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The Many
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2016 Longlist [MBP] > The Many by Wyl Menmuir

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message 1: by Maxwell (new)

Maxwell (welldonebooks) | 375 comments Mod
Discussing The Many by Wyl Menmuir.


message 2: by SibylM (last edited Jul 27, 2016 10:46AM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

SibylM (sibyldiane) | 26 comments I just started this one. It's short and relatively cheap in the US Kindle store, so it looked like a good starting place to me. Priorities!

ETA: author used the phrase "right of passage" instead of "rite of passage" and is getting a half-star deducted from me for that. I expect that ish in self-published YA, not a Man Booker longlist novel.


SibylM (sibyldiane) | 26 comments Now done. This was not the book for me. Other people may love it -- it is beautifully written, and I could see how others might find it intriguing. I think I like a bit (okay a lot) more plot in my books, and characters that I have more incentive to care about. The author spent a lot of time telling the reader about the characters' dreams, and other people's dreams -- even fictional characters' dreams -- are just not interesting to me.
I did feel like there was more going on underneath the surface that I should be getting, but to be honest I could not bring myself to care enough to try to figure it out.


Craig Rimmer | 33 comments Bored until about 100 pages in which can usually be mitigated but only a further 60 pages. Left bemused how this even made the long list! Too many dream sequences, no plot and felt like a pastiche of previous winners/contenders.


Katrina (katrinasreads) | 3 comments I'm starting this tonight and a little worried now I've read these comments. I will report back.


Ernie (ewnichols) | 66 comments I started this last night, and I do think it is beautifully written. It's a quick read, so already well into it, but I'm a bit baffled by how this made the longlist as well. Will continue and see what happens...


Britta Böhler | 314 comments Mod
I started yesterday, and I am really enjoying it! I like the fairy-tale/mystery aspect of it and I love the writing style.


Neil | 511 comments I will be starting this later today. I will report back soon!


Britta Böhler | 314 comments Mod
Just finished and WOW! If you are bored by the fishing stuff and the dreams during the first 100 pages or so: keep reading. The sudden, unexpected twist after about 2/3 of the book will make your head spin!


Justine Harvey | 22 comments I agree Britta. I quite liked the rest of it - I was floating along enjoying the beauty of the writing , but then there is a bit that suddenly hits you unexpectedly. That part was so powerful I do wish the rest of it had been more like that - but maybe it needed to contrast to be so effective


message 11: by Neil (last edited Aug 06, 2016 02:19AM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Neil | 511 comments I've just finished this. I am rather underwhelmed. I've got an idea fixed in my head about what it is all about. That idea could be wrong and that would make the book a lot more interesting, but, for as long as I think it is what I think it is, I'm disappointed. My idea of what it is about is hidden in this spoiler - don't read it unless you have read the book!

(view spoiler)


Britta Böhler | 314 comments Mod
Neil wrote: "I've just finished this. I am rather underwhelmed. I've got an idea fixed in my head about what it is all about. That idea could be wrong and that would make the book a lot more interesting, but, f..."

I think your interpretation is a possibility, but I read the book in a completely different way. More like a poem, with images & associations which are not to be 'translated', as it were, into something real and explainable. Although I agree with you that Timothy's grief is the driving force behind the novel, I don't think the book is meant to be taken literally, but as a parable for loss and grieving. Does this make sense to you at all?


message 13: by Neil (new) - rated it 2 stars

Neil | 511 comments Britta, I like it better with your take on it. I read another book earlier in the year that felt to me like it was doing almost exactly the same thing. I think maybe I have a bit of a fixation on a particular plot line! I imagine that neither book is actually what I think it is.


Britta Böhler | 314 comments Mod
Neil wrote: "Britta, I like it better with your take on it. I read another book earlier in the year that felt to me like it was doing almost exactly the same thing. I think maybe I have a bit of a fixation on a..."

Ah, great! I am a plot-oriented person myself, normally, but with this book I think it's best not to think in terms of plot.


message 15: by Alan (new) - rated it 4 stars

Alan (alanprb) Really enjoyed this one. I felt engaged from the first page with this one, that sense of ambiguity right from the start. That's two books now set in a small British seaside village. It somehow gives the sense of open space and claustrophobia at the same time. Loved the lyrical prose, reminds me a little of Jim Crace in that regard.


message 16: by Neil (new) - rated it 2 stars

Neil | 511 comments Britta wrote: "I am a plot-oriented person myself, normally, but with this book I think it's best not to think in terms of plot."

I'm quite a fan of books with no plot when the writing is good and you can simply enjoy it for a piece of quality writing. My problem here is that, once you have decided there IS a plot, it is hard to ignore that!

Oh, and I'm also with those who noticed "right of passage". Surely, someone somewhere in the writing, editing, proof-reading etc. should have spotted that?


