Lea's Reviews > High-Rise

High-Rise by J.G. Ballard
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Dec 27, 2011

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Read from December 27, 2011 to January 09, 2012

"Hell is other people": this estimation by Jean Paul Sartre might be used to summarise this book, which could alternatively be described as a modern-day "Lord of the Flies". Yet I felt constantly alienated by the lack of psychological insights into any of the characters: I ended up not particularly empathising with any of them, or even clearly differentiating them. Perhaps the author intended precisely this reaction in the reader. The descriptions of the details of characters' behaviours read almost in an academic style, albeit without any typical failings of academic writing: this book is easy to read, and conveys a brilliant claustrophobia through the words. I did like the sexual analyses, though I personally believe that human beings have the definite capabilities to create societies less like that of chimpanzees and more like bonobos'. However, the portrayals of objective observations are accompanied by a frustrating sketchiness of the human characters. The reader is constantly told precisely what characters are doing, but with no deeper reflections as to why. Indeed, this may reflect the focus of the plot, whereby the building itself is more vivid, pervasive and 'alive' than any of the people physically and psychologically trapped inside. However in the end I found reading this book strangely dissatisfying, because I felt that the writing failed to capture or portray any particularly in-depth illuminations of any of the characters.

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