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The Curfew

3.74  ·  Rating details ·  1,366 ratings  ·  231 reviews
William and Molly lead a life of small pleasures, riddles at the kitchen table, and games of string and orange peels. All around them a city rages with war. When the uprising began, William’s wife was taken, leaving him alone with their young daughter. They keep their heads down and try to remain unnoticed as police patrol the streets, enforcing a curfew and arresting citi ...more
Paperback, 195 pages
Published June 14th 2011 by Vintage Contemporaries (first published January 1st 2011)
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Average rating 3.74  · 
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 ·  1,366 ratings  ·  231 reviews

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Paul Fulcher
Oct 01, 2019 rated it really liked it
There will be no magic, whatsoever. Magic is either a poverty-stricken necessity or a wealthy fantasy. We are in neither of those straits, and what cannot be explained will be left unknown.

My 7th Jesse Ball novel, and yet another wonderful book.

The Curfew opens with William Drysdale, twenty-nine, once-violinist, at present, epitaphorist, and his daughter, Molly, eight, schoolchild.

William's current job is to write the epitaphs for grave stones, in consultation with the bereaved (and sometimes wi
Jan 07, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 5-stars, 2020, re-read
I am working my way through Jesse Ball’s novels. Having started with his more recent work, going back to the start, with a perspective on where it is all heading, is fascinating. He is rapidly rising up my list of favourite authors.

Ball writes in a minimalist style. Short sentences and paragraphs, lots of white space. That’s on the page. Off the page, he leaves a lot for the reader to imagine and connect. By nature, he is a poet and artist and this is clear in his choice of words and his deliber
Gumble's Yard
Dec 11, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2019
Jesse Ball’s third novel (really more of a novella) and a marked change in tone from his first two novels (“The Way Through Doors” and “Samedi the Deafness”). Those prioritised experimentation and an exploration of storytelling (and absurdity, lying, fantasy, dreaming) over politics; with their (my phrase) non-sequitur similes rather than fable or analogy.

This book is much more in keeping with “The Diver’s Game” – with a clear political analogy, in this case to totalitarian regimes – although s
Jul 17, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: team-america
I'm being a bit tough on this book with only three stars, but I think that's a solid rating. Problem is I kept comparing this in my head to Herta Müller's masterpiece, The Land of Green Plums. Both books are minimalist, with short sections. Both books take place in police states, where paranoia is a way of life. And there's even in a similarity in the tone.

But Müller's novel is work of poetic genius, while Ball's spare approach veers a bit more towards postmodernism. I cared deeply about Müller'
To begin: When the publisher claims at the end of their synopsis that Jesse Ball’s “The Curfew is a mesmerizing feat of literary imagination,” you may think it an excitable exaggeration. It isn’t. Nor is Minneapolis Star-Tribune’s observation that “There seems to be no other novelist writing today who is capable of so thoroughly disarming one’s narrative expectations.” Writers and Readers alike: prepare to be equally intimidated and inspired.

Those who have read Jesse Ball–and adore him, I would
Jul 26, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
Minimalist, poetic, Kafkaesque, pretentious. A short novel, not really even a novella, but it its brevity it tells a large story. Jesse Ball gives you the outline, images, ideas, and tools from which you flesh out the story with your own experiences and reading, a pretty neat trick. Two elements of The Curfew made a strong impression on me: William's secondary occupation (which he took up after society became a police state and the curfew was imposed -- he had been a concert violinist before mus ...more
Mar 26, 2015 rated it it was ok
Recommended to Lobstergirl by: James Wood
Shelves: fiction

