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Those Who Knew

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From the award-winning author of Ways to Disappear, a taut, timely novel about what a powerful politician thinks he can get away with and the group of misfits who finally bring him down. On an unnamed island country ten years after the collapse of a U.S.-supported regime, Lena suspects the powerful senator she was involved with back in her student activist days is taking ad From the award-winning author of Ways to Disappear, a taut, timely novel about what a powerful politician thinks he can get away with and the group of misfits who finally bring him down. On an unnamed island country ten years after the collapse of a U.S.-supported regime, Lena suspects the powerful senator she was involved with back in her student activist days is taking advantage of a young woman who's been introducing him at rallies. When the young woman ends up dead, Lena revisits her own fraught history with the senator and the violent incident that ended their relationship. Why didn't Lena speak up then, and will her family's support of the former regime still impact her credibility? What if her hunch about this young woman's death is wrong? What follows is a riveting exploration of the cost of staying silent and the mixed rewards of speaking up in a profoundly divided country. Those Who Knew confirms Novey's place as an essential new voice in American fiction.


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From the award-winning author of Ways to Disappear, a taut, timely novel about what a powerful politician thinks he can get away with and the group of misfits who finally bring him down. On an unnamed island country ten years after the collapse of a U.S.-supported regime, Lena suspects the powerful senator she was involved with back in her student activist days is taking ad From the award-winning author of Ways to Disappear, a taut, timely novel about what a powerful politician thinks he can get away with and the group of misfits who finally bring him down. On an unnamed island country ten years after the collapse of a U.S.-supported regime, Lena suspects the powerful senator she was involved with back in her student activist days is taking advantage of a young woman who's been introducing him at rallies. When the young woman ends up dead, Lena revisits her own fraught history with the senator and the violent incident that ended their relationship. Why didn't Lena speak up then, and will her family's support of the former regime still impact her credibility? What if her hunch about this young woman's death is wrong? What follows is a riveting exploration of the cost of staying silent and the mixed rewards of speaking up in a profoundly divided country. Those Who Knew confirms Novey's place as an essential new voice in American fiction.

30 review for Those Who Knew

  1. 5 out of 5

    Mackey

    Those Who Knew is one of the most timely, on point works of fiction for this era. With the opening pages of Idra Novey’s sophomore novel, Those Who Knew, you will be hooked into the story of politics, intrigue, masculine abuse, secrets and lies.On an unnamed island, exactly one week after the death of a young woman is ruled “accidental,” Lena discovers in her purse a shirt that she is convinced belonged to the young woman, Maria. Her friend, bookshop/weed store owner, Olga tries to convince Lena Those Who Knew is one of the most timely, on point works of fiction for this era. With the opening pages of Idra Novey’s sophomore novel, Those Who Knew, you will be hooked into the story of politics, intrigue, masculine abuse, secrets and lies.On an unnamed island, exactly one week after the death of a young woman is ruled “accidental,” Lena discovers in her purse a shirt that she is convinced belonged to the young woman, Maria. Her friend, bookshop/weed store owner, Olga tries to convince Lena that she only is imagining things. But Lena suspects the girl was pushed in front of the train by an up and coming Senator, Victor, with whom Lena once had a liaison and during which time Victor quite nearly killed Lena in a fit of rage. As the story progresses, we learn more of Victor and the machinations of his rise to power. We meet Victor’s brother, Freddie, a gay playwright, who also suspects Victor. The beginning of the book is filled with twists and turns and intrigue and is told from multiple points of view. One would think that it would get confusing or scrambled, however, the deft writing skills of Novey, smoothly transition from one person to the next, one thought to another beautifully. The latter portion of the book reads differently from the first as the characters examine their past actions, what they have done; what they might have done differently and how those different actions might have affected a different outcome. It is here in which the beauty of the book resonates and the true talent of the author shines. I gladly would read this book multiple times over and again just to have the pleasure of reading the second half with its beautiful prose. Those Who Knew is succinctly written and is, quite quick of a read and yet there is so much power and such a weighty message within so few pages that you will be left wondering how that could and also wanting more. Idra Novey is considered an “up and coming” American writer – I daresay that with Those Who Knew, she has arrived there already! Thank you #Edelweiss, @VikingBooks, and @IdraNovey for my advanced copy of this book. Those Who Knew is available for pre-order now and will be published November 6, 2018.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Paul

    Such a brilliant book of our now. Politics (plus figurative and literal political ghosts) connect (or ensnaring) the lives of an expertly rendered cast of characters. The result is as enraging as it is inspiring. Between this novel and WAYS TO DISAPPEAR, Idra is now one of my favorite contemporary writers.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer Croft

