The Optimists is a work of solemn artistry. Miller's style is one of guarded lyricism, in which he allows just enough poetry in the language to get the job done, the mood or moment caught. The sharpest of his senses seems to be his ear. A car engine is turned off in a wood: ''Quietness, like the hissing in a shell, seeped through the skin of the car.'' A long-neglected tap is turned on: ''Yards of old piping juddered, there was a burst of musty air, then the sudden slap of water on the worn enamel.''
The New York Times
A powerful study of emotional trauma, English writer Miller's third novel (after Ingenious Pain and Oxygen) probes the horrors of genocide as well as what Hannah Arendt called "the banality of evil." Clem Glass is a veteran photojournalist who thought he was inured to man's inhumanity to man until he witnessed the aftermath of a genocidal massacre in Africa. Unable to wipe the images of murdered women and children from his mind, Clem wanders distraught around London. When his older sister, Clare, a professor in Dundee, has a recurrence of the mental breakdown she suffered some years earlier, Andrew is at first unable to deal with any additional emotional problems. Instead, he flees to Canada to consult a colleague, a journalist who also witnessed the massacre and found solace in caring for society's outcasts. Eventually, Clem takes responsibility for his sister and nurses her back to health. When he finally confronts the man responsible for the slaughter in Africa, he realizes it's impossible to exact revenge for an act of such cosmic evil. He himself must hit emotional rock bottom before he achieves a tentative optimism and reaffirms his faith in life. Miller's story is starkly illustrative of the wide range of human behavior in the so-called civilized world. The guardedly positive ending reveals the irony in the book's title; only "a small, stubborn belief" can be wrested from the circumstances of modern life. (Apr. 5) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
"Beautifully written, astutely observed, and as maddeningly inconclusive as life itself."
This new novel from Booker Prize nominee Miller (Oxygen) centers on prominent photojournalist Clem Glass, who has just returned to London from Africa. While there, he captured a scene of unspeakable horror during a genocidal massacre, and his trust in humanity is crushed. Sinking into a deep depression, he finds no joy in life's everyday activities until he reconnects with his mentally unstable sister, Clare. Nursing Clare back to health is just what Clem needs to regain his footing, but it is not long before an unexpected occurrence affords him the opportunity to confront his demon nightmares. Told in simple, concise language, this work is recommended for public libraries with customer interest in international fiction. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 12/04.]-Christopher J. Korenowsky, Columbus Metropolitan Lib. Syst., OH Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
"Subtle and beautifully written...Miller's prose brings grace and lucidity to what is dark and baffling"
New York Times Book Review
"A work of solemn artistry"
Wall Street Journal
"Once again Miller shows himself to be an acutely sensitive observer of life at a particular moment in history."
From the Publisher
PRAISE FOR OXYGEN
"A writer of verve and talent . . . [Miller's] prose is fluent, lucid and radiant."-THE NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW
"Curious, compelling, and disturbing . . .The reader is aware of being in the presence of a luminous intelligence, allied to literary skill of rare excellence."-THE WASHINGTON POST BOOK WORLD