Personally I'm glad to see experimental, postmodernist fiction like this get some affection from reviewers, (view spoiler). The protagonists, a 29-year old widowed father and his 8-year old mute daughter (or is she 9? on one page she's 8, a few pages later we're told she's 9...), have the makings of characters you could get attached to, if the novel were longer, but it's extremely short. The dystopic setting is objectively horrifying, but again there's so lit
Aug 02, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I think I've been hesitant to include Jesse Ball near the top of the list of my favorite authors only because he's so young. Part of it is definitely the fact that, so far, we have only a limited library to choose from. But with The Curfew, his third novel, I can finally cave and claim Ball as a favorite. The Way Through Doors, novel #2, is one of the best books I've ever read, and with The Curfew as a follow up, Ball has proven himself to be a mind apart, crafting beautiful, bizarre, and though ...more
Sep 16, 2012 rated it really liked it
The Curfew is a quick read, I finished it in a single sitting.
Jesse Ball is a poet. His work of prose is filled with empty spaces and Ball manages to evoke a great deal of feeling with sparse lines. The puppet show is beautifully realized and satisfyingly resolved. Maybe it's the brevity of the work, the concentration of so much in such a thin volume, but I find that I can't help but keep thinking about the story. It would make a great book club read as it invites so much in the interpretation.
Sep 26, 2013 rated it liked it
Dreamy, minimalist totalitarian state lit. Sometimes has the scent of Paul Auster around the edges but with a more self-concious attachment to formal experiment. It's told in fragments, which generally works for me, but I found some of the novel's individual shards and pieces greater than the sum of its parts.
Jun 18, 2011 rated it it was amazing
holy fucking shit the goddamn asshole
Aug 21, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
After reading his other two books, The Way Through Doors and Samedi the Deafness, a few years ago, I was ready to declare Jesse Ball my favorite living author and eagerly awaited his next book. The Curfew, is Ball's third novel and it does not disappoint. This story is set in a dystopian police state and follow a (forcefully) retired violinist turned epitaphorist, William, and his young mute daughter, Molly. William finds out that an old friend may have some information about the disappearance o ...more
Mar 17, 2015 rated it it was amazing
5+ out of 5.

This one is meant for a warm cup of something nice by a window on a crisp, clear autumn Sunday. I know I say that about a lot of things, but believe me on this one: there's just something in the prose, in the feeling of the story, that makes me think that that's a perfect way to read it. This is, on its surface, a simple story - totalitarian, a historical European feel, a father and daughter struggling in the face of unknowable entities larger than they... but with Jesse Ball, nothi
Oct 18, 2012 rated it did not like it
Shelves: disappointment
This was a novella really - pages sparse and book very short.
Which is why I finished it.

I kept thinking - this has got to change.

It's one of those books that is written in such as way as to make the reader think there is more than meets the eye - but it is smoke and mirrors. Granted, there are a few well spaced philosophical truths thrown throughout - and it is symbolic. But just not good enough or consistent enough to create any sort of train of thought or overall development.
Lisa Beaulieu
Mar 20, 2017 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Mar 24, 2019 rated it liked it
Suad Shamma
Nov 24, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: own, 2018
This book left me confused, but touched all the same. The prose was beautifully done, and Jesse Ball was really able to leave his mark on me.

You immediately know that this is dystopian novel, but you're never really sure what's happening. Are they at war? How far back is this happening? Or how far into the future does this take place? Who or what is ruling? You never really know, and it is never revealed. All we know, as readers, is that there is a curfew, and if you are found roaming the stree
Jun 06, 2011 rated it really liked it
Some books get described as “rich with detail.” “The Curfew” is not one of those — it’s the opposite. But that’s good. Jesse Ball has a gift for conveying the complexities of a scary new world in remarkably few words.
The story takes place on a single day in an unnamed city in a not-very-pleasant-sounding future, a police state of unwritten rules, violent deaths and abrupt disappearances. The curfew referred to in the title is vague, but menacingly real: “The government’s official word on the mat
Dec 15, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Q: Good book?
A: Good book!

Q: Really good book?
A: Really good book! And short!

Q: Not too short?
A: No! Just the right length! Like that episode of Twin Peaks in the black lodge where you learn who killed Laura Palmer. This book reminded me of David Lynch, btw.

Q: David Lynch? Without images or music? I won't believe it.
A: No, seriously. Here's a demonstrative passage:

A young woman with a very short skirt and a thin blouse came out of a building in the distance. Because she was so beautiful, he sa
Deron Denton
Jan 02, 2017 rated it really liked it
This thin novella is a sparse, minimalist and haunting read about a father living with his mute daughter in a totalitarian police state after wife/mom has gone missing.

The main character is a former accomplished violinist who is now an "epitaphist." He helps people come up with "acceptable" phrases to put on the tombstones of loved ones, without raising the suspicions of authorities. And business is booming.

Most people (Jeannie, Aaron: I am looking at you!) would probably blow through it in an
Mar 30, 2013 rated it it was ok
What happened? Not much and yet a lot.

Did I enjoy the book? Not much.

Did I put the book down even though I was not enjoying it? No.

