other Homes' novel I read, "This Book Will Change Your Life".
Profile Image for Katherine .
315 reviews85 followers
January 12, 2022
This book is creepy. Hard core creepy, diving face first into a very hard core subject which is pedophilia. A middle aged convict in prison for the murder and abuse of a child currently corresponding with a 19 year old girl who's trying to seduce a young boy in her neighborhood. Dark

If reading about this sort of subject is too much for you then don't read it because the book gets graphic and takes a full dive of what goes into the minds of those sorts of predators.

The main character is a very intriguing man, interesting in the way that he is unlike anyone I've ever read about and is completely unapologetic for what he has done.

He takes his perversion one step further as he not only abuses his victims but he also very much enjoys vengefully killing them.

Perhaps in doing so he is avenging himself for his what was done to him. Alice, his last girl was a girl who not only lived after his first attack but we are meant to believe enjoyed the experience. He tricked her family into thinking he's just a nice man incredibly easily. She, in a twisted turn of events is almost presented to be a "pervert" as well as which was really hard to deal with while reading.

It almost felt like he didn't want to kill her - like he was in love with her - he even says she is too old for him if I remember correctly and going about it as something that HAS to be done.

As if the true perversion in their relationship (?) is that she is too old for him and he should not want her.

After what happened between them he is found out and sent to prison where he begins a correspondence with a young woman who found out about him and asks for his advise. She is lost soul with no idea what she wants to do in life but has an obsession with a young boy who she pretends to babysit.

The book tries not only to explain the concept to you but to also deem you, the reader guilty as well. If not as guilty as we should think he is, but guilty in a very twisted way you never expected to be accused of as a reader.

An original twist if I've ever read one and a message that I've never found anywhere else. He tricked her family so easily and abused their child right under their nose. I found the fact that her name is Alice an interesting addition as the name usually accompanies darkness, magic and a "rabbit whole". Alice to him was special and something out of this world almost like she wasn't real.

I thought the book was very educative, well written and unforgettable. Its not a pleasant read by any means, there's no happy ending or big rescue and its not for the fainthearted.

If you cant read a story where the rape and murder is graphically described don't read it. If however you can muster the strength and get through it, it will be one of the creepiest books you ever touch and you will get a better idea of the subject in general.

In my opinion topics and books such as this one are important because as hard as they might be they are very real. There are so many predators in this world and choosing not to educate our selves about them, about the cycle of abuse and the consequences of it, can prove to be as dangerous as giving a child to one of them.

I definitely think you should be more than at least 15? to read this book and would recommend it to anyone with an open mind and an interest to learn more about this concept because even if you finish it feeling scared and horrified, you will for sure close it feeling more educated too.
Profile Image for Don.
223 reviews22 followers
August 22, 2013
I had high hopes for this book, but I gave up on it quickly. The last straw was this little rant, over 400 words to describe boys eating snacks.

If you like this type of verbal diarrhea, then this book is for you.

"Across the street, the feral pack joyously jams fistfuls of fried, dried, potato, corn frizzle-drizzle doo into their pubescent—hence ever-hungry—chops, cramming the orifice with far more than it can possibly hold. Chunks, giant crumbs of half-chewed food, fall over them like hail, like snow—the phenomena of weather—lodging in the folds of their clothing, using the high absorbency of T-shirts to stain, to permanently mark them with this foul evidence, proof. The boys step backward as if repulsed slightly, then tilt forward, leaning over the tips of their Nikes, their Reeboks, making room for the foul matter, the remains, to fall free. They use the sidewalk as their napkin, their plate, their trough, their ground. They trade materials, passing cans and bottles of soda between them as if mixing the ingredients, preparing equal measures of some serious solvent, drinkable Drano—one part diet Coke, one part Mountain Dew, and a drip of Orange Crush. They swap items, taking a bite, a swig, a handful, and passing it on. They dig deeper into their brown bags and bring out the smaller, sweeter objects, cubes and flats of chocolate, with nuts, with Krispies, crackers, wafers sandwiched in between further layers of chocolate with caramel, with nougat, whipped tufts of fluff.

