Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Our Tragic Universe” as Want to Read:
Our Tragic Universe
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Our Tragic Universe

3.43  ·  Rating details ·  4,453 ratings  ·  648 reviews
Can a story save your life?

Meg Carpenter is broke. Her novel is years overdue. Her cell phone is out of minutes. And her moody boyfriend’s only contribution to the household is his sour attitude. So she jumps at the chance to review a pseudoscientific book that promises life everlasting.

But who wants to live forever?

Consulting cosmology and physics, tarot cards, koans (and
Kindle Edition, 449 pages
Published September 1st 2010 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (first published 2010)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Our Tragic Universe, please sign up.
Recent Questions
This question contains spoilers… (view spoiler)
This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
3.43  · 
Rating details
 ·  4,453 ratings  ·  648 reviews

Sort order
In homage to Scarlett Thomas’ narrative experiment, I am sorely tempted to review the black paperback edges (gimmicky, annoying) rather than the story (gimmicky, annoying) on the principle that the review would be to the book as the plot is to the author – that is to say, only peripherally relevant, something that gets in the way of all the clever thoughts she’s had while writing.

Loosely speaking, there’s a relationship plot that might have been a bit too chick-lit for my taste, anyway, what wi
Oct 29, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Sigh. Scarlett Thomas -- you are endlessly frustrating.

Thomas is clearly intelligent; the ideas and concepts she weaves into her novels are bright, interesting, and fairly potent. The thing is...she knows she's intelligent. And it seems pretty important to her for you, the reader, to know it, too. It's not even that she's pretentious, or that her stories are -- well, not always, anyway -- but that she is so focused on her bright ideas that the stories themselves become...incidental. The End of M
This is without a doubt one of the best books I've read all year, but it's quite a difficult one to review. It's hard to explain what the story is actually about; in many ways, it isn't really about anything, but without giving too much away, that's sort of the point.

Scarlett Thomas's last novel, The End of Mr. Y, was very good, but disappointed me because - after a fantastic start - the ending strayed too far into fantasy and became slightly ridiculous. Because of the similar cover, and the pro
Sep 12, 2010 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Once I was so far along in the book I decided to read the reviews because I wasn't getting anything out of it. Frankly, I didn't understand why it was reviewed so highly so I forced myself through it thinking it would turn around. On page 170 Meg lists the problems with her book. "The items on it were: It is boring; it has no focus; it is self-indulgent; I hate the central character; it's too depressing; no wants anything; no one does anything; there are no questions to be resolved; there is too ...more
Jason Brown (Toastx2)
Review: Our Tragic Universe, Scarlett Thomas

Forewarning, this is a positive review though I can see where it might not appear that way. It was just a very hard book to write about!

Our Tragic Universe (originally to be titled ‘Death of the Author’) is a nonstandard plot. Part time writer Meg is living in a small town England. She is living unhappily with her long term boyfriend and her dog, barely scraping by. Meg is continually trying to write her “Real Novel”, editing and paring down her words,
Feb 11, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Antonomasia by: GR readers' advisory forum; Matthew Marcus
With semi-comic characters who talk about Nietzsche whilst knitting, and try to debunk pseudoscience and supernatural experiences during dog-walks, Our Tragic Universe is a charmingly shambolic (to some, shambolically pretentious) blend of 1970's British kids' fantasy novel, eccentric chicklit with an M.A., metafiction and amusingly presented mundane detail. It has curious contrasts: ostensibly fairly high, polymathic intellectual content and some startlingly fresh metaphors alongside instances ...more
Audra (Unabridged Chick)
This is a challenging book to review: the entire time I was reading it, I was convinced I hated it; only I'd stop reading it and find myself chewing over the themes of the story or the narrator or the promise of where the novel was going. In the end, I have to say this is a very good and well-written novel that is maddening and thought-provoking and a little bit pretty.

The story is fairly simple: our narrator, Meg, struggles with her life. She's living with someone she thinks she might not love
Jan 08, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Finished Scarlett Thomas' latest novel, Our Tragic Universe.

I'm not actually sure whether I liked this novel. It's somewhere between a meta-fictional literary experiment about the nature of story and the storyless novel, and a heap of selfwankery pretentious crap.
On the one hand, the human relationships are quite nicely described, and enough weird and interesting things happen to keep you reading. On the other hand, the endless discussions that the characters have about literary theory, the natu
Jul 15, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: writers
Oh my god, I loved this book! I have a first edition hardcover with that cool black/gray, white, and gold cover and the black-edged pages. I bought it at City Lights when I was on my way home from hiking in the Redwoods and then left it sitting on my shelves for two years. After slogging through In the Garden of Beasts, I just wanted to read something I wanted to read, so I grabbed Our Tragic Universe, flopped onto my bed and practically stayed there until I had read to the end.

The whole story i
Apr 07, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Finally reached the end of this book that can be summed up in two words - mind f**k!

 photo brain-explodes_zps3cc7f7ed.jpg

It is a true example of a storyless story! How can a book divide your own opinions so completely? At times I wanted to give it 4 stars but at others zero stars (more 0 than 4).

