Summary and book reviews of Utopia Avenue by David Mitchell

Utopia Avenue

by David Mitchell

Utopia Avenue by David Mitchell X
Utopia Avenue by David Mitchell
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  • First Published:
    Jul 2020, 592 pages
    Paperback:
    May 2021, 592 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Kim Kovacs
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About this Book

Book Summary

The long-awaited new novel from the bestselling, prize-winning author of Cloud Atlas and The Bone Clocks.

Utopia Avenue is the strangest British band you've never heard of. Emerging from London's psychedelic scene in 1967, and fronted by folk singer Elf Holloway, blues bassist Dean Moss and guitar virtuoso Jasper de Zoet, Utopia Avenue embarked on a meteoric journey from the seedy clubs of Soho, a TV debut on Top of the Pops, the cusp of chart success, glory in Amsterdam, prison in Rome, and a fateful American sojourn in the Chelsea Hotel, Laurel Canyon, and San Francisco during the autumn of '68.

David Mitchell's kaleidoscopic novel tells the unexpurgated story of Utopia Avenue's turbulent life and times; of fame's Faustian pact and stardom's wobbly ladder; of the families we choose and the ones we don't; of voices in the head, and the truths and lies they whisper; of music, madness, and idealism. Can we really change the world, or does the world change us?

1
Abandon Hope

Dean hurries past the phoenix theatre, dodges a blind man in dark glasses, steps onto Charing Cross Road to overtake a slow-­moving woman and pram, leaps a grimy puddle, and swerves into Denmark Street where he skids on a sheet of black ice. His feet fly up. He's in the air long enough to see the gutter and sky swap places and to think, This'll bloody hurt, before the pavement slams his ribs, kneecap, and ankle. It bloody hurts. Nobody stops to help him up. Bloody London. A bewhiskered stockbroker type in a bowler hat smirks at the long-­haired lout's misfortune and is gone. Dean gets to his feet, gingerly, ignoring the throbs of pain, praying that nothing's broken. Mr. Craxi doesn't do sick pay. His wrists and hands are working, at least. The money. He checks that his bankbook with its precious cargo of ten five-­pound notes is safe in his coat pocket. All's well. He hobbles along. He recognizes Rick "One Take" Wakeman in the window of the Gioconda caf&#...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

Utopia Avenue defies easy categorization. Its time period seems a little too recent to label it "historical fiction," but it has all the hallmarks of a truly outstanding historical fiction novel nonetheless. Everything you'd expect to encounter in a book about the 1960s is present – the drugs, parties, sex, anti-war riots, elevation of rock stars to near godlike status – and yet it's so skillfully portrayed that the setting feels entirely fresh, if not revelatory. The core of the novel is the characters as they grow and change, each learning about who they are and what they want out of life. I can honestly say I can't remember another book where I so completely fell in love with the characters, even though each is flawed (some more than others) and at times behaves unwisely. I was truly saddened on reaching the novel's conclusion, knowing that I'd never again encounter these new friends...continued

Full Review (878 words).

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(Reviewed by Kim Kovacs).

Media Reviews

New York Times
An expert historical novel...Unfortunately, this fine-grained if wide-eyed celebration of the ’60s and its ethos too often curdles into swoony set pieces in which characters are made to speechify about the values of that presumably more authentic, in-touch era...In this new novel more than ever before, the irruptions of the fantastical into the everyday, of one David Mitchell novel’s scenius into another’s, seem like the result of an act of will, even willfulness, rather than the product of an organic necessity.

Washington Post
David Mitchell’s groovy new rock novel belts out the lives of a fictional band in such vivid tones that you may imagine you once heard the group play in the late ’60s...Nobody conveys so well the lived immediacy of fiction, the sense of inhabiting a conversation as it unspools through the complex intersection of spoken words, silent thoughts and inchoate feelings.

The Guardian
The reader is impelled from the first by a kind of rushing, gleeful energy...The novel’s prose is for the most part consciously easeful and frictionless: it is a supremely readable novel, if the quality of readability is taken to be one which is difficult to achieve and a relief to encounter. It is enlivened by an attentive eye for the particulars.

Library Journal
Mitchell's sprawling, engrossing look at the psychedelic era is lovingly rendered, though some of the characters' tolerant attitudes toward homosexuality seem anachronistic. His fans will appreciate the Easter eggs and a metaphysical interlude; those who enjoy revisiting the 1960s will groove on the cameos from many celebrities of the time.

Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
[J]ust the thing for pop music fans of a bygone era that's still very much with us. Those whose musical tastes end in the early 1970s—and literary tastes are up to the minute—will especially enjoy Mitchell's yarn.

Publishers Weekly (starred review)
Mitchell's magical, much anticipated latest is a rollicking, rapturous tale of 1960s rock 'n' roll...[he] makes the best use of his familiar elements, from recurring characters to an innovative narrative structure, delivering more fun, more mischief, and more heart than ever before. This is Mitchell at his best.

Booklist (starred review)
Mitchell continues to use the rhythms of surface reality to dig much deeper, but without ever losing the beat.

Reader Reviews

Cloggie Downunder

Another excellent dose of David Mitchell magic.
Utopia Avenue is the seventh novel by award-winning British author, David Mitchell. In early 1967, due to a pickpocket, bass guitarist Dean Moss finds himself, in quick succession, homeless, jobless, almost penniless and still owing the final payment...   Read More
Victoria

For fans of Daisy Jones and the Six
This is a must read for David Mitchell fans, but should have a wider appeal as well. I have only read a few of his books (The Bone Clocks and Slade House) both of which I loved. Familiar characters from prior Mitchell books make appearances, but you ...   Read More
Reid B.

Rock band supernova
I want to go on record as being a David Mitchell fan. I believe that The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet, Black Swan Green, and Cloud Atlas are all brilliant books. So, when I was offered an advance copy of Utopia Avenue, I was thrilled and couldn'...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

Top of the Pops

Top of the Pops LP, 1975 David Mitchell's novel Utopia Avenue centers around a fictional British pop band in the turbulent years of 1967 and 1968. Acts popular in both the United States and Britain included the likes of the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, the Doors, the Jimi Hendrix Experience, the Who, the Supremes, the Byrds, the Kinks, Aretha Franklin… and the list goes on. Many of these stars (as well as the fictional Utopia Avenue) appeared on a BBC TV show called Top of the Pops.

Top of the Pops was the brainchild of its first producer, Johnnie Stewart, who modeled the show after a program airing on Radio Luxembourg called The Teen and Twenty Disc Club. Premiering on New Year's Day in 1964, the weekly show was televised live from the BBC's studio ...

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