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Reviews of The Pages by Hugo Hamilton

The Pages

A novel

by Hugo Hamilton

The Pages by Hugo Hamilton X
The Pages by Hugo Hamilton
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  • Published:
    Feb 2022, 272 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Amanda Ellison
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About this Book

Book Summary

An entirely original novel in which a book - Joseph Roth's masterpiece Rebellion - narrates its own astonishing life story, from 1930s Germany to the present day, at the heart of a gripping mystery.

One old copy of the novel Rebellion sits in Lena Knecht's tote bag, about to accompany her on a journey from New York to Berlin in search of a clue to the hand-drawn map on its last page. It is the brilliantly captivating voice of this novel—a first edition nearly burned by Nazis in May 1933—that is our narrator.

Fast-paced and tightly plotted, The Pages brings together a multitude of dazzling characters, real and invented, in a sweeping story of survival, chance, and the joys and struggles of love. At its center are Roth, an Austrian Jewish author on the run, and his wife, Friederike, who falls victim to mental illness as Europe descends into war. With vivid evocations of Germany under Nazism and today, The Pages dramatically illuminates the connections between past and present as it looks at censorship, oppression, and violence. Here is a propulsive, inspiring tale of literature over a hundred years: a novel for book lovers everywhere that will bring a fresh audience to this acclaimed writer.

Chapter | 1 |

Here I am, stored inside a piece of hand luggage, being carried through the departure lounge at JFK airport. The owner of the bag is a young woman by the name of Lena Knecht. She is getting on a flight to Europe. Bringing me home, so to speak. Back to Berlin, the city in which I was written. Where I was first printed by a small publishing house almost a hundred years ago, in 1924. Where I was rescued from the fire on the night of the book burning in May 1933. The city from which my author fled the day Hitler came to power.

My homeless author. My restless, refugee, itinerant, stateless writer on the run. Living out of a suitcase. Fleeing for his life.

His name—Joseph Roth.

The title—Rebellion.

I was born—

I came to life—between the wars. During the Weimar Republic—what they call the waiting room between the First World War and the Second World War. Between what was first thought to be the fields of honor and later became the fields of ...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

What is striking about The Pages is the interweaving of four different stories: that of Rebellion itself, and its experiences and observations since that fateful night in Berlin's Opera Square; the experiences of Joseph Roth, author of the salvaged novel; the story of a barrel-organ player, the protagonist of Rebellion; and the life of Lena — her relationships, her history, her close attachment to the book and her quest for answers. These four strands could easily result in confusion; instead, they create a fluidity and connectedness that is central to the overarching story, with Hamilton seamlessly orbiting their four respective worlds...continued

Full Review Members Only (654 words).

(Reviewed by Amanda Ellison).

Media Reviews

Minneapolis Star-Tribune
Formally daring, richly rewarding ... This multifaceted novel about belonging, oppression and the enduring power of storytelling is brilliantly ingenious and utterly absorbing.

Colm Tóibín, The Guardian (UK)
Ingenious and engaging...The book as narrator lives in the real world, aware that its own survival and that of its kind cannot be taken for granted. Like the hero of The Tin Drum or The Good Soldier Schweik, it is a figure of complex and unholy innocence trying to make sense of an encroaching darkness. The idea of story in The Pages is multi-layered and fabulously unstable ... Marvellous.

Financial Times (UK)
Although ideas of memory, legacy and repetition — the indelible imprints of history — fill The Pages, it moves with a fast and fluid gait...With The Pages, as with Roth himself, fable rather than reportage gains the upper hand. It reminds us that, even in an age when people 'live in a rush to forget' (Roth's words), we must read the book of the past in order to understand the present.

Booklist (starred review)
Irish writer Hamilton performs a provocative feat...By astutely meshing a suspenseful quest, a sharply relevant homage to Roth, and intricate stories of persecution, exile, war, censorship, love, and anguish, Hamilton has created a tale of deep resonance.

Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
Hamilton's artful story teems with subplots...The novel neatly balances these realistic storylines with fanciful images described in Rebellion's distinctive, appealing voice...A haunting story that provides a welcome reminder of the enduring lives of books.

Author Blurb Colum McCann, best-selling author of Apeirogon
A powerful, powerful piece of work. A wounded book making its own book. It brings so much to life—Joseph Roth, Chechnya, Germany, the art of writing, the whole notion of banning books, the lips of the past speaking to the present.

Author Blurb Tessa Hadley
Brilliant. It's a lovely, rich, strange book, very truthful and moving, with a beautiful ending.

Reader Reviews

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Beyond the Book

Book Burning and Censorship

Anti-Nazi rally in New York City on May 10, 1933 Hugo Hamilton's The Pages is narrated by a book that survived the Nazi regime's ceremonial book burning in wartime Berlin. Censorship of books has been a recurring issue throughout history, which suggests the power and influence of the written word and poses questions surrounding the motivation and fears of the censors.

The book burning alluded to in The Pages was part of a Nazi campaign against any publication deemed subversive; the aim was to align all German arts and culture with Nazi ideology (Gleichschaltung). On the cool and drizzly night of May 10, 1933, the Nazi Party's Minister of Propaganda and Public Enlightenment, Dr. Joseph Goebbels, stood on a flag-draped rostrum in Berlin's Opera Square (now renamed Bebelplatz, or "...

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