Unspeakable Things

Unspeakable Things A wild erotic novel a daring debut from the much admired award winning poet author of Flying Inland A History of Yearning and With Robert Lowell and His Circle Sylvia Plath Anne Sexton Elizabet

  • Title: Unspeakable Things
  • Author: Kathleen Spivack
  • ISBN: 9780385353960
  • Page: 136
  • Format: Hardcover
  • A wild, erotic novel a daring debut from the much admired, award winning poet, author of Flying Inland, A History of Yearning, and With Robert Lowell and His Circle Sylvia Plath, Anne Sexton, Elizabeth Bishop, Stanley Kunitz, and Others A strange, haunting novel about survival and love in all its forms about sexual awakenings and dark secrets about European refugee iA wild, erotic novel a daring debut from the much admired, award winning poet, author of Flying Inland, A History of Yearning, and With Robert Lowell and His Circle Sylvia Plath, Anne Sexton, Elizabeth Bishop, Stanley Kunitz, and Others A strange, haunting novel about survival and love in all its forms about sexual awakenings and dark secrets about European refugee intellectuals who have fled Hitler s armies with their dreams intact and who have come to an elusive new American can do, will do world they cannot seem to find A novel steeped in surreal storytelling and beautiful music that transports its half broken souls and us to another realm of the senses.The setting the early 1940s, New York city of refuge, city of hope, with the specter of a red hot Europe at war.At the novel s center Anna known as the Rat , an exotic Hungarian countess with the face of an angel, beautiful eyes, and a seraphic smile, with a passionate intelligence, an exquisite ugliness, and the power to enchant Her second cousin Herbert, a former minor Austrian civil servant who believes in Esperanto and the international rights of man, wheeling and dealing in New York, powerful in the social sphere yet under the thumb of his wife, Adeline Michael, their missing homosexual son Felix, a German pediatrician who dabbles in genetic engineering, practicing from his Upper East Side office with his little dachshund, Schatzie, by his side The Tolstoi String Quartet, four men and their instruments, who for twenty years lived as one, playing the great concert halls of Europe, escaping to New York with their money sewn into the silk linings of their instrument cases .And watching them all Herbert s eight year old granddaughter, Maria, who understands from the furtive fear of her mother, and the huddled penury of their lives, and the sense of being in hiding, even in New York, that life is a test of courage and silence, Maria witnessing the family s strange comings and goings, being regaled at night, when most are asleep, with the intoxicating, thrilling stories of their secret pasts of lives lived in Saint Petersburg of husbands being sent to the front and large, dangerous debts owed to the Tsar of imperial Russia, of late night visits by coach to the palace of the Romanovs to beg for mercy and avoid execution and at the heart of the stories, told through the long nights with no dawn in sight, the strange, electrifying tale of a pact made in desperation with the private adviser to the Tsar and Tsarina the mystic faith healer Grigory Rasputin Russian for debauched one , a pact of companionship between Anna the Rat and the scheming Siberian peasant turned holy man, called the Devil by some, the self proclaimed only true Christ, meeting night after night in Rasputin s apartments, and the spellbinding, unspeakable things done there in the name of penance and pleasure .

    One thought on “Unspeakable Things”

    1. Tears were running down my cheeks very early this novel jaw was frozen openMythological in nature"Unspeakable Things", knocked the wind out of me. I was caught off guard --I had no idea how breathtaking & heartbreaking this novel would feel 'immediately' from the start! "New York. New York, City of Hope. The strident avenues streaked across the city, silver: fiery arrows like long, bright sounds, almost too much for the ear to bear. And still the band played. Louder. More volume. New York, a [...]

    2. 2 1/2 stars. As I read it, my reaction to Unspeakable Things swung wildly between loving the cleverness of some of the writing to feeling that the weirdness was over the top. Based on that, I don’t suppose it will be surprising that it seems impossible for me to describe what Unspeakable Things is about. It’s mostly set in New York City during WWII, focusing on a group of European immigrants escaping the war. There is a very surreal quality to the writing and the story. It’s at times horri [...]

    3. There definitely are unspeakable things in this book and the problem I had was that they were spoken about in such explicit detail . I found it gruesome and offensive in parts, in particular those depicting abhorrent treatment of children. Did things like this really happen? Certainly there were unspeakable things that happened to those trying to escape Hitler as well as those who didn't escape. Of course , they need to be spoken about so we don't forget BUT I think that the effect would have be [...]

    4. Unspeakable things refer to the shattered lives of Holocaust survivors, as well as the harrowing acts that happen to certain refugees and their loved ones living in New York City. Herbert, a Viennese government official, has relocated to NYC and is putting all his money and energy into helping other refugees from the war. His wife, Adeline, a former pianist, lost her mind after their oldest son, a homosexual, was captured by the Nazis and taken to an extermination camp. Their other son, David, i [...]

