A Partial History of Lost Causes Summary and Reviews

A Partial History of Lost Causes

A Novel

by Jennifer duBois

A Partial History of Lost Causes
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  • Published in USA  Mar 2012
    384 pages
    Genre: Novels

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Book Summary

In Jennifer duBois's mesmerizing and exquisitely rendered debut novel, a long-lost letter links two disparate characters, each searching for meaning against seemingly insurmountable odds. Spanning two continents and the dramatic sweep of history, A Partial History of Lost Causes reveals the stubbornness and splendor of the human will even in the most trying times.

In St. Petersburg, Russia, world chess champion Aleksandr Bezetov begins a quixotic quest. With his renowned Cold War–era tournaments behind him, Aleksandr has turned to politics, launching a dissident presidential campaign against Vladimir Putin. He knows he will not win - and that he is risking his life in the process - but a deeper conviction propels him forward. And in the same way that he cannot abandon his aims, he cannot erase the memory of a mysterious woman he loved in his youth.

In Cambridge, Massachusetts, thirty-year-old English lecturer Irina Ellison is on an improbable quest of her own. Certain she has inherited Huntington's disease - the same cruel illness that ended her father's life - she struggles with a sense of purpose. When Irina finds an old, photocopied letter her father had written to the young Aleksandr Bezetov, she makes a fateful decision. Her father had asked the Soviet chess prodigy a profound question - How does one proceed against a lost cause? - but never received an adequate reply. Leaving everything behind, Irina travels to Russia to find Bezetov and get an answer for her father, and for herself.

Spanning two continents and the dramatic sweep of history, A Partial History of Lost Causes reveals the stubbornness and splendor of the human will even in the most trying times. With uncommon perception and wit, Jennifer duBois explores the power of memory, the depths of human courage, and the endurance of love.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Starred Review. In urgent fashion, Dubois deftly evokes Russia's political and social metamorphosis over the past 30 years through the prism of this particular and moving relationship." - Publishers Weekly

"Dubois's impressive mastery of her Russian material makes one hopeful for a more credible story line next time around." - Kirkus Reviews

"Thrilling, thoughtful, strange, gorgeous, political, and deeply personal, Jennifer duBois's A Partial History of Lost Causes is a terrific debut novel. In prose both brainy and beautiful, she follows her characters as they struggle to save each other. This is a book to get lost in." - Elizabeth McCracken

"An amazing achievement - a braiding of historical, political, and personal, each strand illuminating the other. Wonderful characters, elusive glimpses of wisdom, and a gripping story that accelerates to just the right ending." - Arthur Phillips

"Hilarious and heartbreaking and a triumph of the imagination. Jennifer duBois is too young to be this talented. I wish I were her." - Gary Shteyngart

The information about A Partial History of Lost Causes shown above was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's online-magazine that keeps our members abreast of notable and high-profile books publishing in the coming weeks. In most cases, the reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author of this book and feel that the reviews shown do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, please send us a message with the mainstream media reviews that you would like to see added.

Reader Reviews

Write your own review

Lisa E. (Cincinnati, OH)

Lovely
Jennifer duBois looks about twenty-five-years-old in her picture, and that is good news--may she have a long life in which to write more wonderful novels. Her characters have insights into the human condition that brought me up short and made me consider my own life. Aside from that, the novel is lively and engaging.

Laurie H. (Stuart, FL)

Like a glass of fine red wine
Red wine and great books, these are a few of my favorite things!! I loved this book; it's nice to see that an author can have an original idea and follow it through with a great story. Like a glass of good wine, it's flavor unfolds slowly and you invest yourself in the characters; it does not disappoint. Curl up in your favorite chair and enjoy, I did.

Mary Ellen (Canfield, OH)

Not a lost cause
For a first novel from a young author, this is an amazing book. It is skillfully written in a clever style, interweaving the lives of its central characters looking for answers to life's difficult question.

The characters are more interesting than appealing. The story line proceeds through a political period (also pertinent today) in a compelling manner. It is a thought-provoking read.

Sarah H. (Arvada, CO)

A book worth quoting
It is rare that you find a book that combines both an engaging story and beautiful thought provoking prose. A Partial History of Lost Causes combines both, along with engaging characters and a universally accessible commentary that addresses the mundane, the cruel and the unexplainable parts of life. This is the kind of book that leaves me craving the next book from the author. And unlike some readers, I love having to go to the dictionary now and again during my reading. Having to do so every page becomes cumbersome, but a handful of well used words not in popular rotation restores the beauty of language that we have lost. I celebrate this book and it's author!

Eileen P. (Pittsford, NY)

Phenomenal Debut
DuBois has written a marvelous meditation on what gives life meaning, what makes life worth living, and what is it about ourselves that makes us the same person as we move through time. This is a deeply philosophical novel, but it is also a tremendously engaging novel with interesting characters and two compelling, intertwined plot-lines that beautifully illustrate the odd similarities between individual health challenges and politics in oppressive countries.

Jill S. (Chicago, IL)

Hard to believe it's a debut!
One narrator is living under the shadow of Huntington's, a degenerative disease that killed her father. The other is a former world chess champion who is in a quixotic quest to unseat Vladimir Putin. Both are searching for answers about how to move forward when they're playing a moving match.

This is one of the freshest and most imaginative debuts I've read lately, approached with grace and thoughtfulness. Jennier DuBois writes with a hard-won maturity as her characters tackle that all-important question of why we keep playing if we know we cannot win. It's an achievement.

...17 more reader reviews

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Author Information

Jennifer duBois Author Biography

Photo: Ilana Panich-Linsman

Jennifer duBois's A Partial History of Lost Causes was one of the most acclaimed debuts of 2012. It was a finalist for the PEN/Hemingway Award for Debut Fiction, winner of the California Book Award for First Fiction and the Northern California Book Award for Fiction, and O: The Oprah Magazine chose it as one of the ten best books of the year.

DuBois was also named one of the National Book Foundation's 5 Under 35 authors. A graduate of the Iowa Writers' Workshop, duBois recently completed a Stegner Fellowship at Stanford University.

Her second novel is Cartwheel (Oct 2013). Originally from Massachusetts, she now lives in Texas.

Author Interview
Link to Jennifer duBois's Website

Name Pronunciation
Jennifer duBois: Doo-Bwah

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