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Jerusalem

Narrated by: Simon Vance
Length: 60 hrs and 43 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (217 ratings)
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Summary

In the half a square mile of decay and demolition that was England's Saxon capital, eternity is loitering between the firetrap tower blocks. Embedded in the grubby amber of the district's narrative, among its saints, kings, prostitutes and derelicts, a different kind of human time is happening.

Through the labyrinthine streets and minutes of Jerusalem tread ghosts that sing of wealth and poverty, of Africa, hymns and our threadbare millennium.

©2016 Alan Moore (P)2016 Recorded Books Inc

Critic reviews

"Fierce in its imagining and stupefying in its scope, Jerusalem is the tale of everything, told from a vanished gutter." ( Down the Tubes)
Praise for the author: "His sci-fi detective masterpiece Watchmen made him (Alan Moore) the comic industry's de facto leader back in 1986." ( The Guardian)

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Stunning, Flawed, Fantastic and Poetic. And a bit long.

Amazing book and very well narrated. The 'flaws' in the book are, I think, a result of the experiment of writing a 60 hour novel. There is repetition. There is possibly some variation in quality. There's an entire chapter convincingly written and read in a made up, Lucy-Lips creole. But the poetic descriptive passages, the scope and scale of the enterprise, and the love, so evidently held by the author for his setting, completely outweigh any minor gripes.

This is a love story whose central character is a town. The author mourns his town and rages against the abuses that have been made against it and, chip firmly and justifiably on shoulder, against its historic and continual maltreatment by authority.

At times you could be listening to James Joyce, at other times Neil Gaiman. At all times, the images conjured by the writing and telling, are what remain in the memory.

Get this audiobook, stick with it, and I think it will be one of your most memorable journeys with Audible. For me, I am going visit Northampton and walk its streets, visit its churches and drink in some pubs while keeping an eye on the corners and angles.

20 of 20 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Not for the faint hearted but an amazing book.

Ever thought the world needed an English hybridisation of 100 Years of Solitude, War and Peace, and Finnegan's Wake? Alan Moore obviously thought it did.

He was right.

I loved it but I'm sure there will be people who hate it for its length, its style of writing which is "Patrick Leigh Fermor does magic realism" and its sometimes OTT sexual content.

Simon Vance deserves an Oscar for the Finnegan's Wake section alone but his narrating of the rest of the book is excellent.

As for Moore's main theme of Eternalism, I think he breaks his own rules quite a few times in the telling of this story. But even these logical flaws in the narrative get you thinking about the big idea of predestination, so they still serve a purpose.

I loved the compassion and sense of understanding with which even the worst of the story's characters are handled and the way in which you feel as though you really know the Boroughs by the end of the story.

12 of 12 people found this review helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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A rough diamond

I write this review partly to help myself process this book, and partly because when I was wondering about giving it a go or not all that time ago, I found reviews a little unhelpful in letting me understand what exact this book is. Everyone seems to say some variant of:

"It's just about EVERYTHING!"

And then says little else, leaving various open questions. For me, these were things like:

1. I really liked "From Hell", by Alan Moore, would I like this?
2. I get that this contains characters and stories from all over time, but is there any actual overall story?
3. Just how much of an avant garde nightmare is this?

So, to begin with, allow me to try my best to explain the book in those sorts of terms! There might be some things considered a little spoiler-ish, so be warned...

Looking at the contents of Jerusalem from the most far-back conceptual point, this is a book where Alan Moore presents his own model of life, death, the afterlife, and how these all fit with each other. Whereas other authors often do similar things in openly showing blurred lines between life and death (for example Neil Gaiman's version of it all in Sandman or American Gods), they typically get to a point where they leave the real nitty gritty details to artistic licence and write logical inconveniences of their own making off with some flowery thoughts. Not Alan Moore. His version of this is almost mathematical in its precision, and I'll admit I got a real sense of satisfaction from being slowly guided through this very well constructed idea of what life is and how it operates on a metaphysical level. This isn't to say that there's nothing at all left to the imagination, but Moore goes above and beyond in fleshing out his imagination here, while also holding together an impressive amount of internal logic.

Moore presents this idea by focusing on a number of individual characters and stories, all of which take place in (or have a strong connection to) his hometown of Northampton. Many of these are entirely fictional while others are real, historical people. The stories take place across centuries of history (including some allusions to the future also), and often take a neat chapter each before moving on to another person in another time. Some of these are seemingly unremarkable on first reading, such as a comedic actor in the early 1900's who comes across a young mother with a baby who he is struck by the beauty of. Others are quite extraordinary, such as examining the life of ghosts who prowl the streets of Northampton in a grey, sound-dulled limbo. It is this hodgepodge style of story telling where Moore clearly enjoys himself, using different settings and personalities as an excuse to write in all sorts of styles from classic Moore, to archaic English, to a story laid out like a script for a stage play, to one chapter written in the every-line-is-a-pun style of Finnegans Wake. He similarly uses this rich roster of characters to explore every concept a writer might want to provide commentary on, from class warfare to the value of art in society. On a technical level, I can see merit in people arguing this is a masterpiece.

