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Observatory Mansions


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About the Author

Edward Carey is a playwright. This is his first novel. He lives in London.


Francis Orme calls himself the "attendant of a museum...of significant objects." His museum is his family's former estate, now a large apartment building encompassing a city block, the lives of whose tenants comprise one of the most mystifying arrays of eccentricity, experience, and interaction this side of Oz. Francis himself fits perfectly among them, with his adherence to a code of personal conduct that includes constantly wearing white gloves so that he can curate the collection of useless but beloved articles he has stolen. The mystery surrounding Francis's deceased elder brother, born with a life-curtailing genetic disorder, and its effect on his parents, of whom Francis is now also custodian, forms the core of this novel of love and revelation. This unique work, originally published by playwright Carey in England, is haunting in both setting and story and will fit nicely into the collections of larger libraries.DMargee Smith, Grace A. Dow Memorial Lib., Midland, MI Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

Playwright and freelance illustrator Carey's impressive first novel is so steeped in grotesque oddity, warped values and dysfunction that it makes David Lynch's work seem sunny and salubrious by comparison. Veering only occasionally toward painfully obvious symbolism, Carey's debut is a darkly idiosyncratic, sharply observed study of lonely men and women stranded on the bleakest periphery of conventional human intercourse. Narrator Francis Orme maintains a hidden "museum" comprising solely worthless objects pilfered from unsuspecting friends, relatives and strangers. The scion of a once-wealthy clan, Francis is a reclusive 37-year-old who makes his living impersonating public statuary. He wears spotless white gloves at all times and lives with his elderly, semicomatose parents in an unnamed city in an apartment complex called Observatory Mansions, housed in what was once the Orme family mansion. Francis's fellow tenants are hardly less eccentric. There's Peter Bugg, a retired pedagogue who can't seem to stop crying or perspiring; Claire Higg, a dowdy dowager with an all-consuming penchant for soap operas; and Twenty (so called because she lives in flat number 20), a bedraggled migr from an unspecified nation who believes that she's a dog. The inhabitants of Observatory Mansions may not be the happiest of people, but they've come to feel secure in their unflagging misery and in their rigid adherence to mindless routine. Secure, that is, until the arrival of Anna Tap, a feisty, fiercely optimistic new tenant who challenges their ossified notions of self, community and social interaction. Carey's precise, deadpan prose is a delight, effectively filtering the story's bizarre twists through his protagonist's equally oddball sensibilities. Francis Orme emerges as a memorable, even winningly demented narrator. His slow progression from alienation and anomie toward a more functional, openhearted worldview makes for an absorbing, unconventional, seriocomic odyssey. (Feb.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.

"A sublime take on the Gothic horror novel, an endearing love story...and a triumphant argument for how brilliant the novel can still be."-Detroit Free Press

"Readers who complain there's no originality left in the world should visit Observatory Mansions."-USA Today

"A funny, sad, and provocative novel."-The Washington Post Book World

"Observatory Mansions is a strange and beautiful book. . . . That this is a first novel is a wonder." -The Memphis Flyer

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