The feast, the ravagement, the savage hoarding of the tribal reward, goes on until there is nothing left. The bags are empty, the last salty crumbs licked from the wrappers. Garbage, plastic and paper and aluminum foil, is collectively smushed, mushed, compacted in on itself, stuffed into a single brown bag, balled up, crushed, shaped, and formed until it is a bullet, a bomb, a basketball. And then the tall one, the one with the beak, fires it in a swift and daring shot toward the trash can on the corner. Hitting its mark with greater force than anticipated, the bag knocks the top layer of garbage out of the can and onto the sidewalk. Humiliation drives the tall one toward the can, toward community service. He takes a few hurried and embarrassed moments to straighten up the area as several of the town’s residents, who have seen the shot, have seen its failure, the sprayed garbage, walk around with their heads shaking and their glottals clucking. The other two members of the group, unable to support the beaked one in his failure, which they take to be their collective failure, stand to one side, shuffling their feet, the weight of mischance heavy on their shoulders."
Profile Image for Xenia0201.
159 reviews8 followers
August 15, 2013
Talk about pushing the buck - Holmes has really done it with this one. I felt like a little kid sneaking around my parents' room reading something I shouldn't. My cheeks flushed red with each page I turned as I was almost ashamed to be sucked into such a dark twisted world that was as oddly fascinating as it was repulsive. And yet, I couldn't put it down until I was finished almost 5 hours later. I want to be clear this wasn't a smutty masturbatory collection of fantasies for child molesters. Homes' prose, while graphic and vernacular, has a brutal honesty like a scholarly stream of consciousness, and leaves your jaw gaping. We are taken beyond our comfort levels inside the minds of predators where you realize they are of high intelligence and cunning. The correspondence of a nineteen year girl home from college to a pedophile in prison marks an awakening for both participants and for the reader as well. Holmes brings us places most couldn't imagine, as her depiction of this seemingly all-American girl has an unbelievably sinister and perverted side. This plays right up to the fantasies of the pathetic convict, all the while dealing with the harsh realities of prison and his impending parole hearing. You learn the two of them aren't so different in their sociopathic desires, which is disarming. I'll be thinking of this one for weeks.
Profile Image for Ken B.
438 reviews14 followers
March 15, 2017
I picked up this book looking for something uncomfortable to read. I certainly found that! What I wasn't expecting was a book so well written.

5 STARS
Profile Image for Inkspill.
380 reviews37 followers
Read
October 25, 2020
(I’m leaving this unrated because what each star represents makes no sense here.)


Crumbs!! I’m in stunned and shocked at the same time.

(I wouldn’t have been able to get through this if I’m not in the habit of reading several books on the go, this was a seriously difficult read.)

The writing is sharp making the tough subject it tackles really, really (and I mean really) disturbing. Told from first person, the narrator (who remains unnamed) is serving a long sentence for charges that include paedophilia. In his telling, there is no holdback, in his matter of fact manner he describes many graphic, uncomfortable scenes that are snippets of his own tale and hypothesis of the life of a young woman who is writing letters to him. The story paints a portrait of a disturbed, depraved mind, IMHO way more than the Hannibal Lectors of this world, and is made harsher by showing he is not alone in this.

What makes this a page turner is the writing, A M Homes leaves all kinds of clues for the reader to play detective to put the pieces together – where it turns out not everything is as clear as it seems.

What makes this read very shocking is the writing, for a novella no word is wasted creating the kind of horror that is worse than reading about fantastical characters like Frankenstein, as there is no getting away from how real this is. Right throughout, A M Homes stays objective, allowing the story to have its own voice, leaving the reader to work things out for themselves. For me, I was left with a sense of wondering about who’s at fault here, and what lays behind it – nature or nurture – whilst being haunted by what I just read.

Definitely a tough read made possible by the courage it’s taken to write this book.
Profile Image for  Simply Sam ツ.
520 reviews76 followers
June 5, 2016
I hate books like this.

How to rate it?

Should I rate it based on content? Because I tell you, there is some messed up stuff here and I in no way approve any of their actions. I feel like giving a high rating signals I'm okay with pedophiles, rapists, and murderers. I'm not. Just so we're on the same page. But I picked up this book knowing it was going to make me squeamish and uncomfortable. That was the point. To see through the eyes and with the feelings of a person of depraved moral character. The unreliable narrator. I felt it delivered here, though I hated the ploy of making the abuser the victim. I don't want to sympathize so much as understand what makes them, well, who they are.