    5. If ever there were unspeakable things done to humanity, it was during the years of the Holocaust. But does that mean we do not speak of them? And if we do dare to speak of them, what tone should we use?Last year, I read Martin Amis’ audacious Zone of Interest, a book that used the novelist’s art to convey the absurdity and senselessness of the Holocaust. At that time, I noted that the story was about the death of the collective souls of virtually everyone even marginally involved.I might say [...]

    6. Author Kathleen Spivack, in her episodic novel, Unspeakable Things, takes the reader from the dark precipice of the old world during the war-torn 1940s, to the new life which is being created, haltingly and painfully, by the intelligentsia who have escaped to New York. Refugees from Europe, they attempt to continue their lives in New York City. It is a moment in time which is suspended. There is little direction. Memories hold as much import and reality as actions for the family to whom the read [...]

    7. I received an advanced review copy from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.*Unspeakable Things* is a WW2 novel set in New York City. There is literally a ton of unspeakable things that happen to children and adults in this book, so much so, that I couldn't finish. The writing was brilliant, but the subject was a bit too much for me.

    8. Charming characters, detailed description of scenes, gentle pace of events, strangely mysterious and rich concepts, all in all an enchanting read

    9. Thanks Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group and netgalley for this ARC.I've read a few negative reviews of this book, and i think those people are missing the point. This is meant to be whimsy and funny while making us cry and laugh. Kathleen Spivack hits all the right notes on a hard subject to write and read about.

    10. Sometimes the title of a book is a review in itself. There are many unspeakable things in this book that I sincerely hope I never have to think about again. At the top of the list – - the use of the word aureole“Once again, an aureole of light seemed to life him by his meager hair….”“And Maria’s grandfather, his white hair an aureole about his head…”“…her gray hair in a tousled aureole, staring at nothing.”“His penis flared; a shining aureole surrounded it.”“…bushy [...]

    11. I love historical fiction, I love subtle magic, I love family history-- this novel had all of that-- except it was strange. Unspeakably strange. I only finished it because I had a morbid fascination for the characters. I cringed, phalanges curled, I rolled my eyes at the word aureole, I bit my lip as I tried to finish this novel. Some people will like this-- the writing was lovely when referring to the settings and emotions-- about New York, about home, about passion; but overall it wasn't enoug [...]

    12. I saw this book likened to All the Light We Cannot See on a book blog somewhere, so I had to give it a try. Honestly, I'm not sure why I stuck with it to the end. The title is at least appropriate, many of the characters in this book are guilty of Unspeakable Things and that's about the most I can say for it. That, and sometimes there's a pretty turn of phrase. But I found this appalling, and it's not often I feel that way. I'm not a very sensitive person, so it takes a lot to get under my skin [...]

    13. I am still composing review in my head--a lot to digestd I am back, six months later to finish.I gave this book 3 stars because the writing was quite good, but, always a but, some elements of the book were really weird. I am a pretty open reader, and understand magical realism, sometimes enjoy it. I could handle the pedophilic doctor with fingers in jars who planned to reconstitute the musicians, weird, but novel. I liked the characters. I liked the themes, I liked the setting. Except the Rasput [...]

    14. At this point in my life I've read so much Holocaust fiction that I feel a book needs to do something completely different in order to catch my attention. In this regard Unspeakable Things is revolutionary. There is a strong mix of magical realism and horror throughout and the subject matter is often unsettling but I thoroughly enjoyed it. I loved how Kathleen Spivack captured the plight of the refugees from the doom and gloom of Nazi-occupied Europe to the "clean and new" United States. The Tol [...]

    15. Excellent excellent writer with a tremendous gift for describing people and events. It is written during Nazi horrors about people who left Vienna and about world of music. She can develop the most bizarre characters like where do they come from like the Rat or Anna and Felix and the Tolstoi Quartet. Extraordinary experience of reading!

    16. From The Musings of a Starving Author:There is a temptation from the menu entry of Unspeakable Things to want to put it into certain categories, certain specific cuisines. A homefront war novel, perhaps? A coming-of-age historical novel? A Holocaust-themed book? What will this meal actually turn out to be when it gets to the table? Better yet, will it be any good?Before we dig to the bottom of the dish, let’s recite the Starving Review motto:I attempt to rate every book from the perspective of [...]

    17. "But they were to retain their habits of secrecy."Certainly, they never seem to let go of their secrecy. Who can blame them? I spent time thinking about this novel after I finished it, days. I imagine it will be hard on some readers not just for the subject matter , particularly the creepy disgusting Doctor preying on children but for it's original style. It is peculiar, strange happenings abound with these characters but the writing is beautiful. There is a lot of story within, and you cannot d [...]

