Five Bells: Book summary and reviews of Five Bells by Gail Jones

Five Bells

A Novel

by Gail Jones

Five Bells by Gail Jones X
Five Bells by Gail Jones
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  • Published in USA  Feb 2012
    224 pages
    Genre: Novels

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Book Summary

On a radiant day in Sydney, four adults converge on Circular Quay, site of the iconic Opera House and the Sydney Harbor Bridge. Crowds of tourists mix with the locals, enjoying the glorious surroundings and the play of light on water.

But just as Circular Quay resonates with Australia's past, each of the four carries a complicated history from elsewhere. Each person is haunted by past secrets and guilt. Ellie is preoccupied by her sexual experiences as a girl, James by a tragedy for which he feels responsible, Catherine by the loss of her beloved brother in Dublin, and Pei Xing by her imprisonment during China's Cultural Revolution.

Told over the course of a single Saturday, Five Bells describes four lives that come to share not only a place and a time but also mysterious patterns and ambiguous symbols, including a barely glimpsed fifth figure, a young child. By nightfall, when Sydney is drenched in a summer rainstorm, each life will have been transformed by the events of this day.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Starred Review. An elegant literary meditation on time and chance." - Publishers Weekly

"Over the past decade Gail Jones has established herself as a significant presence in contemporary Australian fiction. Thoughtful, intelligent, and intensely lyrical… a novel of unmistakable contemporary relevance." - The Guardian (UK)

"An intense… poetic tale." - Financial Times (UK)

"Five Bells is a brilliant work, both explicitly Australian and insistently cosmopolitan… [and] establishes Gail Jones as one of Australia's finest authors.... Jones gives us individuals who are achingly alive, filled with apprehensions of beauty, love, and mortality." - The Australian

"Jones's writing has the intensity of a dream… combining tension with lyricism." - The Times (UK)

"Readers who crave plot or resolution may be frustrated – a significant development occurs near the end, but isn't explored – and the languid pace and intricate detail may incite impatience. ...Ultimately, though, this is a story peopled by achingly real characters, memorably related in delicate, ornate prose, and throbbing with loss. Death comes to claim us all, it seems to say, so enjoy the transient glory of life while you can." - The Independent (UK)

"Four characters are tethered to the past in this flaccid memory piece, the fifth work of fiction from the Australian Jones" - Kirkus Reviews

"A novel that reaches beyond the glittering surface of Sydney to capture the rippling patterns of a wider human history with singular beauty and power." - The Canberra Times (Australia)

"An awkward start blossoms into a taut novel exploring coincidence." - Sydney Morning Herald

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Author Information

Gail Jones

Gail Jones is the author of the novels Black Mirror, Sixty Lights, Dreams of Speaking, and Sorry. She has been nominated for numerous international awards, including the Man Booker Prize, the Orange Prize, the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, and the Prix Femina Étranger. She is a professor of writing at the University of Western Sydney.

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