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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

The Everlasting Story of Nory

Nicholson Baker

general information | review summaries | our review | links | about the author

To purchase The Everlasting Story of Nory

Title: The Everlasting Story of Nory
Author: Nicholson Baker
Genre: Novel
Written: 1998
Length: 226 pages
Availability: The Everlasting Story of Nory - US
The Everlasting Story of Nory - UK
The Everlasting Story of Nory - Canada
Nory au pays des Anglais - France
Norys Storys - Deutschland

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Our Assessment:

C : too cute for its own good, and Baker's occasionally inspired touches are too little to redeem this fairly pointless book

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Boston Globe C 30/4/1998 Bill Marx
Booklist A 17/3/1998 Donna Seaman
Christian Sci. Monitor A 25/6/1998 Ron Charles
Daily Telegraph B- 30/5/1998 Maggie Gee
Esquire B 6/1998 Michael Rovner
The Guardian D- 9/5/1998 Natasha Walter
The Independent B- 17/5/1998 Alain de Botton
Newsday C+ 10/5/1998 Richard Eder
New York C 18/5/1998 Alexandra Lange
The NY Times Book Rev. B 17/5/1998 Robert McCrum
The NY Times C- 2/6/1998 Michiko Kakutani
Rev. of Contemp. Fiction B+ Fall/1998 Eric Loberer
Salmagundi B Winter/Spring/1999 Chris Miller
Salon B 8/5/1998 Charles Taylor
San Francisco Chronicle A 26/4/1998 Michael Upchurch
The Spectator D 13/6/1998 Caroline Moore
Time B 11/5/1998 R.Z.Sheppard
TLS . 8/5/1998 Tom Shippey
USA Today A- 4/6/1998 Susan Cheever
Wall Street Journal B+ 1/5/1998 Bill Christophersen
Washington Post A 31/5/1998 John Crowley

  Review Consensus:

  Surprisingly divergent views, with some confused souls enchanted by it, while others find it horrible.

  From the Reviews:
  • "(L)ikely to become a classic book for adults about childhood." - Ron Charles, Christian Science Monitor

  • "(R)eaders who are not relatives will wish [Baker] had edited and focused the book more stringently" - Maggie Gee, Daily Telegraph

  • "If Nory's life was just played straight, as the narrator's life in The Mezzanine was, this would just be a dull book. But there is a veneer of cutesiness that makes it almost unreadable." - Natasha Walter, The Guardian

  • "(A) dull, dull book." - Alexandra Lange, New York

  • "(A) thin, highly predictable narrative about a schoolgirl's banal -- and uneventful -- life." - Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times

  • "As it stands, [Nory] is Baker's most autonomous character to date, and people who read to enlargen their circle of imaginary friends will probably like this novel better than his other four." - Chris Miller, Salmagundi

  • "(D)isgustingly, toe-curlingly twee" - Caroline Moore, The Spectator

  • "But, on the whole, I think Baker is carrying out an exercise alien to either Dahl or Vonnegut: an exercise in schmaltz. (...) The Everlasting Story of Nory is a tour de force, kept up with astonishing verve, stamina and persistence, but I'm afraid I preferred the phone-sex dialogue." - Tom Shippey, Times Literary Supplement

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:

       Mr.Baker's novel recounts the life of Eleanor (Nory), an American girl who is spending a year in Europe with her family -- mirroring in many respects part of Baker's (or rather his daughter Alice's) life. Well, he never claimed to be particularly original. It is a nice enough idea, and Baker has some of the literary skills that we might believe he can assume the narrative voice of a nine year old. Regrettably, he lets us down.
       What charm the book has does come from Baker's occasionally capable use of language in imitation of how a child such as his heroine (or daughter) might speak and think and act. There is some clever invention here, and some of the comparisons between England and the US are witty, but there is little plot that might interest anyone over the age of his heroine and the writing is not good enough to sustain the book as a whole.
       Baker is an interesting writer -- almost worthwhile, but he almost invariably falls short, as he again, perhaps more emphatically than usual, does here. We enjoyed his book U and I and some of his essays, but this is not a must read -- indeed, it is a book that should disappear from the scene rather quickly.

       We do admit that we were very impressed by the publicity this book received (see also the many reviews it occasioned), considerably out of proportion to its merits, but that is the way it goes.

       Finally, one more reaction to the book:

There once was a lass nicknamed Nory
For whom her Papa wrote this story.
It's really a mess
And its only success
Is that it really managed to bore me.

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The Everlasting Story of Nory: Reviews: Nicholson Baker: Other books by Nicholson Baker under review: Other books of interest under review:
  • Amélie Nothomb's Loving Sabotage, a much better look at childhood
  • See also the Index of Contemporary American fiction at the complete review

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About the Author:

       American author Nicholson Baker was born in 1957. He attended the Eastman School of Music and Haverford College and has written a number of novels (including Vox (1992) and The Fermata (1994)) and some non-fiction (including the account of his obsession with author John Updike, U and I (1991)).

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