I think the best way is just to tell you what I liked and didn't like and then you can read it and join the debate of whether it works or doesn't. (This list is as confusing and as contradictory as the book itself - sorry about that).

Jason Pettus
(Reprinted from the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography []. I am the original author of this essay, as well as the owner of CCLaP; it is not being reprinted illegally.)

I suppose if I'm being entirely truthful, a big part of why I was so profoundly disappointed with Scarlett Thomas' Our Tragic Universe was not from the quality of the book itself, but simply from a case of mistaken assumptions; namely, based on the whimsical jacket copy and exquisite production details (in
Marc Nash
Jun 26, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have a real weakness for this author who won't be everyone's cup of tea. here she willfully writes a novel about narrative, but without much of one at its heart. A writer who doesn't do much writing, takes walks around the locale of Totnes, visits friends and all sorts of other procrastinating activity, while musing on the nature of fiction versus life. I know it doesn't sound much, but there are some fantastic insights in the book. There are studies of relationships here, failing relationship ...more
Christopher James
I read fast. Too fast sometimes. I can devour books (and music and films..) to the extent that I don't always give them the attention they deserve. I blame the internet - now I can be selective I haven't read a crap book for ages, and there is always something else to look forward to.

A really good book, however, will slow me down. I like a book that makes me ponder, where I have to put it down for a few minutes to digest, and just make sure I got that bit right. If a book can do that a dozen ti
Aug 09, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Scarlett Thomas’ books have a quantum quality about them. I really enjoyed this but I feel like if I recommended it to someone they would enjoy it less. It’s as if the act of recommending it would reduce its quality. This book would be best enjoyed when stumbled upon randomly in the corner of a dusty bookshop, but would probably be terrible if it was effusively recommended. I felt similarly about The Seed Collectors.

The ‘Schrodinger’s book’ thing is apt since Thomas tends to write simple real-wo
David Hebblethwaite
Given that I rather disliked the two Scarlett Thomas novels I’d previously read (Bright Young Things and PopCo), you might reasonably wonder why I even contemplated reading a third. Curiosity, I suppose — I just wanted to see if I could find one that I liked. And, well, I wouldn’t go so far as to say I particularly liked Our Tragic Universe, but certainly I found it a more worthwhile read than those earlier novels.

Meg Carpenter is a struggling writer, trying (and largely failing) to make ends me
Jun 15, 2010 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Our Tragic Universe is supposed to be another book in a series of books by Scarlett Thomas that poses questions about the universe, the end of time and the existance of man. Sadly, it fails spectacularly.

I've read both The End of Mr. Y and PopCo, and OTU just doesn't live up to the complexity of the first and the thoughtfulness and insight of our current world in the second.

The theme is inconcise - the book concerns itself with the end of the universe - an endless loop of events repeating them
Steve Morris
Oh dear. I so wanted to enjoy this book. Scarlett Thomas's The End of Mr. Y is one of my all-time favourite books, yet this reads like some early precursor to that book.

This is a storyless story, and deliberately so. The story is wilfully, purposely, missing. Thomas is a lecturer on creative writing, and her protagonist Meg is also a writer who lectures on creative writing. Meg wants to write a storyless story - and so clearly does Scarlett. This novel speaks incessantly about story, plot, chara
Apr 20, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: europa, kids-books
gold foil cutesy/fancy cover: check. author has on a sexy velvet choker for her pic: check. philip pullman 2 word blurb, one being a definite article: check.
why didn't i like this? set in devonshire, with a MAP no less,a cool map, poor but scrappy meg, itinerant book reviewer and author/writer herownself gets sucked into a world of fairies, beasts, moors (heather type), fantastical books and characters.
i dunno, but maybe for me tooo magical and tooo real
a great dog in novel though, so one extr
Beth Anne
Jul 27, 2011 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
i got 3/4 of the way through this book, and i had to quit reading. this book bored the life out of me and i kept trying and trying and...ugh.

i found it to be pretentious and boring. i disliked the narrator. and i didn't care what happened to her or any of her annoying friends. if you can call them friends.

i finally let myself stop reading. and i think i'm a better and happier person for it.
Sep 10, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
so for the first 200 pages i didnt really like it, I didn't find it that interesting and thought this book deserved no more than 3 stars. But after that things took a turn and interesting things started to happen, so I'll happily give this book 4 stars
Nov 06, 2015 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Kitapta resmen hiçbir şey olmadı... Halbuki çok ümitliydim.
Jan 14, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
if u dislike

- dogs
- labyrinths
- the intricacy of relationships between men and women
- the tragicomic aspects of the above and modern life in general
- funny, intelligent story-telling
- the subversive, quiet abandonment of the former
- the laconic characterisation of human archetypes
- the smooth interweaving of theories about language, philosophy, art, music, and literature with a well-crafted narrative
- magical aspects in mind-games scrutinising the alleged rationality of existence
- the clever dis
Lisabet Sarai
Sep 20, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Our Tragic Universe is a first person account narrated by Meg, a best-selling author of genre fiction who is struggling to finish her contracted "serious" novel, after having written--and deleted--half a million words. Meg is stuck in an unsatisfying relationship with sensitive, neurotic Christopher while she fantasizes about Rowan, a friend of friends who's much too old for her (according to her own evaluation) and married. She's too broke to afford Internet or even decent food; she's strugglin ...more
Lolly K Dandeneau
Jul 16, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
This is an advance reading copy..