    This is one of the most exhilarating novels I’ve read in ages. It’s an astonishingly perfect mosaic—intricate, gorgeous—on the topic of corruption, which feels both timely and timeless. It forms the most complete picture I’ve ever read of this subject, providing the reader with direct access into the minds of would-be revolutionaries, washed-up revolutionaries, those with good intentions and those without, those who’ve lost their way, sexy egomaniacs, blundering outsiders and many more. It’s a q This is one of the most exhilarating novels I’ve read in ages. It’s an astonishingly perfect mosaic—intricate, gorgeous—on the topic of corruption, which feels both timely and timeless. It forms the most complete picture I’ve ever read of this subject, providing the reader with direct access into the minds of would-be revolutionaries, washed-up revolutionaries, those with good intentions and those without, those who’ve lost their way, sexy egomaniacs, blundering outsiders and many more. It’s a quick read that reverberates long after you put it down. It is BEAUTIFULLY WRITTEN, with the deftness of a playwright, the sensitivity of a translator, the fine touch of a poet and the skill of a born storyteller: “At the sight of Lena emerging from the bookstore, Oscar nearly dropped his biscuits. The day was not quite as stingy with its light today. A few sunbeams punctured the thinning clouds, which he hoped was the reason Lena was squinting so intently and not because she was debating whether to acknowledge him.” “After her release from the valley’s rehab center, she had assumed that her stay with the newly returned Lena would last a few months, at most. Yet somehow a year had gone by as quiet and green as the fields of the valley and she was still playing grandma in the afternoons, still smoking with Lena in the evenings on the porch, watching the light sift through the trees. At breakfast, they took turns being the ornery one at the table. It was the rare morning now that Olga even considered a joint while still in bed. There was really no predicting where, or when, the least lonely years of one’s adult life might begin.” “Oscar closed the door to his daughter’s room and crept toward the living room thinking of the tigers they’d seen the previous weekend at the zoo, the irrelevance of their stealth, moving toward nothing but the bars at the opposite end of their single-tree, seven-rock savannah. He always felt far freer in his first seconds creeping toward the sofa than he did when he reached it just to sprawl there, reading headlines on his phone like some animal slumbering with its eyes open.” I couldn’t recommend this book highly enough. Packed with real wisdom and brutal honestly and heartwarming tenderness, THOSE WHO KNEW will no doubt prove the best American novel of 2018.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Nadia

    I consider myself very, very lucky that I got to read an early copy of this highly anticipated book. I loved Ways to Disappear. Novey's second novel enchanted in a different way -- it made me ponder what we let people get away with and why. Political and poetic.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Charlie Smith

