Inglorious

Inglorious

by Joanna Kavenna

Paperback(First Edition)

$21.00
View All Available Formats & Editions
Choose Expedited Shipping at checkout for guaranteed delivery by Wednesday, September 25

Overview

When Rosa Lane, a promising young journalist, impulsively hits the send button on an email to her boss saying "I quit," so begins her pursuit of enlightenment in the jungles of cutthroat London. As she embarks upon her quest for a sense of purpose, she is deceived by her lover, surprised by her friends, turned out by her roommate, threatened by her bank manager, picked over by prospective employers, and tormented by all the bizarre expectations of the modern world. An erudite and darkly comic novel, brimming with lacerating wit and compassion, Inglorious is a truly engrossing character study of a woman walking the edge between self-destruction and self-discovery.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780312427887
Publisher: Picador
Publication date: 05/27/2008
Edition description: First Edition
Pages: 304
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

JOANNA KAVENNA is the author of The Ice Museum: In Search of the Lost Land of Thule. She has written for The New York Review of Books, The Guardian, and The Times Literary Supplement, among other publications.

Read an Excerpt

Inglorious

A Novel
By Kavenna, Joanna

Metropolitan Books

Copyright © 2007 Kavenna, Joanna
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9780805081893

Chapter One
 
Retreat
 
She began it on an ordinary summer’s day when she found—quite in contravention of the orders of her boss—she was idling at the computer, kicking her heels and counting. Rosa Lane, thirty-five and several months, aware of an invisible stopwatch tolling her down, was counting the years, the hours spent sitting in offices, staring at the sky, at the flickering screen that was sending her blind. She had passed the previous ten years in a holding position, her legs locked under a table. She had typed a million emails and strained her wrists. She was no closer to understanding anything. Ahead she saw the future, draped in grey. Behind was the damp squib of her family’s history. She was sitting in the present, with this past and future whirling around her. And outside the city was awash with daytime noise—the grind of traffic, blurred speech, elusive choirs. The noise was ebbing and rising again, and she heard the cries of birds in the eaves. She thought of the river moving and the flow of cars, smoke drifting across the shine and colour.
 
Sitting at her desk that day, sweating into her shirt, she thought, If they told me I would never do anything more than this, would I want to live or die on the spot? Then she thought, What is the reason for it all, what is it for? That really cut her up, so she wrote an email toher boss. It was frank and elegiac. It began with her youth, early career, thanked him for his patronage, communicated her deepest regrets and ended with the words I resign. She was emphatic: she pressed Send, and then she shut down her computer. She picked up her hat and coat and walked. She was having a fit of nerves by the time she passed the guardians of the gate, the two fat porters who sat there trading jokes. They sauntered towards her. If they had spent another second rattling the keys she would have crumbled and begged them to lock her in forever. Then the gate swung open. “Leaving early,” they chorused, and released her. Rosa went out onto the street, where the cars were queuing to go forward. Then she went home.
 
It was a Monday in June when Rosa left her job. It was early afternoon, and she sat on the semi-empty train marvelling at the space, the available seats. She felt a gust of air as the doors swept shut. She stared at the adverts for phone cards and car insurance. Palliatives, she thought. She glanced at the passengers, barely noticing their distinctness. A less concentrated crowd but still part of the hordes. She laughed at an advert and picked her ear. A man caught her eye and she quickly dropped her gaze. She observed the dirt on the walls, she traced her fingers round the stains on the seats. She filed every detail of the carriage away.
 
She was at Dante’s mid-point, the centre of life, when she was supposed to garner knowledge and become wise. This was assuming she had used her earlier years for study and application, like the poet, but she had measured them out in weekend binges and European holidays. For years she had been productive at work and as idle as anything in the evenings. Time coursed along and she earned money. She stayed firmly in her box. She had been a journalist for years, sliding her way upwards. She wrote on the arts. She understood—it was quite plain to her—that she was meant to be ruled, not to rule. She hardly had the mettle for power play and the tyrannical control of fiefdoms. Her life had been supported by a few buttresses: belief in her job, the love of her parents, her relationship with Liam. These had stopped her thinking about anything too deeply.
 
