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the Complete Review
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The Sopranos

Alan Warner

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To purchase The Sopranos

Title: The Sopranos
Author: Alan Warner
Genre: Novel
Written: 1998
Length: 324 pages
Availability: The Sopranos - US
The Sopranos - UK
The Sopranos - Canada
Les sopranos - France
Die Soprane - Deutschland

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Our Assessment:

B : quick-paced, decent portrait of teenage life in Scotland.

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Daily Telegraph B 13/6/1998 Emily Hohler
The LA Times B+ 2/4/1999 Jonathan Levi
Neue Zürcher Zeitung B 27/3/2001 Bruno von Lutz
New Statesman . 7/8/1998 Keith Martin
The NY Times Book Rev. B 4/4/1999 Charles Taylor
Salon A 9/4/1999 Stephanie Zacharek
The Sunday Times A 7/6/1998 Phil Baker
The Times A- 23/7/1998 Mary Loudon
VLS B 13/4/1999 Joshua Clover
The Washington Post B+ 5/30/1999 Simon Reynolds

  Review Consensus:

  Fairly enthusiastic, especially about the writing and how well he captures the girls' lives.

  From the Reviews:
  • "Flashes of masterly writing and a real sense of poignancy save this book from being merely a rollicking but slightly grubby read." - Emily Hohler, Daily Telegraph

  • "(L)ittle we haven't heard or seen before. Yet The Sopranos is indismissable--Warner's writing is so wittily, maddeningly good." - Jonathan Levi, The Los Angeles Times

  • "So scheint die erzählerische Perspektive oft von Voyeurismus geprägt, auch wenn sie vorgibt, die Perspektive der Mädchen wiederzugeben. Die Trennung von Erzähler und Figuren findet dann aber doch statt, und zwar in den vereinzelten sprachlichen Meisterleistungen, atmosphärischen Vignetten, Metaphernreihungen und umwerfend komischen, gelegentlich auch erschütternden Situationsbeschreibungen. In diesen Situationen ist der Roman anrührend und geradezu pathetisch, in anderen kann er sich kaum über Plattheiten erheben." - Bruno von Lutz, Neue Zürcher Zeitung

  • "The most likable thing about Alan Warner is that he's on the side of these girls. It's refreshing to read a novel loaded down with teen-age drinking, smoking, swearing and the urge for sex (more than sex itself) and be spared the moralizing that usually goes along with these activities." - Charles Taylor, The New York Times Book Review

  • "(W)hat's most remarkable about The Sopranos is the way Warner teases fully formed characters out of a whirlwind of chatter, flirtations and confessions of fears and longings. Each of the girls emerges as something more than a sketch." - Stephanie Zacharek, Salon

  • "Initially, I had reservations about its strength as a novel rather than as a piece of social observation - of the most entertaining kind - but its slight flabbiness can be forgiven in favour of its penetrating gaze upon its subjects." - Mary Loudon, The Times

  • "Less ambitiously weird than in his earlier works, Warner's prose has grown to heights of formal attention, freighting exposition with eloquence while dropping dazzlers as colloquialisms." - Joshua Clover, VLS

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       The Sopranos centers around a group of Scottish Catholic schoolgirls, off to the big city to compete in a choir competition. A few of the students (from the Our Lady of Perpetual Succour School for Girls) see the short time in the big city as an opportunity of escape from their bleak, backwater lives. Not that they don't drink, flirt, occasionally have sex back home -- in fact, they're eager to get back, and head to the local disco, which they figure will be full of sailors from a submarine that docked offshore.
       Still, there is some opportunity for adventure in the big city, a larger freedom from their usual lives. Not much interested in the choir competition they stray around town, eating, drinking, shopping. The book only covers a twenty four hour period, a snapshot of the girls' lives, leaving the consequences of their actions fairly (but not absolutely) clear: they are still teens and life proceeds, much of the time, day to day, filled with dreams, the dark shadow of what their futures hold an omnipresent spectre but not yet blackening everything out. The inevitable excesses lead to the inevitable outcome; needless to say, they do not fare well at the choir competition -- and that is, of course, the least of their worries.
       One of the girls is pregnant, another seems to have recovered from Hodgkin's disease (and is considered the school's little miracle). Though there lives are without great hope, there is still a certain cheer and rambunctiousness to these lasses, and Warner makes them believable (if not always likeable) characters.
       Warner lets them cavort through the big city, and then in the disco back home, adolescent stumbling and experimentation (with alcohol and sex). With a good ear for pop culture and teenage girls' concerns Warner's dialogue rings fairly true -- though much of it is mundane and trite. Still, the book (heavy on dialogue) moves quickly through the various (mis)adventures, entertaining to varying degrees. A few of the episodes (including one girl's story about trying to make love to a fellow patient in hospital) are a bit rich, but generally Warner strings together a decent tale.
       There's some fun here, and a little depth (though Warner tries too much with his terminally ill character). Certainly the one-day timeframe help keep the book on keel -- any more of these girls' stories and it would probably have become hopelessly maudlin. As is, this twenty-four hour sliver of their lives offers fair entertainment. Quite well written, it is a decent read.

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Reviews: Alan Warner: Other books by Alan Warner under review: Other books of interest under review:
  • See Index of Contemporary British fiction

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About the Author:

       Scottish writer Alan Warner was born in 1964. He attended Glasgow University and his written several novels.

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