    18. Unspeakable Things is a haunting tale of the depth of depravity humans are capable of enduring and sustaining within as told through a tale that centers on a group immigrants who fled to NYC in the 1940's from Europe during WWII and the ugly, unspeakable thoughts and acts that define them. They have brought all of the unspeakable things with them, carrying them knowingly and involuntarily into their place of freedom. The irony of this book is essential - speaking so graphically, loudly, and in s [...]

    19. Well, I liked this book a great deal already, maybe even before reaching the first 50 pages, and I felt attached to its setting and characters. It felt certainly very familiar and yet new, and the way it was told was like watching a movie. There is a multitude of characters and stories and they span from north to south, they keep surprising me, but the biggest surprise was the brief encounter between the rat and Rasputin, this made me want to read more about Rasputin as if all these years of hea [...]

    20. This book is not at all what I was expecting, but I loved it. It reminded me of Indian literature, where inanimate things almost take on a life of their own, there are hints of alchemy, magic and the supernatural (Midnight's Children comes to mind). And like a lot of Indian literature I have read, I find it almost impossible to say exactly what the book is about.The characters are interesting, story is intriguing, some scenes are very disturbing, but you have to read on.I don't think you will fe [...]

    21. This was a well written book that I would recommend. It takes place during WWII and chronicles the lives of several immigrants trying to make a life in the US. The characters are well fleshed out and have distinct personalities. I was pulled in to the story quickly. There are a few mini-storylines involved, so the read did get a little confusing at certain parts. It wasn't enough to pull me out by any meansEASE NOTE THAT THIS BOOK INCLUDES SOME SCENES OF CHILD SEXUAL MOLESTATION. ALTHOUGH IT IS [...]

    22. I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.Holocaust literature is admittedly a difficult read, but Unspeakable Things is not only about the Holocaust. It is about redemption and returning to life after difficult experiences. Written whimsically and graphically, one must read through the difficult passages dealing with abusive sex and child molestation and see what Ms. Spivack is really trying to say: that life goes on, although the light may flicker in dark times.

    23. I don't know that I can say anything about this book, except that the writing was so overwrought that I wanted to pluck my eyes out even before the Tolstoi Quartet made its appearance. I have no idea if the magical realism in the book is a euphemism to the actual horror of the Holocaust, I just thought it was a terrible idea. I was glad when I was done with it.

    24. a strange mix of historical wwii and nyc experience with magical happenings a la marquez. some bold metaphors, some gruesome 'things' happening to the defenseless, but very little about the actual nazis, but the unspeakable things people can/will/would do to ones that might be just a little bit less powerful. has very nice passages about the ny public library. a unique story in wwii topics.

    25. Lots of problems with this one. First off, the writing is sloppy. There is a scene early on when we hear a “series of squeaks” coming from a “small dusty bundle” in a library. It sounds like a bag full of kittens to me until it’s opened. Inside, is a single creature described as a rat – and it talks, and we recognize the voice as a character from earlier in the novel. I read this, jaw agape, pleasantly amazed at this turn of events. However, as the scene continues, the rat must be ca [...]

    26. I could tell from the beginning that I am not part of the intended audience for this book, but my thoughts remain the same. I picked this up because I'm part of a book club, and I honestly wish my friend had chosen something, anything, else instead. Before starting this, I understood it to be a historical fiction with some tragic love issues, which already didn't interest me, but I figured, Maybe it'll surprise me.Oh, was I surprised.First, though, the writing quality, the variance of sentence s [...]

    27. Baroque, Bestial, BrilliantThough not the prime meaning of the title, the Holocaust surely comes into the category of "unspeakable things." Yet it is a subject that must be spoken of, again and again. And when straight words lose their force, you talk of it obliquely, or backwards, or upside down. The horrors are so obscene that they distort language itself, becoming something close to grotesque farce or surreal pornography. It is an approach we have seen quite a lot in the past two decades, for [...]

    28. Book was ok. sounded much more intriguing in the synopsis on dust jacket. "Hungarian countess known as The Rat"& " mystic faith healer Gregori Rasputin"- who made a brief appearance beyond his burned on handprint on the thighs of " the rat". Never read the word "aureole " more in my entire reading life. Would give 2.5 stars.

    29. Characters, victims and courage through the imaginative, if repelling, world trauma of pre-WWII New York and Vienna. “There are no solutions - final or temporary. History is merely hindsight, the important illusion of control”. Timelines are a convergence of places with the smell of anguish and the sight of bodily tremors.

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