Fantastic is too corny a word to describe this novel. Meg is an author who is trying to write a novel that is meaningful but is wasting her time writing genre fiction for money. Her boyfriend Christopher is a bit of a lost cause himself, and she spends her time supporting him. She falls for a married man Rowan hence the complications and philosophical discussions. This novel is a fun read for those of you who love philosophy. Meg reviews a book ,accidentally, by
Oct 12, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Scarlett Thomas comes through, at least for me, again with another exceptional book. If you've read some of her others and liked them, notably The End of Mr. y, and PopCo, you might really like this book. But you have to ask yourself first. What is it about the past books that you liked? Was it the story, the way the suspense was really well crafted? Or was it more the philosophy and ideas she played with in the novels?

If its the former, you might want to get this one from the library, if its th
Dec 01, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Lisa by: Jade
After The End of Mr Y and now this, I'm becoming rather a fan of Scarlett Thomas. Always intelligent and original, reading and enjoying her books also has the additional bonus of making me feel quite clever at the time and (rather like Meg, this one's main character) I understand concepts I go cross-eyed over normally, even if I'll be buggered if I can explain them afterwards.

Set in a part of the world I'm very familiar with (in fact I passed Slapton's tank just this Saturday) and filled with i
Nov 28, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a complex novel. It doesn’t always read like one and you can get lulled into a false sense of security if you’re not careful. By ‘complex’ I mean ‘clever’ but it is also a hodgepodge. I mean that in the nicest possible way. There is just so much material in it and I’m not entirely convinced she manages to make all the disparate elements cohere but she has a damn good crack at it. This is, of course, based on a single read through. I suspect, had I the time and the inclination, then it wo ...more
Aug 18, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This will really stay with me. It was engaging and entertaining, and I was surprised and disappointed to reach the end. Even a couple days later clues are coming back to me and I think, "So that's what that was!" Kind of a year in the life sort of story, rather than a telling of a particular series of events. In a nutshell I'd say it's about how the "magical" aspects of the universe, even thought the main character professes not to believe in them, shape her life, and how once she stops struggli ...more
Peter Mcloughlin
I always thought the transcendent could be found in ordinary life. One does not need to be a superhero or an archetype to be worthwhile. This book is a storyless story. The opposite of the hero's journey. Finding bits and pieces of eternity in daily activity and goings on. It is like a zen poem. The characters being quite ordinary people doing things quite ordinary (but on the wordy and philosophical side) people do. The idea of the storyless story is capture life and show all the looping and bo ...more
Apr 09, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: april-2017
I wasn't entirely sure that I'd like this as it sounded a little too science-fiction based for my liking, but Thomas is an author whom everyone seems to rave about, and I was thus suitably intrigued. To my surprise, Our Tragic Universe pulled me in rather quickly, and I found that it is filled with clever and interesting ideas. I felt warmly towards our protagonist, Meg, and found her ultimately realistic. Her backstory was plausible, and one could certainly identify causes and their effects wit ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Around the Year i...: Our Tragic Universe, by Scarlett Thomas 3 18 Apr 02, 2016 09:59AM  
  • Little Hands Clapping
  • Lights Out in Wonderland
  • Mobius Dick
  • Mr. Toppit
  • My Dirty Little Book of Stolen Time
  • Behindlings (Thames Gateway, #2)
  • Anna In w grobowcach świata
  • Lady Mechanika: La Dama de la Muerte
  • Come to the Edge
  • Becoming Kate
  • A Circle of Souls
  • The Amnesiac
  • Secret London - an Unusual Guide
  • Four Stories
  • Dead Politician Society (Clare Vengel Undercover, #1)
  • Doctor Right (Alaskan Bride Rush,  #3)
  • And This Is True
  • Research Methods for Business Students
Scarlett Thomas was born in London in 1972. Her widely-acclaimed novels include PopCo, The End of Mr Y and The Seed Collectors. As well as writing literary fiction for adults, she has also written a literary fantasy series for children and a book about writing called Monkeys with Typewriters. Her work has been translated into more than 25 languages.

She has been longlisted for the Orange Prize, sh
“One of the paradoxes of writing is that when you write non-fiction everyone tries to prove that it's wrong, and when you publish fiction, everyone tries to see the truth in it.” 18 likes
“I erased the thought from my mind, but I couldn't undo the fact that I'd had the thought in the first place.” 12 likes
More quotes…