Yet recently she had been feeling dislocated. The death of her mother, in January, was the start of that. She understood it was a natural process, inevitable and unquestionable, but it knocked her off course and she couldn’t right herself again. She went into work and was congratulated on her perseverance, but at night she was troubled by bad dreams, grief sweats, fear of the void, internal chaos that she tried to keep well buried, aware that her experience was general not exceptional and she really ought to button up. She missed her mother, of course, she felt the lack of her like a deep soundless blackness, and she thought it was impossible that this should be the natural condition of life. She felt as if a seismic shift had occurred; the ground had fallen away, revealing depths below, shapes clad in shadow.
 
Her mind was casting out analogies, hints at a deeper complaint. She felt restless, and she had vivid dreams. Her thoughts held her, stopped her being useful. She lacked a defining metaphor, a sense of coherence. She felt coerced to the social pattern, her instincts dulled. She needed a local mythology, some sense of a reason why. Instead, she was teeming with frenzy and obscenity. She could curse her way home, damning the street and condemning the innocent and guilty alike. And she noticed that her sense of things was changing, it bemused her to think about it. Instead of seeing herself as the centre of her own small world, with the city as the backdrop to her life, she began to see everything as a fractured mess, a wild confusion of competing atoms, millions of people struggling to live. She lacked a doctrine, a prevailing call. She was surrounded by monomaniacs, yet she was indecisive. All ways looked as impassable as the others. She was in a labyrinth, lacking a ball of twine! Disoriented as anything, and she couldn’t kneel and pray; she was sure that wouldn’t help at all.
 
In March, concerned about how detached she was feeling, she’d asked Liam to marry her. Liam said no, which shocked her profoundly. More than shocked, she was deeply offended. They flagged on for a few more months, but anyone could tell their relationship was holed below the waterline. There were days when she felt it all as dark comedy, bred of the absurd situation she found herself in. With the clock ticking, she was spending her indeterminate span of years on the underground, holding on tight to a metal pole, checking her emails, earning money and lining her belly. This sense of the ludicrous crept into her prose. In April she’d written an article on Swedish contemporary dance, which opened, “Dark, dark, dark we all go into the dark. The dancers have all gone under the hill.” The editor had sauntered over to her desk, and demanded that she erase the offending lines on her computer. “Never,” he said. “Never quote that crap again.”
 
By May she was writing in fragments. It was unfortunate, as her job was to write and explain, to produce quantities of lucid prose. Instead, she stared at the computer, with the bare notes of a story in her hand. Embarrassed, she wrote, “The Modernist Novel.” After another hour she wrote, “Rosa Lane reports.” Then it was lunchtime and she wrote, “If Lunch Be the Lunch of Love, Lunch On.” Then later she wrote, “Shuffle Off” and “Mortal Coil” on two lines. Then she accidentally pressed Send and emailed her few phrases to her editor, who ignored them. Her focus seemed to be slipping. Where once she had read the paper every day, noting the preoccupations of society and her colleagues, now she flicked through a few pages and tossed the thing away. She was left with odd words—blame, worsens, reprieve, silence—and some images of a screaming mother, a model clad in satin, a bomb victim. None of it made any sense. Now she wrote, “I want. We want.” And then she wrote, “What is it for?”
 
There was an evening in late May when she found herself standing on a street—she wasn’t entirely sure where she was—and then it seemed to her that the street was widening and widening and the numbers of buses and cars multiplying indefinitely, and there were rows and rows of people stretching eternally, and the ghosts of the dead vivid and clear in the dusk. “Too much now,” she said out loud, attracting silent glances from the habitués around her. “Bloody hell there’s a lot of us,” she added. She reeled past the Albery eyeing the neon haze and the streetlights and the shadows seeping from the winding alleys. Then the crowds seemed to vanish altogether, and she thought of purse pinchers and long-gone hawkers, the flotsam of another era. She thought of them with their capes and cloaks and buckled shoes, and their hats and moustaches and the smell of the streets—dung and offal. They vanished too, and she imagined the city dead and gone, a fierce wind blasting across the earth. She shrugged that off, because it was making her worry. Because the buses looked teeming and drunk with weight she walked home. Three hours later, she arrived at her flat, grimy and sweating, talking quietly to herself.
 