Do I know what happened? Not really. That said, I hardly cared about most of the characters enough to care about what ultimately happened. The exception being the daughter but one could assume she stayed with the puppeteer and go back to not caring all that much.

With very few words, lots of white space and use of mystery, the author is able to describe a life of l
Jul 18, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites, owned
The Curfew is about the individual's, the family's and the larger community's, struggle to maintain control in a world that is ultimately out of our control. The Curfew is a novel written by a poet with spare, lyrical, insightful writing. There is no shortage of lines to savor and repeat in one's head or aloud.

There is a wonderful recent interview with the author: I especially found illuminating:

"Jesse Ball: We’re all put in to difficult circumstances in
Mar 18, 2012 rated it really liked it
As I loved Ball's The Way Through Doors I decided to read everything the guy has written. While The Way Through Doors was a Lynchian mind**** this book was a straight up gut punch. I was very quickly emotionally involved with the relationship between the father and his daughter Molly. Maybe it's because I'm a parent now and I couldn't imagine trying to raise my son without my wife but this book really hit hard. It's the tale of a man trying to raise his daughter in a dystopian future, where his ...more
Jun 02, 2011 rated it it was ok
I sort of complained that Ball's prior novel, The Way Through Doors, was treacly, so I don't really have grounds to whine that this one is a stone cold bummer. It's an odd complaint especially given that I usually love distopias. I think, though, that my problem is rooted in the dissonance between the gravity of the Curfew's themes and plot, and the persistant cutesy-wootsiness of Ball's prose. Even with its subject matter of invisible violence, state hegemony, death, and rememberance, The Curfe ...more
Aug 08, 2011 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: fans of Dr. Seuss and the secret police
Shelves: 2011
This book is like you were walking along on a grey day, picked up a rock and living underneath that rock was a whimsical alternative universe. Seussian ideas within the confines of human characters. Even with all the whimsey though, it is still essentially a universe living underneath a rock and all that entails. Epitath-ists, riddles and puppets nestled up against the Stasi, so to speak.

It took a few pages to get into the alternative format of the book and I really enjoyed that some pages had
Aug 23, 2011 rated it liked it
An odd little book. I read a description of this one in the newspaper and was intrigued. Reminded me of books they want you to read in college to alter the way you think.

It's a book of frightening images set in a near future where "the system" has taken over--everyone is watched, people are controlled and killed when they rebel. A father is trying to care for his small daughter after his wife "disappears." Much of the book is told as a puppet show that the little girl writes. I thought the endin
Bill Krieger
Jan 24, 2012 rated it did not like it
"The Curfew" is different, but not good. I like different, and I admire authors (any artists) that take chances. But in Curfew, the plot and characters are maudlin. Seriously, when your main characters are an ex-violin master, his mute daughter, and their kindly neighbor, the puppeteer... well, it just came off as rather silly and unmoving to me.

Also, the length, richness and depth of this book makes it a novella really, not a novel.
yow, bill
Jun 07, 2012 rated it did not like it
In many ways, I felt this novel was more interested in style than substance … actually, much like poetry in a way. The author seemed to only give the basic outline of a plot/characters, and dared the reader to keep going. Oh, I’m all for novels that challenge me, plunge me into a world that forces me to keep up. But this is not the case here. The truncated opening style seemed so bare bones; a bit of a cheat, I think. Eventually, I couldn’t make it past pg. 30.
Aug 05, 2012 rated it it was ok was different. I didn't give up, but that was because it was short. I liked the writing style. The plot was very interesting and unusual (no spoiler here) and the characters were (all 2 of them) sort of believable. All I can say is that you won't forget it. Just try it. It's one of those books that you probably need to discuss with smarter people than I! I recommend with hopes that my smart friends read it and discuss.
Jun 22, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Jesse Ball is the real deal. This is a page-turner in the best sense: you can't imagine what new delights and what effects he will achieve next. It seems to me he is working a rare vein in fiction, setting out on his own, the way Vonnegut did, or Donald Barthelme, or in music Coltrane, or in film Godard.
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Jesse Ball (1978-) Born in New York. The author of fourteen books, most recently, the novel How To Set a Fire and Why. His prizewinning works of absurdity have been published to acclaim in many parts of the world and translated into more than a dozen languages. The recipient of the Paris Review's Plimpton Prize, as well as fellowships from the NEA, the Heinz foundation, and others, he is on the fa ...more

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