Should I rate it on the author's style? On the disjointed and lyrical way the story is presented? Because honestly, I kind of dig it. That's not always the case and not 100% even in this book but for the most part, yeah it worked for me. The dizzying back and forth, his present and past colliding, her real time actions overlapping. It added to the mania, the overall sense of discord.

Now, I admit. There's some nasty stuff in the first half of the book or so, but I was held in thrall. I wanted to know what was happening, where it was all going, what was the POINT? The point is, you don't really get to know what's real and what's been fabricated. This story is being told from the perspective of a delusional madman. You can't trust anything. There is just no closure there. But at the end of the book, at the end of Alice, I was okay with that.

***3.5 stars (rounded up)***

The MacHalo month of depravity finale...let's hope it is gruesome and unsettling!
Profile Image for Caro the Helmet Lady.
756 reviews341 followers
April 20, 2016
Have you ever tasted your own scabs? No? Neither did I, but I guess the aftertaste of this story is alike of those - scabs.

Disturbing and unsettling, the book is extremely well written - despite all those literal and metaphorical scabs that made me feel like throwing up quite often, I couldn't stop reading.
It felt like I entered the house full of stink and I was getting inside only to locate and remove the rotting rat or whatever the stinking object was, while wishing to leave the place immediately with all my heart. But the further I went, the stronger I realized that it wasn't a rat, that it was something worse...

I‘d give it a solid 5 stars. But I won't. And that‘s why.

Being gross as it is and driving the reader out of any comfort zone one could ever imagine, this book is a kind of dark masterpiece – it really is, especially taken that it was written almost 20 years ago – I can imagine the shock wave at the time. But while being such a masterpiece it doesn't really discover nor teach anything new. Sexual predators are horrible and disgusting? Yes. Lolitas are not that innocent? Yes. Every psycho has his reasons, more or less twisted? I guess. There's a beast in each one of us? Yes to that too. Are we going to try it at home? God, no.
The stuff is explicit and violent and there‘s some dangerous twisted poetry in it, that is just too much for me.

So 3 stars, because I'm not liking it at all, but since those scabs and blood stains are going to stay in my mind for some time – lets say I'm fucking impressed.
Profile Image for Adele.
67 reviews1 follower
July 10, 2008
I've always enjoyed A.M. Homes' essays and stories in the NYT and the New Yorker, so I thought I'd give one of her novels a try. "The End of Alice" chronicles the experiences of two pedophiles, mostly through their correspondence with each other: one is a 50+ dude who's been in prison for his crimes, the other is a 19 year old girl from Scarsdale who has a thing for twelve-year-old boys. I'm embarrassed by how quickly I read this book-- I breezed through it in just a couple days. And not because it's a great work of fiction, even remotely, it's just really good for shock value and I wanted to see what horrific scene Homes would put us through next. It was well done, to be sure, just sort of gruesome, and it was the gross details that held my attention as the overshadowed the quality of the writing. Another gripe: Homes is obviously riffing on Humbert Humbert and owes a great debt to Nabokov. But how pretentious is that? "Lolita" is the best-known pedophilia lit of the twentieth-century, and it feels precious and annoying when Homes falls into Nabokov's conventions of addressing the "dear reader" or insisting that it was in fact Alice, the Lolita-esque twelve-year-old, who seduced our narrator. Maybe I'm missing something, but I really didn't take much from "Alice" other than some vivid imaginings of perverse sexual acts. I don't think Homes has any points or insights that she doesn't borrow from Nabokov, and he (um, duh) does it better.
Profile Image for Richard.
1,161 reviews34 followers
February 4, 2014
Years back I was chatting to my brother who was a child protection police officer at the time. This book was doing the rounds and he read it, given the relevance to his work.

"Worst thing about this book," he said "is that people might take it seriously." He went on to say it was unlike any of his cases and any of the crimes he'd seen and seemed to exist purely to shock and glorify the crimes it was describing.

Years later I've finally read it for a bookclub. It's tosh, it tries very hard to shock but mostly just bores and I do agree, there is a salaciousness in the descriptions of the acts, an eagerness. 2 days of reading it on the bus expecting it to somehow come together by the end and it didn't.

And man does Homes believe that bad alliteration is good writing.

I always used to think that a book had no right to be boring but I have realised now that a worse thing for a book to be is pointless.
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