    Let me begin with my ending: Idra Novey's Those Who Knew is beautiful, classically shaped, compulsively readable, an all too relevant exploration of the moral and ethical conundrums of our troubled times, as lavishly wrought as poetry, rendered in sensational, moving prose, a page-turner-work-of-art, layered, like prescient pentimento. Get your hands on a copy of Those Who Knew as soon as you can, move it to the top of your TBR pile, and glory in it. And be warned, you'll find yourself re-readin Let me begin with my ending: Idra Novey's Those Who Knew is beautiful, classically shaped, compulsively readable, an all too relevant exploration of the moral and ethical conundrums of our troubled times, as lavishly wrought as poetry, rendered in sensational, moving prose, a page-turner-work-of-art, layered, like prescient pentimento. Get your hands on a copy of Those Who Knew as soon as you can, move it to the top of your TBR pile, and glory in it. And be warned, you'll find yourself re-reading and underlining and discovering new colors and richnesses every time. I don't want to bury the lede in a gushing paean about the genius of Idra Novey and the compelling, convulsive brilliance of Those Who Knew, so I'll start by saying this is a novel that tears into the scariest, most alarming layers of the post-November-2016 Zeitgeist using provocatively imaginative plotting told in gloriously structured prose and form, somehow shaping a story in the classic style while making it, too, as current and titillating and terrifying as the improbable nightmare reality show hell that is now masquerading as "real life" as limned by the nightly news. Long/short --- or, rather, short before I get to the long: No matter what kind of reader you are --- lover of literary fiction, fan of fast-paced thriller/mysteries, poetry, current events --- Idra Novey effortlessly packs them all into less than 250 artfully composed pages, fulfilling the promise of her first novel, Ways to Disappear, proving herself to be one of our most gifted and essential writers. "Precisely a week after the death of Maria P. was declared an accident, a woman reached into her tote bag and found a sweater inside that didn't belong to her." Thus begins the novel, Lena finds this sweater, and is unable to shed it: "And then, perhaps because she had once risked her life in a similar garment and still regarded that time as the pivotal aspect of who she was, she lifted the sweater over her head and pulled it on." Lena doesn't want to be burdened by the sweater nor by what she suspects is the truth about Maria P.'s death, but like a tattoo on the soul, Lena knows she can't erase what she knows or what that knowing and her past have made of her, and so, she puts the sweater on. Most people know there is a credibility gap between the people we wish to be (or wish to appear to be) and the truth of who we are, and in the current toxically divisive environment, the magnitude of that gap we've come to expect and accept as normal has grown catastrophically, monstrously vast. Idra Novey's new novel, Those Who Knew [click here for website], is a profoundly insightful and richly, intricately tessellated exploration about how we rationalize sins of compromise and silence, excuse our own complicity in the undermining of the social contract and civility, and how, by doing so, we tacitly sanction continued corruption and crime committed by those in power who exploit, abuse, and calculatedly oppress and demonize those members of society already marginalized and disadvantaged by gender identity, race, socio-economic stratum, sexual identity, and other class-identifiers. But Those Who Knew isn't an exercise in polemical hyperbole; it's a reasoned, all-too-believable glimpse into the lives, minds, and relationship dynamics of those in power who abuse that power, and those others on the periphery or outside who are afraid to, unwilling to, or unable to stop the rot. Too, the novel explores those ways in which people become complicit in the spread of the immorality epidemic, committing or allowing repugnant acts and behavior and excusing them by citing the greater good, which, all too often, means "benefit and enrichment for me and those like me." Lena's discovery of the sweater --- which looks just like one worn in newspaper photos by Maria P. whose death we learned in the novel's first paragraph was declared accidental --- seems to Lena a message from the dead girl who had worked with Victor, a senator and champion of liberal causes who, as a young activist, had been involved with Lena and in a rage, violently assaulted her. She had a sweater, then, much like the one of Maria P.'s which somehow has shown up in her bag. We follow Lena's struggle with what to reveal of what she knows, how to determine what is knowledge and what is intuition or suspicion, and how to navigate those spaces between is and might be, truth and spin, day-to-day practical reality and wished-for Utopia, and what is her responsibility in these matters? Lena, now a university instructor, confides in Olga, a former revolutionary who witnessed the torture of her fellow-revolutionary lover, S, to whom she now writes daily journals while she operates a bookstore dealing in the used volumes that were buried --- literally and figuratively --- during Olga's revolutionary years when rule of this un-named country was hijacked by a dictatorial/fascist sort, Cato. And, quietly, Olga also deals pot from the bookstore, a structure without running water, no internet, and spotty phone coverage: "Hold on, Olga said into her cordless phone, I can't hear you. I'm back in Poetry. Her reception was far better up in Conspiracy, near the front windows. She could hear clearly enough at the register, too, where she rang up the occasional book --- and, yes, also sold a formidable amount of weed." That passage contains a multitude of carefully shaped impressions, its language evocative of a mood, a place, a person absolutely specific, and its concluding few words: "...sold a formidable amount of weed." in juxtaposition with the earlier "...rang up the occasional book" --- are so stunningly right. Idra Novey writes with the precision and care of a poet, able in a few carefully chosen words to convey what would take others (witness me spending 900 words already and not yet adequately explaining how fantastic this book is) many, many paragraphs if they ever managed to achieve it. She combines efficiency and specificity with a luxuriance of language and imagery so well, it very nearly qualifies as sorcery. Olga is wary of Lena standing up to Victor, fearing the consequences. Meanwhile, Victor is contriving a marriage with Cristina, the daughter of a power broker in his political party in order to distract from his connection to the dead girl, but besides Lena, Victor's own brother, Freddy, a gay playwright, has his own suspicions about Victor's culpability. And from this cast of characters (and others added along the way) radiates a web of connections, complications, conspiracies of silence, deceits for reasons both good and not so good, and a labyrinth of loves, connections, relationships, resentments, desires, plots, grudges, and all the stuff of human interaction in a complicated society in a difficult age. But, again, I've failed to convey the gift Idra Novey has for fashioning a remarkably compelling read, inside of which is a richness of metaphor, parallels, and extraordinary language. Pages 29 and 30 are a short section in which Victor escapes to a place where he feels safe, unencumbered, the docks, where real men shout at one another as they operate heavy machinery. Only, this day, the docks are full of "people who didn't belong there. Women and teenagers.Doddering old men with binoculars." He's informed the crowds have been attracted by a pair of whales, mating. The man who tells him this has an eye that doesn't focus correctly, Victor is not up to dealing with "peculiar faces right now" and "no [expletive] whales." And from that beginning develops a blossoming of images; a group of teenage boys eating chocolate bars (a giant one of which makes an appearance in one of his brother's plays) and talking about "whale boners" and the self-revulsion this wakens in Victor, and the way it reminds him of his brother to whom "it had been excruciating to stiffen and deny [Freddy] an answer, to will a growing distance...", and much later in the novel Victor will end up on Freddy's couch, hiding an erection, and again travel to the docks, looking for escape but once more disturbed by those who he believes don't belong, and he'll respond in a way disastrous, in an echo and expansion of this early scene, this two tight pages in which language repeats and escalates and doubles back on itself, full of whispers and hints of that which is below the surface. Like I said at the start, Idra Novey's writing is beautiful, classically shaped, compulsively readable, an all too relevant exploration of the moral and ethical conundrums of our troubled times, as lavishly wrought as poetry, rendered in sensational, moving prose, a page-turner-work-of-art, layered, like prescient pentimento. Get your hands on a copy of Those Who Knew as soon as you can, move it to the top of your TBR pile, and glory in it. And be warned, you'll find yourself re-reading and underlining and discovering new colors and richnesses every time.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Holly

    While I appreciated this novel's ambition and stylistic difficulty - the non-linear telling, the slipping identities, the political plot, the elision of place names and the setting in an unnamed Latin American-ish island nation - I can't say I actually liked the book. I actually don't understand what it was about, which is to say it was "about" many things but I have trouble integrating the ideas. So I'm surprised at the novel's recent publicity that seems to center on the "bad man" storyline - While I appreciated this novel's ambition and stylistic difficulty - the non-linear telling, the slipping identities, the political plot, the elision of place names and the setting in an unnamed Latin American-ish island nation - I can't say I actually liked the book. I actually don't understand what it was about, which is to say it was "about" many things but I have trouble integrating the ideas. So I'm surprised at the novel's recent publicity that seems to center on the "bad man" storyline - it has been called "the definitive #MeToo novel"? (I suspect the readers of that Entertainment Weekly article are going to find themselves bewildered when they attempt to read this.) For me it veered off in so many directions - tangents that were never explored and never quite cohered. It may be an issue of style - I recall being a little nonplussed while reading Novey's similarly stylized novel, Ways to Disappear, a couple years ago.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Denise