Leaving her job had a few immediate consequences. Peter the editor called her up, which had never happened before. Gravelly and disappointed he said, “What are you doing Rosa? Are you ill?” Not ill, she had explained. She told him she was fine. She wanted a change of direction. “Towards what?” he demanded. It was as if she had blasphemed in church. She thought of him, a holy confessor with a beard and a belly, in his office with a view of the street. He never went home before 10:00 p.m. He had a wife and an assortment of children. A well-paid, powerful job. He lunched with politicians, artists, writers, contemporary sages and wide-eyed pundits; anyone he asked to lunch came along, talked to him with commitment. A good life, in his terms. “You’ve worked so hard to get to this point,” he said. She thanked him, but she said she couldn’t go back. “Ridiculous,” he said. “Give me a call if you change your mind. Don’t leave it too long.”
 
She said, “That’s very kind.”
 
“Come on Rosa, give it another go.” It sounded reasonable and she said she would think about it. She thanked him and then he was gone forever.
 
“Do you really want to squander everything?”—that was Grace’s version, two days later. Grace—compassionate, withholding evidence—hectored her over a bottle of wine. A hectoring from Grace was no ordinary hectoring. It had sound and fury, high drama. Grace was truly dazzling. She liked to smoke and blast out words. She was incessant in her talk, and that had first attracted Rosa to her. She was a comparatively new friend; it was hard to say if she was more Liam’s friend than Rosa’s. Rosa had found her at a party, and she swiftly became a fixture. She brought around take-aways and wine and spent long hours at their flat. She was good to be with: she was witty, hilarious, in a conspiratorial way. At parties, she whispered asides behind her hand. Like Liam, she was charming. She glistened with charisma.
 
“Do you really want to sink without trace?” Grace added. The phrase stuck in Rosa’s brain. Sink without trace?
 
“I assumed I would,” she said. “It’s what we do.”
 
“Rubbish!” said Grace. “Total rubbish!” Her hands were folded in her lap. She kept her gestures succinct and certain. She smiled as she spoke, but she was steely all the same. When she smiled she showed dozens of shiny teeth. Her hair was blond and she wore it round her shoulders like a vestal virgin. She looked elegant, as she always did, in a skirt that hugged her hips, an open-necked shirt that showed her verdant olive skin. Still, she was inquisitorial and there were certain things she stridently defended. Sitting with her legs crossed, brow furrowed over the matter at hand, Grace said, “You owe it to yourself.”
 
“I have exerted my right to choose,” said Rosa.
 
“And you choose failure and ignominy,” said Grace, into her stride. Any moment, thought Rosa, she would raise a fist. She would stand and cry “To Arms!” “What’s your plan?”
 
Rosa had no plan. This caused Grace to release another tight smile. She looked briefly as if she pitied Rosa. Well, perhaps she did, because Rosa was in a sorry state, timorous and plaintive, picking at her nails with an empty glass before her. She had drunk too swiftly and now her head was clouded and her concentration was slipping. Still Grace had something to teach her. “Always plan before you leave a job,” she was saying. “Or the other way round, never leave a job without a plan. Are you hoping Liam will support you?” This she said leaning forward, face close to Rosa’s, glass of wine in one hand, orb of justice in the other.
 
“No, not really.”
 
“Not really? Not really? Come on Rosa, don’t be ridiculous! You can’t expect him to do that. You don’t really expect him to do that, do you? What do you mean by not really?” Suddenly Grace seemed unhappy. Her mouth twisted and she looked pained. That was unusual for Grace, who conducted herself with compelling sangfroid, and it made Rosa stare at her. She thought it was something about her indecisiveness, her complete failure to act, which was distressing Grace.
 
“I mean probably I don’t,” she said.
 
Now Grace set down her glass and looked Rosa deep in the eyes. “Rosa, you have to explain this. Probably? Please tell me what you’re feeling,” she said.
 
And, nervous because Grace was so fixed on her, Rosa said, “No you’re right. I have to stand alone. I was inert, idle, generally lazy. It’s a shock when you hit the water, cold on your limbs, but now it’s better. Now I am beginning to change.”
 
“Exactly, you said it,” said Grace. “Don’t just depend on Liam. That’s a foolish thing to do.” She seemed to relax. She had been holding herself upright, looking angular, and now she curved again. Grace had a delicate slouch. She hunched her shoulders like a child. Her sudden tautness was perplexing at the time, then they moved on.
 
