Paradise

coverparadiseHannah Luckraft knows the taste of paradise. It’s hidden in the peace of open country, it’s sweet on her lover’s skin, it flavours every drink she’s ever taken, but it never seems to stay.

Almost forty and with nothing to show for it, even Hannah is starting to notice that her lifestyle is not entirely sustainable: her subconscious is turning against her and it may be that her soul is a little unwell. Her family is wounded, her friends are frankly odd, her body is not as reliable as it once was. Robert, an equally dissolute dentist, appears to offer a love she can understand, but he may only be one more symptom of the problem she must cure.

From the North East of Scotland to Dublin, from London to Montreal, to Budapest and onwards, Hannah travels beyond her limits, beyond herself, in search of the ultimate altered state – the one where she can be happy, her paradise.

Incapable of writing a dull sentence, or failing to balance the grim with the hilarious, the tender with the grisly, A.L. Kennedy has written an emotional and visceral tour-de-force. A compelling examination of failure that is also a comic triumph, a novel of dark extremes that is full of the most ravishing lyrical beauty, Paradise is the finest book yet by one of Britain’s most extraordinarily gifted writers.

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Reviews

Good:

” Her sentences have a habit of sending one back to the everyday reality one inhabits, to touch everything in it, to savour it, because she has altered its landscape and created it anew.”
Neel Mukherjee “The Observer”

“This is an unflinching book, elevated by the sublime quality of Kennedy’s writing. Lacerating comedy is pitted against passages of sheer beauty: a surreal train journey with a grotesque cast of characters, utter pathos, as Hannah, bereft and suffering from amnesia, fancies her lost lover transformed into a swan.”
Catherine Taylor “Independent on Sunday”

“Kennedy remains one of the most linguistically inventive and captivating British writers of the age, and Hannah owns a kind of regal, dark humour that elevates her above her own ruin.”
Stephanie Merritt “The Observer”

“As topics, drinking and drunkenness are a literary staple, done to death by so many (mostly male) writers that they have become almost banal. Kennedy’s prose, while sounding the commonplace morass of the drinker beyond redemption, is the opposite of banal. It is rich and precise and dense in its heady sensuality. Like the drams that fuel the protagonist, it is fiery and refreshing at once.”
Angel Gurria Quintana FT Magazine

“Hannah’s monologue is dangerously entertaining, a maudlin stand-up routine.
Ali Smith “The Guardian”

“The other key factor is Kennedy’s technical prowess. Her sentences, heavy with Hannah’s emotional baggage and physical wear, feel almost weightless, as though the words were a ghostly acoustic aspiring to breath.”
Tom Adair “The Scotsman”

Bad:

“Paradise is ultimately unfulfilling, too clever for its own good and leaving [sic] many of the questions it poses about its hedonistic anti-heroine unanswered.”
Nick Parker “Eastern Daily Press”

AALK: There was a sad lack of bad review for this book, so the one bad review is quoted at length – cue the sound of critic unwilling to revise theories on author’s work…

” …when Hannah reflects on her childhood taste for werewolves, do we really need her then to ask “How could I not be drawn to such golden hearted monsters[…] whose mornings are groggy and naked and sour-mouthed” when anyone with a nodding acquaintance with men, alcohol, and/or Angela Carter would probably have made the connection between lycanthropic and alcoholic metamorphoses anyway?”
Bharat Tandon “Times Literary Supplement”

ALK: An amateur psychologist would have a field day with that one…

p>”…felicities are not wholly absent in Paradise; tere is still the unsettling carnality of the writing (the role played by touch, taste and smell in those desires we then put into words), and Hannah’s thoughts on the vocation of alcoholism often convey well the addictive swoon of being truly off one’s face; but these are rarely allowed to speak for themselves.”
Bharat Tandon “Times Literary Supplement” again

“… her writing feels at once cluttered and becalmed.”
Bharat Tandon “Times Literary Supplement” again

ALK: (Accompanied by amusing drawing of the author looking pissed.)

Odd:

“She is in no way a lovely stylist – her sentences are often awkward, her metaphors frequently forced – nor is her prose rigorously precise. Nevertheless, by the curious alchemy of creation, Kennedy’s fictions swell to inhabit the imagination, and her characters genuinely live.”
Claire Messud “The Daily Telegraph”

ALK: So, even though I can’t write, I
can write. Right ?

” we find it is Hannah Luckraft, a name most probably purloined during one of Kennedy’s graveyard forays…”
Tom Adair “The Scotsman”

“On a plane, Hannah glimpses on her neighbour’s TV screen a headline about the war…”
Stephanie Merritt “The Observer”

ALK: Actually, the news comes from two different newspapers – “…the headline on his lap distracts you…” “….your neighbour hands over her paper…”

“ And humour is one of the heaviest weapons the hyper-confident Scots writer A.L.Kennedy brings to this narrative.”
Eileen Battersby “The Irish Times”

ALK: I wish… Actually, no I don’t wish. I don’t even know what hyper-confident would imply.

Best Catchphrase:

“IN THE ARMS OF A DRUNKEN DENTIST”

ALK: Thanks to Claire Messud and the Daily Telegraph for splendidly surreal summary of salient points.