    "People are too desperate for a hero." Lena, a college student from a wealthy island family, turns activist and gets involved with the charismatic future senator, Victor, and has a fling with him while they are planning and organizing demonstrations in support of reduced tuition for the islanders. The people who live on this unnamed island have barely recovered from atrocities committed against them while under a fascist regime supported and financed by the North (the USA?) Victor is a rising pol "People are too desperate for a hero." Lena, a college student from a wealthy island family, turns activist and gets involved with the charismatic future senator, Victor, and has a fling with him while they are planning and organizing demonstrations in support of reduced tuition for the islanders. The people who live on this unnamed island have barely recovered from atrocities committed against them while under a fascist regime supported and financed by the North (the USA?) Victor is a rising political star but is given to bouts of tremendous rage and in one of those episodes, he assaults and nearly strangles Lena. She doesn't report it and when, several years later, it appears that Victor may have killed a young woman, Lena wants him held accountable. The people she tells about her assault believe her and agree that someone needs to confront Victor about Maria P. What follows is a twisty narrative, interspersed with diary entries and screen play notes that flips back and forth in point of view, in time and place. Will Victor be outed and get his just due? NO SPOILERS. I'm not quite sure what I think about this book. Was it interesting? Yes, enough to hold my interest though I definitely did not like the writing style and I was especially put off by the screen play segments. Did the novel have anything new or original to impart? Not really -- you'd have to be living under a rock in the desert for a thousand years not to know that male politicians get away with murder and all sorts of other tawdry and despicable crimes. The urge for revenge or to hold that person responsible is tremendous and not often successful. I think the setting and the characters are meant to make us believe that even the least well-placed among us (misfits?) can bring some sort of justice for those harmed and that staying silent is not ever the best response despite the outcry and response that is likely to occur. The characters were an interesting conglomerate of Islanders and outsiders and each had a part to play in telling the story but I really couldn't identify with any of them. I'm not sure that leaving so much "unnamed" was for the best as I found it hard to relate and to really buy in to the drama in some respects. Perhaps it was to avoid stereotyping or labeling but you will find all sorts of diversity within. The book was engaging enough that I read it in a single sitting and took awhile to digest it all before trying to put my thoughts and reactions into a review. It's definitely outside my usual genre and was not exactly what I was expecting from just reading the synopsis. Thank you to NetGalley and Viking for the e-book ARC to read and review.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Drew

    5+ out of 5. So very much my kind of novel. I loved what Novey did with the structure, dropping in scenes from plays and clippings from newspapers, and I loved the content of the novel itself: a propulsive look at toxic masculinity in politics, at American intervention in Latin America, at the scars we leave behind us that we might not even be conscious of... And the writing, my god. It's playful even as it is serious, and the book practically dances along (perhaps due to the short chapter length 5+ out of 5. So very much my kind of novel. I loved what Novey did with the structure, dropping in scenes from plays and clippings from newspapers, and I loved the content of the novel itself: a propulsive look at toxic masculinity in politics, at American intervention in Latin America, at the scars we leave behind us that we might not even be conscious of... And the writing, my god. It's playful even as it is serious, and the book practically dances along (perhaps due to the short chapter lengths). I never wanted to put it down.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Tina

    Subtle and smart. It's like a watercolor of a book, not totally clear.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Marcia Meakim

    All in all an engrossing read...although I have to admit at times I needed to reread to figure out which character was telling that part of the story. Very timely, given the Me Too movement in the news frequently. The characters never came alive for me, which hampered my enjoyment of the book. The prose is so beautiful, evoking such strong visual images. Although I cannot rave about this particular novel, I am interested in reading more by this author. Many thanks to Idra Novey, Viking, and NetG All in all an engrossing read...although I have to admit at times I needed to reread to figure out which character was telling that part of the story. Very timely, given the Me Too movement in the news frequently. The characters never came alive for me, which hampered my enjoyment of the book. The prose is so beautiful, evoking such strong visual images. Although I cannot rave about this particular novel, I am interested in reading more by this author. Many thanks to Idra Novey, Viking, and NetGalley for affording me the opportunity to read an ARC of Those Who Knew.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Caroline Hagood

    Idra Novey started her writing career as a poet, and she brings this lyrical sensibility to her two novels, the 2016 Ways to Disappear and her new book, out next week, Those Who Knew. She’s also an accomplished translator of a number of pivotal Brazilian works, including Clarice Lispector’s The Passion According to G.H. Perhaps as a result of her movements between various linguistic spheres—whether it be poetry and prose or actual different languages—Novey’s novels telegraph the sensation of mov Idra Novey started her writing career as a poet, and she brings this lyrical sensibility to her two novels, the 2016 Ways to Disappear and her new book, out next week, Those Who Knew. She’s also an accomplished translator of a number of pivotal Brazilian works, including Clarice Lispector’s The Passion According to G.H. Perhaps as a result of her movements between various linguistic spheres—whether it be poetry and prose or actual different languages—Novey’s novels telegraph the sensation of moving back and forth between different mental landscapes.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Molly

    Poet and novelist Idra Novey weaves an intricate tale of politics, corruption and the seduction of it all in her latest novel. Told in three distinct sections, in unnamed locations deemed to be anywhere, Lena suspects a former acquaintance, a now powerful senator, has committed a crime. As she attempts to warn others, families begin to question who they should believe. More than a mystery, this literary puzzle is interspersed with a work in progress play, personal book entries and clips of news, Poet and novelist Idra Novey weaves an intricate tale of politics, corruption and the seduction of it all in her latest novel. Told in three distinct sections, in unnamed locations deemed to be anywhere, Lena suspects a former acquaintance, a now powerful senator, has committed a crime. As she attempts to warn others, families begin to question who they should believe. More than a mystery, this literary puzzle is interspersed with a work in progress play, personal book entries and clips of news, showcasing multiple perspectives. As lives intertwine and overlap, what really happened becomes clearer and the unique format enhances what is told in between the lines. Recommended for fans of Home Fire or political thought-provoking stories.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Shannon Kirk