Ernie (ewnichols) | 66 comments I ended up liking this one. It definitely picked up in the last third of the book, and I found myself wanting to get back to it. The book was so beautifully written, and though it is short, I definitely think it is a book to read slowly. I just wished that the beginning had been more interesting to me. I felt it dragged a bit, and I definitely don't think the book should have been any longer. Thought-provoking...and if I really loved it, I think I would go back to read it again. Perhaps that is what I need to do to appreciate it more, but in the end, I don't think I care enough to do that. I remain surprised that this made the longlist.


Katrina (katrinasreads) | 3 comments Hmmm...I'm in the not sure camp, not sure what I feel about it, not sure what was actually going on, not sure how it made the list and not sure that I care enough to figure it out.

I'm surprised this made the list, which kept making me thunk I was missing something, but possibly not.


message 19: by Paul (new) - rated it 3 stars

Paul Fulcher (fulcherkim) Neil wrote: "I've just finished this. I am rather underwhelmed. I've got an idea fixed in my head about what it is all about. "

Neil - just finished the book, and without having read your spoiler, I had the same idea as to what it was about (and the same disappointment if that was it).

Can see Britta's point though (Britta wrote: "i don't think the book is meant to be taken literally, but as a parable for loss and grieving")

Britta / Justine you both referred to a sudden twist / bit that hits you about 2/3rds through. What was that specifically, as if anything things dawned on me more gradually.


message 20: by Neil (new) - rated it 2 stars

Neil | 511 comments Paul - interesting that we both had the same thought. And I also didn't spot a sudden twist at any point, but maybe that depends what you are expecting?


message 21: by Paul (new) - rated it 3 stars

Paul Fulcher (fulcherkim) Neil wrote: "Paul - interesting that we both had the same thought. And I also didn't spot a sudden twist at any point, but maybe that depends what you are expecting?"

Answering my own question, perhaps the only line that made me sit up a little was when the cracks started appearing.


message 22: by Neil (last edited Aug 17, 2016 01:12PM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Neil | 511 comments I'd decided what I thought was going on by then and I think I just thought "Yeah, that sounds about right". Not that I was predicting cracks, just that I wasn't surprised when they arrived.

But it's a more interesting story with Britta's take on it!


message 23: by Britta (last edited Aug 17, 2016 01:16PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Britta Böhler | 314 comments Mod
Paul, Neil: maybe 'plot twist' was a poor choice of words on my part...
(view spoiler)


message 24: by Neil (new) - rated it 2 stars

Neil | 511 comments Britta - maybe hide that behind a spoiler tag?


Britta Böhler | 314 comments Mod
Neil wrote: "Britta - maybe hide that behind a spoiler tag?"

Thanx, Neil! So sorry... thought I did but obviously mistyped...


message 26: by Neil (new) - rated it 2 stars

Neil | 511 comments :-)


message 27: by Paul (new) - rated it 3 stars

Paul Fulcher (fulcherkim) Britta - thanks. OK understood - or if anything that was the bit that spoiled it for me as it rather narrowed down the interpretation. (view spoiler)


message 28: by Alan (new) - rated it 4 stars

Alan (alanprb) (view spoiler)


message 29: by Paul (new) - rated it 3 stars

Paul Fulcher (fulcherkim) Alan wrote: "
I think about halfway through the book you are starting to see clues..."


Yes indeed there are those hints I agree, I remember that line. Just (view spoiler)


message 30: by Paul (new) - rated it 3 stars

Paul Fulcher (fulcherkim) Related point that came up on another group discussing the Man Booker International longlisted Ladivine, but is equally relevant here.

When it comes to novels with unexplained, possibly even supernatural events, the literary critic Tzvetan Todorov defines a genre that lies between "the uncanny" (author provides a rationale resolution) and what he calls the "marvelous" (and most would call fantasy - the explanation is also supernatural).

He calls the middle ground between these the fantastic - “The fantastic occupies the duration of this uncertainty. Once we choose one answer or the other, we leave the fantastic for a neighboring genre, the uncanny or the marvelous. The fantastic is that hesitation experienced by a person who knows only the laws of nature, confronting an apparently supernatural event”

I think that is what Menmuir wants to achieve, but then to me rather ruins it as explained in the spoilers above.


Britta Böhler | 314 comments Mod
Paul wrote: "Britta - thanks. OK understood - or if anything that was the bit that spoiled it for me as it rather narrowed down the interpretation. [spoilers removed]"

That's interesting, I had the exact opposite reaction; I thought the book and the possibilities to read & interprete it expanded and became much more intriguing.


message 32: by Paul (new) - rated it 3 stars

Paul Fulcher (fulcherkim) Britta wrote: " I had the exact opposite reaction; I thought the book and the possibilities to read & interprete it expanded and became much more intriguing."

Yes it definitely seems a book where some found that and others the exact opposite. I must admit I also do tend to judge Booker nominated books more harshly than others.

