Umbrella reviews

Financial Times:
‘An ambitiously conceived and brilliantly executed novel in the high modernist tradition of James Joyce and Virginia Woolf … Its scope is dazzling … The switches between perspective and chronology are demanding (there are no chapters), but Self handles them with bravura skill, setting up imagery and phrases that echo suggestively between different episodes … Umbrella is an immense achievement.’ (Full review here.)

The Guardian:
‘Though hard work is certainly demanded from the reader, it is always rewarded. Through the polyphonic, epoch-hopping torrent, we gradually construct a coherent and beguiling narrative. As the title-defining epigraph from Joyce alerts us – “A brother is as easily forgotten as an umbrella” – fraternity is an urgent concern.’ (Full review here.)

The Observer:
Umbrella is old-school modernism. It isn’t supposed to be a breeze. But it is, to use the literary critical term of art, kind of amazing … It may not be his easiest, but I think this may be Will Self’s best book.’ (Full review here.)

The Independent:
‘There is a contemplative quality to the prose that feels new … but the content remains familiar: a Swiftian disgust with the body; a fastidious querulousness about human sexuality; a forcing of attention on human frailty … Undoubtedly Self’s most considered novel, as much a new beginning as a consolidation of everything he has written to date.’ (Full review here.)

Daily Telegraph:
‘The Edwardian sections are the most lavishly engaging, with Self doing different voices like a schizophrenic music hall act. One of the most striking scenes is a journey taken by Audrey and her father through the thronging streets of “Lunnun town”, the father’s umbrella poking its way through all early 20th-century mod cons: motor vehicles, moving images, advertising, air travel, electric light, department stores, new professions. Audrey has a turn, the first sign of her brain fever, her hands beginning to shake with the impact of modernity. Self, the renowned flâneur, brilliantly paints the anxieties of the time in “this tour of the city about to be swept away” to make way for “the city of the future”, the patination of umbrellas covering a street soused in drizzle.’

‘In the course of the book the umbrella becomes a syringe, a penis, a fetish of the bourgeoisie, as one Edwardian socialist pompously declares it, and the novel itself an umbrella beneath whose canopy all manner of anxieties about technology and the body cram together.’ (Full review here.)

Scotland on Sunday:
Umbrella is an astonishing achievement, a novel of exhilarating linguistic invention and high moral seriousness.’ (Full review here.)

Daily Mail:
‘A hot tip for the Booker prize, Will Self’s Joycean tribute is a stream of consciousness tour de force.’ (Full review here.)

‘A surprisingly moving story of common people crushed by the state.’