    I’ve had to take some time and try to come up with a way to articulate how perfect and gorgeous this book is. I met Idra at a reading tonight, at the very cool Stella Adler acting studios in the flatiron/Nomad district of NYC. Actors acted out some of the scenes from Those Who Knew, and holy hell, I didn’t expect to stumble into something so cool at a book reading!! I would have paid for the experience. Anyway. Back to my review. Gahhhhhhh, it’s so hard to really encapsulate what is so magical a I’ve had to take some time and try to come up with a way to articulate how perfect and gorgeous this book is. I met Idra at a reading tonight, at the very cool Stella Adler acting studios in the flatiron/Nomad district of NYC. Actors acted out some of the scenes from Those Who Knew, and holy hell, I didn’t expect to stumble into something so cool at a book reading!! I would have paid for the experience. Anyway. Back to my review. Gahhhhhhh, it’s so hard to really encapsulate what is so magical about Novey’s writing. It is an understatement to say it is rare. Cliche to say it’s in a class of its own. But those things are true, Novey’s work is rare and totally unique. Her themes and subtexts are forthright, raw unflinching honesty. This is something I struggle hard to find in fiction. That rawness, a prose totally undressed by expectations, or dogmas, or formulas. This is Novey’s trueness and what makes her work so rare and gorgeous (and wildly creative and vivid). We got “raw truth” with Emily Dickinson. We got it with Gabriel Garcia Marquez. We got it with Keri Hulme’s fantastical Booker-winning The Bone People. We got it with the damn-fine classic The Mummy Market by Nancy Brelis (which is criminally out of print, a topic I routinely raise here and on social media). I’m failing here, I know. I can’t get this right. Just trust me on this: You know it when you see it and Those Who Knew (as well as her first book, Ways to Disappear) have it—that X factor. That Holy Grail “thing” we crave when we want true writing. Anyway. I want to give Those Who Knew ten stars out of five but Goodreads won’t let me. It is filled with fabulous, colorful characters. Poetry. Politics. #metoo. Scenes from plays! Annotated bookstore transaction logs. Philosophy. A mystery. All rolled together in a driving, page-turning plot that is drenched in beauty. Saturated. I tried to read slow. Novey’s books are like the finest most expensive wines, and you only get one glass, so you try so hard to read slow. But you will fail. I failed. I finished Those Who Knew in one day, just like I finished Ways to Disappear in one day. Novey is a warm and kind and funny person in person too. So if you’re lucky enough to live along the route of her current book tour, I highly recommend attending.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Margaret King

    I generously received an advance copy of this book from Viking Press. I got hooked into the story right away, and it only took me a few days to finish it. This is an extremely timely novel that is told in an innovative way, with multiple points of view across many years and a couple different nations. I love Idra Novey's writing and style, and can't wait to read her poetry collections after this. I really liked how the book used different ways to shed light on complex layers of trauma, revolutio I generously received an advance copy of this book from Viking Press. I got hooked into the story right away, and it only took me a few days to finish it. This is an extremely timely novel that is told in an innovative way, with multiple points of view across many years and a couple different nations. I love Idra Novey's writing and style, and can't wait to read her poetry collections after this. I really liked how the book used different ways to shed light on complex layers of trauma, revolution and politics, and much more-- everything from bookstore logbook entries to scenes from theater scripts to short, more traditional prose chapters. There is so much to like and appreciate in this short novel. Not only does it examine the experiences of a handful of people involved in bringing down a corrupt dictatorship on a fictitious island, it also deals with the costs and lasting trauma of a nation that went through such a painful and divisive time. But the main plot centers around whether or not to reveal that the rising young Progressive Senator on the island, who is so devoted to democracy and equity in his public life, is a violent monster in his private life. The layers of corruption and warped power structure on the island not only make it difficult to reveal his crimes, there is the question of what happens politically to the country when the most Progressive politician goes down with no one to replace him. Interspersed with this plot are the Back stories of several characters. My favorite of these was Olga, an aging revolutionary whose lover was murdered by anti-Semitic soldiers after they were imprisoned for participating in the resistance movement. Olga has not forgiven herself decades later for getting her lover involved in the movement, and writes to her daily in the log books of her tiny bookshop, called Seek the Sublime or Die. Olga's sense of humor had me chuckling out loud throughout the book, and she had probably more reason than any other character for being so ironic, and I wish much more of this book had been devoted to her point of view. I was so invested in part one of the book that I felt thrown out of the story when it rapidly shifted to Part 2, several years later and in a different hemisphere. I honestly wish the book had just gone along with the fast-paced clip it established in part one and finished the story from there. The book also deepened its tone of jaded cynicism in parts two and three, and I personally find cynicism exhausting and feel we have an overabundance of it these days, so that was a bit hard for me to deal with, as well. The main characters of the book are pretty self-deprecating, but as they have suffered survivor's guilt and severe trauma, this is not surprising. Two of the more innocent characters, Freddy and Oscar, are endearing but suffer from the same pangs of self-deprecation, and are often seen in the book as either weak, to be taken advantage of or bossed around, or cluelessly privileged by the other characters...which was difficult to read after a while, because both of these characters were trying very hard to be good people. There were many beautiful and moving things contained in this book, and for a book so short, there are many ideas and questions of ethics and morality and human nature to ponder. Sometimes the striking and beautiful parts in this book were way too brief and quickly dismissed with sarcasm or checked with an immediate return to either brutal or mundane reality. This was a very relevant story and I can't wait to see what comes next from this author!