As for her father! Well, Rosa genuinely frightened her poor father. She understood the deal. He had worked hard, and now he expected a leisurely decline. His wife was dead and for a time he had been a wide-eyed embodiment of grief, quite crazy in the living room, later unkempt in the garden, given to sudden fits of weeping. He wept like he was dying, gasping and holding his head. Really, in the nineteenth century he would have died and they would have said it was from his broken heart. But the doctors had buoyed him with remedies. They cranked him up again and now he was running along well enough. He was not happy, certainly, and it bothered Rosa that she was making him anxious. Still, he had other matters to consider. Aside from the weight of grief, heavy upon him, he was seventy, living on his pension, a recent convert to all sorts of homeopathic medicines, observing a sanctioned diet of fruit and vegetables. If he didn’t make her his top priority she understood why. “I don’t expect any help,” she told him when he called to berate her. He caught her, pinned her so she couldn’t struggle and told her off as if she was a child. On the counterattack, Rosa began, “I’ll manage fine”—“You always do”—he said, interrupting promptly. “You always did, I mean, until now. I understand, Rosa. I feel desperately sorry. But this isn’t the right thing to do.”
 
“No no, no,” she said. “It’s not a bad thing. I’ve decided to take stock.”
 
“Take stock, what does that mean?”
 
“I’ve been feeling a little under the weather. As if I’m suffering from . . .”
 
Malaise. Intellectual disintegration. Epistemological meltdown. A strange rash on my arms that won’t be treated. Hypochondria of the undistilled sort. An aversion to conversation. Acedia plain and simple.
 
“From what exactly? Really, Rosa, we must get to the bottom of this. You can’t just run out of a good job for no reason. Whatever the circumstances, you can’t do that.”
 
“I’m not running out for no reason. There’s a compelling reason. Viz, I can’t possibly do the job.”
 
“Why not?”
 
“It’s reality, Father,” she said, reluctantly. “Reality is an empty abandoned town, as Musil said. Or was that imagination? Anyway, I don’t see how I can sit at my desk presenting reality to people, tailoring it for view, commenting glibly on daily events, when I have no idea what is going on. Do you, really? Gamma rays, for example, I know nothing about them. Any of them. Invisible forces, belief systems, philosophies of the way, I know nothing.”
 
“Do you have the money saved to retrain?”
 
“No, I don’t have any money saved.”
 
“Rosa, that was extremely irresponsible of you.”
 
“It’s terrible, I agree. I’ve been duped.” The best scramble to something they call affluence, hysterical borrowing and material clutter. The worst—well, who was she to talk about the worst?
 
“You could have bought a flat, if you’d wanted to,” said her father. “Then at least you would have something to show for yourself.”
 
“No, no, that doesn’t matter. The property ladder!” And she thought, the property ladder is a grand illusion—everything dangling out of reach, and the ladder running up and up higher and higher to a grand crash, the Götterdämmerung of wage slaves, in which the liveried masses will fight a final battle for a small house to call their own and be slain in droves and burnt to a crisp. From the ashes of the wage slave apocalypse will arise a better world.
 
Meanwhile her father was saying, “It’s all so sudden, and extreme. Your mother wouldn’t have wanted you to throw everything away.”
 
“Look I’ll be honest, Dad,” said Rosa. “I’m never going back to that stinking pigpen. I’m not snuffling for scraps anymore. I’m off to find the grail. ‘Il me semble que je serais bien, là où je ne suis pas,’ as someone said. To be plain, I am discarding the Schweinerei. I will have no more of it. Lie your own lies, Dad. I’m off to the temple of truth, wherever the hell it is.”
 
“Rosa, you should go and see a doctor,” said her father.
 
“That’s not on my list.”
 
“Your response is disproportionate. Your grief is disproportionate, self-destructive. You refuse to accept that life is hard. Things are never perfect,” he said. He was always ready with a platitude. He was good at them, quite adept in their use. Some days he talked in fluent cliché. But so did she. It was a genetic trait. Her family had been unoriginal for generations.
 
“I understand. I’m one of the lucky ones.”—This she told herself a thousand times a day.
 
“Well, now you’ll find out,” said her father.
 
“Find out what?”
 
“If you are one of the lucky ones,” he said.
 
Copyright © 2007 by Joanna Kavenna. All rights reserved.

Continues...

Excerpted from Inglorious by Kavenna, Joanna Copyright © 2007 by Kavenna, Joanna. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Reading Group Guide

About this Guide

The following author biography and list of questions about Inglorious are intended as resources to aid individual readers and book groups who would like to learn more about the author and this book. We hope that this guide will provide you a starting place for discussion, and suggest a variety of perspectives from which you might approach Inglorious.

Discussion Questions

1. Why does Rosa leave her job? Is it an unconscious act to force a confrontation with Liam? Is this the beginning of her downward spiral? Did it cause her decline, or vise versa?

2. Did Rosa stop loving Liam, or were her feelings for him the result of her mother's death? Did Rosa cause Liam's disaffection by never praising him?

3. Was Rosa willfully blind to Liam and Grace's affair? Did she deserve their treatment? Grace insisted Rosa and Liam's relationship was over before she began her relationship with him. Was she justified in having the affair or was it a betrayal of her friendship with Rosa?

4. Rosa stays with several "friends" who she doesn't know very well. Why not go to her father's? Why can't she ask him for help? Describe the ways in which Rosa and her father are alike and how they are different. She says her father never had any authority. What can you glean from the novel about her parents' marriage?

5. Why does Rosa take up with Andreas? She says he lacks a sense of foreboding. Discuss her attraction to him.

6. Rosa often invokes philosophy and the works of Socrates, the Upanishads, Bacon, The Golden Bough, Proust, Vedas, and others. She calls herself "Jamesian," saying she only trusts experience. Does her preoccupation with philosophers feed her paralysis and inability to act? Is Rosa too cerebral?

7. Discuss the three parts of the novel: Retreat (from what), Quest (for what), Return (to what). Are they stages of grief?

8. Why does Rosa make endless lists? Why can't she accomplish anything on them?

9. What causes Rosa's apathy? Why is she so willing to humiliate herself?

10. The author chooses to omit information about Rosa's mother, who remains a shadow character. Is this meant as part of Rosa's inability to accept her mother's death? Finally, as she rides the train to visit Judy and Will, Rosa is flooded with memories about her mother. Why does this come so late in novel?

11. Rosa eventually reveals how her mother died and realizes that her parents were actually happy. For the first time she admits how abandoned she feels. Speculate on the nature of the dynamic between Rosa and her parents.

12. On the train back from her visit to Will and Judy, Rosa contemplates her options: escape or retreat. Which will she choose? Rosa writes a letter to her mother apologizing for getting so distraught over her death. Will she be able to move on? What will happen to Rosa after the novel ends?

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See All Customer Reviews

Inglorious 3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 11 reviews.
jayne_charles on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This was a profound and quite moving novel which, against all expectations, sustained its intensity right through to the end, never letting up at all. It is surely the work of an awesome intellect.The story follows Rosa, a journalist who suffers a sort of early mid-life crisis following the death of her mother, quits her job and slides into poverty and mental instability. Suddenly she is aware of the futility of her own existence, and the fundamental questions of philosophy are suddenly all too important, and prevent her from pulling herself together.Though told in the third person, Rosa's 'voice' comes across very clearly, and the enormity of the outside world, as she views it walking through the streets of London, is fascinating viewed through her eyes. Not a detail is missed, and it is reminiscent of James Joyce's 'Ullyses' though - dare I say it - better and more enjoyable. I also admired the author's ability to zero in on the telling details - the bank employee with his 'faceful of compelling moles', and the ageing man who sits opposite Rosa on the train, banging into her and taking so long over his apology that they were 'in danger of having a conversation' !
budrfly9 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Inglorious is the artfully written story of a young woman's midlife downward spiral. Everything that defines her is changing. Her mother has passed on, her father is distant and condemning, she has no job (by her own doing) and her longtime boyfriend is getting married (to someone else). In the first few chapters, Rosa's world is not just turned upside down, it is also given a thorough shake as if to make sure there is nothing left sticking to the liner. For the most part she seems hopeless. She fills her time making lists of things she should do (and almost never does) and writing manic, ineffectual and oft times unsolicited letters to employers in an attempt to hire herself out. This first novel for author Joanna Kavenna was mildly engaging but it seemed as if that was the point. The main character's real issue seemed to be that she was only mildly engaged in life. She was bored and lonely even in her longtime live in relationship. Her strange and self destructing behavior seems to be an unconscious attempt to add some unpredictability to life. Her search for the ever illusive 'something more' and continuous inability to act in her own best interest speaks to the need to avoid all her realities and instead embrace Quixotic pursuits. More to come... (under construction)
emccullough on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Rosa Lane's life begins to unravel after the death of her mother. She loses everything we hold dear as markers of middle-class success: a good job, a good boyfriend, her home. To the bewilderment and annoyance of her friends and family Rosa gives herself over completely to her existential despair. Perhaps hers is the correct response to deep loss; maybe we shouldn't always be so quick to pull ourselves together.
kepitcher on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I read this book last fall, but what has stayed with me in this story of a woman who is depressed and alone, facing really hard decisions for the first time in her life. After he mother dies, Rosa leaves a job she dislikes and then her boyfriend leaves her. These series of disasters just set the stage for Rosa to fix herself.
jstraws on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Inglorious is the beautifully written, deeply moving story of one woman's unraveling. Anyone who has ever found herself facing an unexpectedly unpleasant reality will find Rosa to be a raw, sympathetic protagonist. In the opening pages, Rosa's world hasn't just been turned upside down--it's been shaken until everything of significance seems to have tumbled out, and she's not sure whether or not it's worth righting again. The author's sometimes manic prose depicts this acute sadness with a subtle dark humor that reveals itself just often enough to make you think there might be hope for Rosa yet. As I read, I found myself pulling for Rosa, even when she no longer seemed to be pulling for herself. More than a portrayal of depression, as other reviewers have defined Joanna Kavenna's debut, I found this book to be, above all else, a portrait of loneliness. What was most troubling, for me, about Rosa's story was the complete failure of everyone around her to show more than limited understanding or empathy for what she was going through. As the plot progresses, every time we think Rosa has been offered a safe refuge, she seems to find herself caught off guard, facing plain-faced judgment and painful misunderstanding. Simply put, everyone seems to think Rosa should get over things, move on, case closed. Does she bring some of this scrutiny on herself by her strange, unpredictable, even out-of-control behavior? Perhaps. Still, what becomes tragically clear is that Rosa has nowhere to turn, and we can feel her desperation mounting almost tangibly with every page.After our personal reality shifts, can any of us ever be sure we will be the same again? Why shouldn't we be able to take a step away, take a break, when we find the expectations of society suddenly stifling? How can we all live and frame our lives--nurture our relationships, even--so that support systems will be in place when we need them most? Inglorious had (and still has) me pondering all this and more--the mark, I say, of a good book.
kakadoo202 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
i really was excited about a funny book about an average woman who decides to step out of the daily treatmill, but ....well, I am told to be nice in my review. Let me just say, it was a book I was not able to get in to and I didn't finish it.
LisaKenney on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Her mother¿s death and a growing sense of dissatisfaction with the superficiality of her life are the catalysts for thirty-five year old Rosa to impulsively quit her job as a successful journalist for a London newspaper and enter a painfully long meltdown. Rosa has no prospects or plans and her life rapidly disintegrates. A decade-long live-in relationship with her handsome, but vapid boyfriend abruptly ends and she moves in with a friend. She soon finds out that her ex and her closest friend are about to be married. Without income or job prospects (she¿s not really looking), her debt mounts and she wears out one and then another friend¿s hospitality. She¿s reduced her assets down to a few changes of clothes and a copy of A Vindication of the Rights of Woman and the complete works of Shakespeare as the train wreck continues in painful slow motion.I wanted to like this book. The US cover art and back cover blurb are misleading and would lead one to believe Inglorious is chick-lit ¿ far from it. Joanna Kavenna won the Orange award for new writers, so my expectations were high. Kavenna is indeed a gifted writer, her prose is beautiful and Inglorious is an ambitious work that just misses the mark. The novel is relatively plot-less and the ending is unresolved and pessimistic. The work feels much more like an open ended character study, than a completed novel and even that I could indulge, but I found there were inconsistencies that kept pulling me out of the often lovely fictive dream the author created and they made me question the veracity of Rosa¿s thoughts and actions.Rosa has many of the symptoms of someone entering a deep, clinical depression, but she¿s got none of the lethargy associated with depression and a version of mental mania that closely resembles logorrhea ¿ if there were a non-verbal kind. She is an obsessive list-maker and letter writer, although she never manages to cross anything off the lists and the letters are promptly torn up and tossed. What keeps one reading is that she is darkly funny. She spends a good deal of the first third of the book wandering the streets of London and we float through her stream of consciousness as she ponders the meaning of existence and tries to work through various philosophical concepts and ideas, while niggling reminders of her need to find employment, lodging and cash continue to intrude. I found myself at times fascinated with her trains of thought, but at other times annoyed that she has the time and energy to wander aimlessly around London, sit in coffee shops writing endless lists and letters, but she doesn¿t have the inclination to take care of her own basic survival needs. Her symptoms are so incongruous with the forms of mental illness I¿ve witnessed that I found myself distracted trying to identify her pathology in order to resist the idea that she is simply spoiled and self-indulgent.Rosa¿s situation goes from bad to worse and she continues to deteriorate and cut herself off from friends and socially acceptable behavior.Again, I found myself wondering about her friends' seeming obliviousness and indifference to her condition.Readers will be polarized about this book. Some will forgive the lack of conventional story and character and be charmed by the author¿s keen sense of irony and the admittedly fine writing that often displays flashes of brilliance. Others may find that the references and quotes border on pretentiousness and lose patience. The fact that I had to stop to and consider which camp I was in and my inability to buy into the reality of Rosa¿s breakdown left me with the feeling that this was a valiant effort, but the author didn¿t quite pull it off.
RidgewayGirl on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is a curious book, slow, but compelling. The plot is negligible, all but one of the characters slightly drawn, but the protagonist, Rosa Lane, a woman who sinks into depression and lassitude after the death of her mother is brightly realized, at once sympathetic and maddening. Rosa quits her job (quite an interesting one as a journalist with a sympathetic boss), is dumped by her partner and ends up out-staying her welcome with a succession of friends as she uses her credit card to get by. Her physical situation is never dire, but emotionally she is falling apart, making endless lists of important philosophical works that she never gets around to reading. The language swings wildly from the pretentiously baroque ("Essentially Rosa you are succumbing to an atavistic - and unfeminine - urge for violence") to ordinary idiomatic speech. This takes some getting used to, especially since every character unevenly varies his speech. Even the 25 year old aspiring actor, who is German, has, at times, an astonishing vocabulary.This is a strange book, the uneven language takes on its own cadence. As long as you aren't looking for plot or characterization, this book is enjoyable.
nnjmom on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Inglorious is British author Joanna Kavenna¿s first novel, and I can¿t say it makes me want to pick up any of her future work.Inglorious is the story of Rosa Lane, a writer who works as a critic for a London newspaper. She is floundering after the death of her mother. Her grief has overwhelmed her, and made her already floundering relationship with Liam come to a dead standstill. When she decides to resign from her job, Liam is pushed to admit that they have no future together. He dumps her, takes up with her best friend Grace, and the two immediately become engaged.At this point, Rosa undergoes a breakdown of immense proportion. She is unable to act in her own best interest, and she sinks further and further into debt. She moves from friend¿s flat to friend¿s flat, leaving when each one becomes tired of her endless depression and philosophical mutterings. She is unable to stand up for herself with Liam, who owes her money for their jointly-owned furniture. She is unable to write a coherent letter in response to the employment ads she finds in the newspaper. She is unable to ask her father for financial help - or even to tell him how much she is struggling. Basically, she is unable to do anything - except write endless lists of all the things she should be doing, but isn¿t. I know that depression exists, that grief can be debilitating. I¿ve read books about depression and grief. I¿ve read novels in which the main character is depressed or grieving. These topics can be written in such a way that reading about them doesn¿t make you want to shake the main character until her teeth rattle. Unfortunately, Kavenna doesn¿t write in that way. The style of the novel is almost stream of consciousness, even though it is written in the third person. The book pretty much follows every thought that Rosa has, no matter how repetitive or irrelevant. There is very little dialogue or actual movement or change. In fact, when I finished the book, I didn¿t get the sense that Rosa had made any sort of breakthrough. She leaves for a new location, but her problems are all still with her, and I expect things will go as badly for her as they did in London.I wanted to like this book. When I first started it, I was intrigued by the writing style. But then it became so repetitive, and nothing seemed to change, and I had to force myself to finish it.
GloriaSkye More than 1 year ago
THis is not a consoling book, it is not meant to be.  It is not a book for people with a low attention span. It is not a book for people who cannot punctuate (see below). It is difficult, weird and very very raw. It is hilariously funny but only if you have a dark sense of humour. There is  no plot. That is clearly the point.  There are also no car chases.  That is also clearly the point.  I loved it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I give this book credit for beautiful writing, but the plot goes nowhere, with the slightest hint of hope at the end it is barely meaningful. If you like a book that consists of every sort of moaning and groaning, then this is the book for you. That's it: moaning and groaning and making excuses, for the whole book.