For me it was feeling forced down one particular interpretation - it's the Keyser Soze effect. [spoiler alert for the movie Usual Suspects, not this book](view spoiler)


message 33: by Doug (new) - rated it 3 stars

Doug | 78 comments Up until the last 30 pages or so (roughly the last quarter of this slim volume), I was intrigued and stimulated by both the story and the way it was being told. I had several possible scenarios in mind as to what it all meant, and was looking forward to a crackling climax and denouement. And then ... fizzle! Unlike others, I'm glad that the author WASN'T more explicit in piecing the various threads together, but what remained I thought much too heavy on the symbolism (view spoiler)This is now the 7th of the Booker longlist I have read, and I must say, this year's panel of judges have done an outstanding job - of unearthing mediocre nominees and ignoring many, MANY more worthy tomes.


Robert | 363 comments on the whole i liked the many, build up, character, writing and due to the story it is immersive but i found the book to be soulless.


Britta Böhler | 314 comments Mod
Robert wrote: "on the whole i liked the many, build up, character, writing and due to the story it is immersive but i found the book to be soulless."

Ah, pity!


Jeanne (grauspitz) I really didn't like this book, probably because it wasn't until after I read some reviews that I realized what it was about. It started off really well though and I enjoyed the writing so if this author puts out another novel I'll probably read it.


David | 40 comments The Many reminded me a little of The Vegetarian by Han Kang crossed with The Wicker Man. I spent the first half of the book loving where I thought I was going, but for me, the conclusions of this novel aren’t obvious enough (or at all). There is a good hint of a theme but I'd have preferred it to have been tighter.
That said, the prose and flow were very engaging and rich in description for such a short book. I felt that I had a good picture in my mind of each scene without having been “John Banville’d” (2 pages to describe what can be done in a few well-constructed sentences). A solid 4 for me….a tighter ending would have been a definite 5.


message 38: by Kathe (last edited Aug 25, 2016 07:50PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kathe Coleman | 46 comments *This is a spoiler for those who have not read it.
The Many
The Many had the onerousness of The Time Traveer's Wife but flavored with just enough reality that is seemed like normal read. . .until. I am kind of a science geek so my conclusion was that this was about experiencing life on more than one dimension. If time is only a concept and what the physicist who support the "parallel universe theory" are proposing is true, then our lives are being experienced simultaneously on other dimensions showing in us how different choices could have been played out. The lady in grey, two men in suits, trawling, and the container ships are cleverly inserted to allow you to come to your own verdict. Maybe the author is also a believer in parallel universes or at least a dabbler like me. A parable of ecological destruction and loss. Would be curious as to how others interpreted this book?


Ernie (ewnichols) | 66 comments I'm not sure if anyone has read or heard the following, but I wanted to share a brief interview with the judges (Amanda Foreman (Chair) and Abdulrazak Gurnah) on why books on the longlist made the longlist.

Wyl Menmuir (UK) -The Many (Salt)
“a quiet book that packs a powerful punch”
Foreman: Oh, this is a really special book. It’s rare you come across a writer who is both new but so assured in their writing and has such a grasp of craftsmanship. So, it’s one of those books where you have to surrender yourself to what’s going on. It’s set in sort of an alternative dreamscape. It’s real, but yet unreal. It feels like you’re trapped in a nightmare, and yet at the same time, there’s a kind of dramatic and emotional truth to it. And fundamentally, it’s a novel about grief, and that’s the most human of all emotions, and so it makes it a very special book, I think.


Michelle (topaz6) I don't think this book worked for me, not a fan.


message 41: by Kylie (new) - added it

Kylie | 6 comments So I'm happily reading along, thinking yeah, yeah, ok, it's all a bit "Perfect Storm" with a bit of gothic ... I'm mostly interested in who the suited people are and why they are buying the fish. I'm also pretty convinced that Ethan killed Perran by this point.
Then I get the scene when the drag him to the top of the hill, and I'm ripped out of my suspended disbelief and think "That's stupid, why would anyone do that?"

A couple more pages in and I start to think "I wish people would mention it when a book is magical realism", and them a few more pages and we find out the name of his son, and I'm sitting with mouth open going WTF???!!!

Actually, I'm still going WTF??!! My first thought was that he was having a psychotic break. The town is the hospital; Perrans house is his room; the townsfolk are the fellow patients; Clem is the head nurse for the ward; the men in suits are the psychiatrists, and the woman in the suit is his wife. But I don't think that works - I'll have to read it again more slowly to try to piece together all the symbolism I missed the first time.

If anyone has any idea what it all means, please let me know.



message 42: by Paul (new) - rated it 3 stars

Paul Fulcher (fulcherkim) Kylie wrote: "If anyone has any idea what it all means, please let me know."

I'm not sure if the author even knows what it all means! Think he has left it deliberately ambiguous for different interpretations, indeed my main issue was that the name of his son rather favours one particular explanation.

Hoping it makes the shortlist as it is one I'd like to revisit - and indeed ask the author about when he does the eve-of-announcement event.


message 43: by Jay (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jay A spoiler for those who have not read the book.

On slim evidence admittedly (p. 74), I suspect that Timothy is mourning the death of his wife as well as of his son. Only positing his wife's death can you make sense of the grief Menmuir describes so poetically.


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