  15. 4 out of 5

    Nadine Jones

    Recommended for fans of: Before She Sleeps And there’s more, Freddy had murmured, even more brutal. I don’t know anyone on this island, Alex had replied, who isn’t one degree removed from more brutality than they can bear to admit. If you loved the dreariness of 1984 and Children of Men, and you don't mind a complete lack of quotation marks (why, authors? WHY????), then you must read this book. I'll be honest, by page 10, I was really annoyed by the lack of quotation marks, like MurderBot-Level-9 Recommended for fans of: Before She Sleeps And there’s more, Freddy had murmured, even more brutal. I don’t know anyone on this island, Alex had replied, who isn’t one degree removed from more brutality than they can bear to admit. If you loved the dreariness of 1984 and Children of Men, and you don't mind a complete lack of quotation marks (why, authors? WHY????), then you must read this book. I'll be honest, by page 10, I was really annoyed by the lack of quotation marks, like MurderBot-Level-90 annoyed. But that's me. I soldiered on, without joy. The lack of punctuation makes it seem distant, less immediate, like it's just someone telling you a sketchy story. It's just vague and depressing and lacking in punctuation. I probably would have had an entirely different reaction to this book if it had been punctuated in the traditional fashion. Maybe it's a shame I didn't choose an audiobook format for it. But I didn't, I read it with my eyes, and I was not pleased. Set on an un-named island country somewhere south of the US, this isn't a dystopian, nor is it a near-future story, it's more of an imaginary, alternate present: an alternate present in which this possible-Cuba / possible-Haiti / possible Dominican Republic exists. Maybe it's not alternate at all, maybe this is based on a specific place and time. The story starts some years before 2001 and ends some years after 2001, and in the middle is the un-named 9/11 attack on the un-named World Trade Center in un-named NYC. Novey is apparently fond of not actually naming places and things. There is a suggestion of magical realism, but it is left to the reader to decide if these things are truly happening or just in the characters' imaginations. The book is mercifully short, so while I strongly disliked it, at least I didn't lose too many hours of my life while reading it.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Lee Ballinger

    This is a note I sent to the author recently: Years ago I interviewed Jackson Browne for a film I produced. The thing he said that has stuck with me is this: "When I release a song only half of it, if that, still belongs to me. The rest of it belongs to the listener and they interpret it and make use of it however they see fit." I think this applies to books too, especially fiction. I see in reviews and interviews how your book reflects the moment we are in and I would agree with that. But I s This is a note I sent to the author recently: Years ago I interviewed Jackson Browne for a film I produced. The thing he said that has stuck with me is this: "When I release a song only half of it, if that, still belongs to me. The rest of it belongs to the listener and they interpret it and make use of it however they see fit." I think this applies to books too, especially fiction. I see in reviews and interviews how your book reflects the moment we are in and I would agree with that. But I see this moment as a last gasp coming at the end of the entire post-war era. Decades and decades of corruption, yes, but I think there is something more fundamental going on. I come out of the Ohio steel mills (I saw you mention Steubenville; been there many times). I was a minor union functionary and I was also on the board of the local Urban League. In both of those cases, I didn't see overt corruption, the buying of favors. What I did see was a very heavy-handed and rigidly enforced insistence on limits. Don't ask for anything except a penny more than what's offered. Defer your dreams. What you want is impossible so shut up. I knew many, many Victors, petty self-seekers who locked us all out of meaningful participation in anything. The crumbs which bought our silence, our acquiescence, have been permanently withdrawn. Something new and scary is on the horizon but hidden by all the noise is something transformative in the other direction, possible now in part because the Victors of the world are losing their hold on us. That is what that last page said to me. As for your writing per se (a false separation if there ever was one), I love the way you balance such a cast of characters and weave connections between them.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Tristan

    A lot of the articles written about this book mention the #MeToo movement. While I see the connection, I don't think this book is just about that. The book takes on a lot more including U.S. relations with despotic leaders, government corruption, and relationships in general. I particularly enjoyed the interactions of Oscar and Lena when they are reunited years later. We've all wondered if things could have ended differently in a previous relationship. We all try and look back and see if there w A lot of the articles written about this book mention the #MeToo movement. While I see the connection, I don't think this book is just about that. The book takes on a lot more including U.S. relations with despotic leaders, government corruption, and relationships in general. I particularly enjoyed the interactions of Oscar and Lena when they are reunited years later. We've all wondered if things could have ended differently in a previous relationship. We all try and look back and see if there was one particular thing that caused the relationship to fail. Here, the parties can easily identify the moment when their budding relationship came to an end. But for the way they each reacted to the news of 9/11, their relationship might have survived and their child would have known his father. Novey's exploration of that concept was well done. The book changes form frequently. Most of the book is standard chapters, but varying the characters perspective. Some chapters take the form of a script for a play being written by one character. I expected to hate those chapters, they ended up being some of my favorites. 4.5 stars rounded up to 5. Would have been a solid 5, but Novey choose not to use quotation marks for the dialogue. I hate this decision, but it didn't make this book unreadable as it does some others.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Kurt Kemmerer