As one moves from chapter to chapter, you start to see little connecting threads bringing these seemingly separate lives and tales together, suggesting an underlying tapestry of experience and life expressed as something more spatial. Moore builds up his overall model of existence in this way, by drip feeding supernatural details which make little sense at first, before going all out on showing how the cogs all work in the middle third of the book.

The thing that's closest to a conventional, linear story within the book details the family history of the "Vernals". An early (and memorable) chapter shows an ancestor of this family who went insane as he tended to a fresco on a cathedral ceiling, seeing the painted angel turn to him and lecture him on metaphysics for two hours while a storm rages outside. As Jerusalem progresses, we are treated to nearly a complete Vernal family tree and see how this "insanity" runs down the generations to the present day with brother and sister Mick and Alma Warren (the latter of whom is a stand-in for Moore himself). These are arguably the most prominent characters in the book. Both middle aged in the present day, Mick has led a mostly sane life until a recent near-death experience left him feeling as though he were losing it as he begins to jabber about things like eating fairy's up in the ceilings. Alma, an artist who is questionably unstable already, is inspired by Mick's experience and sets about creating a exhibition based on it. Much of the book and its stories in some way lead up to the opening day of this exhibition, and the exhibition itself (a representation of the book Jerusalem, within the book) does serve as an appropriate story and thematic climax.

So... is it any good?

I'm reminded about a line in the British TV show The Thick of It, where one MP compares the extreme personality flips of spin doctor Jamie McDonald to a man saying "I love you! F*ck off!".

There's no denying the creativity that Moore has, and getting all this down on paper is a real achievement. But the execution varies from clean, to messy, to frankly laborious. It succeeds in being eerie, mysterious and deeply thought provoking, but in equal measure it is over-long and thematically repetitive to a phenomenal degree. Many of these notions are ideas are fascinating on first showing, but by the end we've been treated to the idea of time as a spatial dimension ten times too often. The constant switch in writing styles also inevitably leads to differences in enjoyment due to personal taste. The aforementioned middle third of the book, which offers full explanation as to the afterlife and its interactions with life, is presented in a style of a Famous Five-style children's adventure. I can understand the motivation in doing this, but for me the execution of this fell flat as it's just not a form of storytelling I find myself enjoying. This also left the full reveal feeling flat for me, in much the same way that a poorly-made monster is better left to the imagination when watching a horror film.

There's a real core of genius here, but it needs some serious chipping off of the unshapely bits of the story to help it shine. I'm very happy to have "read" this book (btw, Simon Vance = fantastic), but I also feel somewhat freed now that it's finished.

"I love you! F*ck off!" sums up my feelings about Jerusalem perfectly.

8 of 8 people found this review helpful

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modern literature at its best

I can't sing the praises of this book high enough. An incredible telling of history of the average person from an under privelaged area. Phenomenal story telling from both author and narrator. Loved all 60 odd hours of it. Will definitely read again.

8 of 8 people found this review helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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It is possible to over egg the pudding

I was full of hope for this book after reading the reviews. However, the frequency of epic similes which puts people like John Milton in the shade and the similarity to the poetry of Dylan Thomas undermines its promise. Similes can be useful, but when half the dialogue is composed of them they quickly pale. I like similes and use them, but hopefully with restraint.
For example, A man never walks down the street. He walks on hard hearted, sometimes heavily hallowed stones of a defiant paving made from the very stone that Julius Caesar walked upon and silurian fishes swam amongst in their eternal search for the evolution through time which would result in the father of Tom placing him on this exact spot at this precise time in order to proceed in the direction to which he was headed.
This is obviously not an extract, but hopefully gives an idea of the style. Such styles can be useful, but when they make up the bulk of the writing it marks the difference between a spoonful of honey, and a bucketful. After listening for the first 12 hours i felt exhausted and ready to throw in the towel.
Possibly this is a book to be taken in small quantities, over a few months or so. Otherwise, like a rich meal of indefinite courses, it rapidly becomes indigestible.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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Amazingly detailed, but personal.

I was impressed by the sheer length of this story, at 60 hours of listening time. However, every moment of it was intriguing and engaging. It kept me listening through every part of it's many storylines, each as fascinating as the last.
My family come from Northampton, but I grew up elsewhere, so this was an interesting look at an area that I had little personal knowledge of. It builds up a picture of both the history of Northampton and the individual people who have populated it.
Now I have finished, I'm tempted to start again.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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What a book, but it's so much more!

This is a real effort from an author to put down a vision we can relate to. It's based in reality, though where you'd find it is a different matter! It might seem a long book when you see 60 hours but it does fly by and keep you gripped (the semi-German bit was slightly less easy to follow than is have liked).

Try it, you won't be disappointed.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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just WOW

you MUST read/listen to this book

awesome,in depth, scary long and AMAZING

I love the story ,the ay it is written and oddly the subject matter of a town I have never been to

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Absolutely bonkers

Wasn't sure but absolutely fabulous book, completely bonkers but absolutely worth a listen. Space opera scope but based in Northampton !!

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Amazing

Quite possibly the most astonishing book I've ever had the pleasure to know. Massive in both length and scope, 60 hours of listening flew by.

Simon Vance's narration is a tour de force.

I cannot recommend this production highly enough.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful