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Hopeful Monsters won the 1990 Whitbread Book of the Year Award in Britain, and for good reason--it is both thought-provoking and well told. Set between the World Wars, it is the story of Max, a young English physicist/philosopher/cyberneticist, and Eleanor, a half-Jewish German anthropologist/philosopher/psychologist, who, as students, meet by chance at a production of Faust and are mystically drawn to each other. From that day forward their lives continuously intersect, even though their paths often diverge. Along the way they encounter such diverse characters as Rosa Luxembourg, Einstein, Wittgenstein, Hitler, Franco, and Jung. As might be expected from this lineup, Mosley is attempting to deal with some very complex scientific and philosophic ideas, using them to construct his own vision of humanity operating as an agent of self-creation within the context of a larger, largely undefinable truth or pattern. Happily, he is adept at summarizing these ideas, making them intelligible to the nonprofessional. Dense but accessible, this is a work of major import that belongs in all collections of serious fiction. Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 7/91.-- David W. Henderson, Eckerd Coll. Lib., St. Petersburg, Fla. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
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Hopeful monsters? ``They are the things born perhaps slightly before their time; when it's not known if the environment is quite ready for them,'' explains Max Ackermann, the Cambridge-born physicist whose exchange of letters and shared reminiscences with Eleanor Anders make up this huge, intellectual Baedeker of a novel. Mosley ( Catastrophe Practice ) takes as his subject nothing less than the curve of social and scientific thought in the 20th century and traces its path against a backdrop of political upheaval and madness. The main characters are ideally positioned to enlighten these complex issues: Max is the son of a stern, classical biologist and a Bloomsbury psychologist; Eleanor's parents are a gentle physicist father and a communist mother. Mosley's meditations on (and portraits of) Lysenko, Einstein, Wittgenstein, Brecht and others are brilliantly turned and, as Eleanor says of a Brecht play, ``representative of something happening and being demonstrated at the same time.'' The magical lurks beneath the relentless grind of the real throughout the book: a recurring theme has Max wandering into blasted landscapes where disfigured, enchanted children perform mysterious rituals. Max and the half-Jewish Eleanor maintain an irony-clad love affair from their first meeting in 1929 ; their intellectual and emotional journeys are sustained by the ambiguities of the modern era--the pursuit of the bomb for peaceful ends, which brings the couple to New Mexico, for example. Mosley's book is a perfectly realized exposition of notions integral to the Western mind. The Magic Mountain is cited at a key juncture, and it is apt: this novel, winner of the 1990 Whitbread Award, is equal to Mann's in grandeur of theme. (Nov.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.
Casual readers of fiction won't be interested, but anyone who likes a deep journey into the hearts and minds of interesting people thrust into pivotal junctures of history will want to find the patience to stick with acclaimed author Mosley's nearly 600-page-long opus. It's the period between the two world wars. Max lives in England, the son of a scientist father and a mother fascinated by the new discipline of psychoanalysis. Eleanor lives in Germany, a Jew influenced by the radical politics of the era. After their meeting and the discovery of their love, Max and Eleanor are swept away and apart by the tides of history and important events all over the world. Designated the 1990 Whitbread Book of the Year, Hopeful Monsters melds the passions of the intellectual's everyday life with a keen sense of the importance of twentieth-century ideas. The voices of Freud, Heidegger, and Einstein and the vast configurations of modern science and philosophy all echo throughout this ambitious yet rewarding work. ~--Martin Brady