    Those Who Knew is a tour de force, telling a story much bigger than its word count would indicate. The tale’s universality, the poetic prose, the creative story telling combine almost perfectly, making the tome’s necessary challenge to readers simple, profound, human, and difficult. Did I mention how much character development occurs in so few sentences? I suspect most people need this book, but I bet they’ll want it once they start.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Megan Bustraan

    I just finished Those Who Knew, and I can see how a lot of people would really enjoy this book, but for me, it was a difficult read. I had trouble connecting with the characters and staying invested in the book. The book seemed rather heavy to me, which I know appeals to a lot of readers. I just prefer a bit of a lighter read. I had some trouble keeping the characters straight. I love a book that makes me feel like a walk down a windey road, and I didn’t feel like that with this read.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Carol Turner

    Not worth all the hype. I didn't finish. Life is too short.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Hilary Reyl

    I could not put this book down. It's an intimate political thriller with a propulsive plot. The writing is very taut - not a wasted word. Yet the characters and story feel very deep and fleshed out, so a reader does not have the unsatisfied feeling that can sometimes come from a sparely written book. It's moving and beautiful, a very emotional read. The writing is poetic, but never overwrought, and the poetry is always in service of a great story. Highly recommended!

  22. 4 out of 5

    Ilana

    This book is brilliant, and it's eerily pressing and relevant in one of those art imitates life imitates art kind of ways. It is beautiful, it is stirring, it is thought-provoking. More to come in my proper review for WaPo.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Nari Nakamura

    The book has an interesting premise, but that's really all this book has. In a small unnamed island country off the coast of the United States, a woman is struggling with the decision to come out with allegations that a popular senator in her country assaulted her in the past. The plot is relevant with current issues in American society and is sure to draw in readers. It is a heavy topic and I was disappointed in the manner Novey decided to tackle these issues. The book is written in a style of a The book has an interesting premise, but that's really all this book has. In a small unnamed island country off the coast of the United States, a woman is struggling with the decision to come out with allegations that a popular senator in her country assaulted her in the past. The plot is relevant with current issues in American society and is sure to draw in readers. It is a heavy topic and I was disappointed in the manner Novey decided to tackle these issues. The book is written in a style of a political thriller, with little exposition and heavy focus on dialogue and action. Each chapter is 1-3 pages long and it makes for a quick read as the book is only 248 pages long. With this amount of space, there leaves little room for significant character development or in depth discussion of the issues that come with tackling a topic such as this. As the story progressed, I grew more ambivalent about the message Novey was trying to get across. The quick, concise style of presentation left me detached to the characters at large and left me unsympathetic to the issues the women in the novel faced. I was also disappointed by the lack of conviction Novey displayed when the novel came to a close. The most climactic point of the plot ocurred off script and the characters did almost nothing to resolve the situation. The ending was also ambiguous and while some may applaud it, I believe it is another sign that the author feared to make a pronounced statement on the issues that her book attempted to tackle. I give this book 3 stars despite all the grievances I showed above. Her prose flows well and the action was somewhat engaging. This book had a lot of potential, but I feel like it would have benefited from a more fleshed out approach.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Paul

    "Those Who Knew" is an enjoyable read. Its suspenseful tale centers around a politician and the suspicions of an ex-lover of his who believes he has committed a murder. The story unfolds slowly revealing element after element of the politician's character rather than following the usual suspense story that reveals more and more clues about an event until the suspense is finally resolved. The writing is good: characters are believable, the events plausible, the handling of details succinct and ye "Those Who Knew" is an enjoyable read. Its suspenseful tale centers around a politician and the suspicions of an ex-lover of his who believes he has committed a murder. The story unfolds slowly revealing element after element of the politician's character rather than following the usual suspense story that reveals more and more clues about an event until the suspense is finally resolved. The writing is good: characters are believable, the events plausible, the handling of details succinct and yet compete. I found myself engrossed in the story and enjoying it, surprised at how quickly I read the entire novel. I originally planned to give this book a 4 star rating, but when I compared it to others I had given 4 stars to, it was just not up to their caliber. My two primary objections and reasons for the lower rating were that, while the story was suspenseful, the reader pretty much knows how it will turn out. Various hints and foreshadowing incidents reinforce the final conclusion about the central event of the story. The second thing that bothered me about the story was that the two mysterious events described in the beginning and becoming the foundation of why the protagonist felt called upon to reveal the politician's crime, if there had been one, were never adequately explained. There were explanations offered, but these explanations conflicted with the details of the events and were insufficient to explain and dismiss the strange happenings. I did enjoy the book and it is pretty good, worth recommending in spite of its flaws, but just not as good as a book earning a 4 star rating ought to be,

  25. 5 out of 5

    Kay

    This is the science-fiction novel, set in the near future, for the #MeToo era. Idra Novey, who is apparently also a poet (thanks, other reviewers!) builds a world in the near-future where an America or Britain-like island has all the problems we have today. It is largely the story of the price we pay when we know things about someone in power, yet aren't able to bring those things to light. It feels all too familiar in the year since the Harvey Weinstein story broke. Women whisper to each other This is the science-fiction novel, set in the near future, for the #MeToo era. Idra Novey, who is apparently also a poet (thanks, other reviewers!) builds a world in the near-future where an America or Britain-like island has all the problems we have today. It is largely the story of the price we pay when we know things about someone in power, yet aren't able to bring those things to light. It feels all too familiar in the year since the Harvey Weinstein story broke. Women whisper to each other about things that happen to them, or to people that they know. And so few of them can ever be made public, because bringing them to light is such a huge lift, and the men rarely pay any real price anyway. Novey captures this perfectly, but liberates us from the trappings of our environment. The story of Lena exists in a world like the one we live in today, but also not like it. The common thread is the abuse of the men in power. Still, the narrative felt interrupted by the snippets of journals and brief passages of a play. These parts maybe worked for some, but they didn't for me, seemingly distracting from the more interesting narrative. I wish I knew more people who read it, though! I'd like to discuss it!

  26. 5 out of 5

    Daryl

    Nothing really wrong with this book, it just didn't really do much for me. It tells the story of a corrupt senator, possibly guilty of murder, his former assistant who suspects him and her family & a good friend who runs a bookstore, and the senator's gay playwright brother. The book is told in very short, mostly 2- or 3-page chapters, with the point-of-view and main characters switching quickly. The setting is an unnamed island, probably in the Caribbean, but definitely Latin America (as th Nothing really wrong with this book, it just didn't really do much for me. It tells the story of a corrupt senator, possibly guilty of murder, his former assistant who suspects him and her family & a good friend who runs a bookstore, and the senator's gay playwright brother. The book is told in very short, mostly 2- or 3-page chapters, with the point-of-view and main characters switching quickly. The setting is an unnamed island, probably in the Caribbean, but definitely Latin America (as there are lots of references to touristy "northerners") although the middle section (of 3) is set in "the most dominant city of the most dominant country." I'm not sure of the reason for not naming the island nation or the city. A few years ago, I read a lot of Latin American literature, and this novel really had the feel of those, with its corrupt political system, easy lackadaisical everyday living, and the connections between the characters. I liked the book, but it didn't rise above average for me. I'm not sure it will stick with me for long.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Maggie

    Really lovely book. There was a true feeling when reading it of knowing the characters, of understanding the manifestation of their pains and emotions exquisitely while still maintaining a deliberate distance from their flesh-and-blood selves. The way the relationships fall apart and together wasn't the typical cliche, or gory scenes of passion and adultery like they are normally portrayed. The narrative was just on the verge between unbelievable and familiar that makes one fall into its assumpt Really lovely book. There was a true feeling when reading it of knowing the characters, of understanding the manifestation of their pains and emotions exquisitely while still maintaining a deliberate distance from their flesh-and-blood selves. The way the relationships fall apart and together wasn't the typical cliche, or gory scenes of passion and adultery like they are normally portrayed. The narrative was just on the verge between unbelievable and familiar that makes one fall into its assumptions and world with ease yet still be forced to analyze its actions with a stranger's mind. Only problem personally was a slight sense of pretension I got from certain depictions of the lives of the characters that seemed a little too much aligned with something out of a young liberal student's idea of what a jaded neocommunist narrative should seem like.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Kathleen Gray

    Topical and timely. Lena suspects Victor, an up and coming politician, of murdering Maria. Lena had a relationship with him years before and knows that he can be violent, but she never spoke up. Neither did his brother Freddie, who also knows Victor's rage. Told from multiple points of view and in different formats including snippets of a diary written by Olga, a pot dealing bookstore owner, this can at times feel as though it's veering away from the point but then it pulls back. Thanks to Edelw Topical and timely. Lena suspects Victor, an up and coming politician, of murdering Maria. Lena had a relationship with him years before and knows that he can be violent, but she never spoke up. Neither did his brother Freddie, who also knows Victor's rage. Told from multiple points of view and in different formats including snippets of a diary written by Olga, a pot dealing bookstore owner, this can at times feel as though it's veering away from the point but then it pulls back. Thanks to Edelweiss for the ARC. This is experimental and challenging at time but fans of literary fiction should enjoy it.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Carla

    Thank you to the publisher, @vikingbooks for the free finished copy to review. All opinions are my own. This one took me a minute to get into, but once I did, I really enjoyed it. The story has a fascinating and compelling take on what happens when a rising political star has too much power and what happens when he eventually abuses that position. There are strong themes of patriarchy and gender throughout. It’s a frightening look at dictatorships and the suppression of a smaller group of people. Thank you to the publisher, @vikingbooks for the free finished copy to review. All opinions are my own. This one took me a minute to get into, but once I did, I really enjoyed it. The story has a fascinating and compelling take on what happens when a rising political star has too much power and what happens when he eventually abuses that position. There are strong themes of patriarchy and gender throughout. It’s a frightening look at dictatorships and the suppression of a smaller group of people. Because of the strong themes, this book is a timely novel and has so much to add to the dystopian genre.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Danny Caine

    Idra Novey’s Those Who Knew is a taut, thrilling novel with a revolutionary sensibility. Set on an unnamed island in the aftermath of a harsh regime funded by “The North,” it follows young activist Lara as she falls in with a charismatic senator promising free tuition for all college students. Lara soon discovers lurking darkness beneath the powerful senator’s slick exterior, and the ripples of that darkness play out across this novel’s memorable cast of characters. Parallels to today’s world ab Idra Novey’s Those Who Knew is a taut, thrilling novel with a revolutionary sensibility. Set on an unnamed island in the aftermath of a harsh regime funded by “The North,” it follows young activist Lara as she falls in with a charismatic senator promising free tuition for all college students. Lara soon discovers lurking darkness beneath the powerful senator’s slick exterior, and the ripples of that darkness play out across this novel’s memorable cast of characters. Parallels to today’s world abound, but the novel is no simple allegory. Those Who Knew is a relevant, nuanced, and brisk take on the political novel.

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