Wednesday, 18 September 2013

The End of Mr. Y by Scarlett Thomas (4.5/5)

First published: 2006
Page count: 502

The back says: When Ariel Manto uncovers a copy of The End of Mr. Y is a second-hand bookshop, she can't believe her eyes. She knows enough about its author, the outlandish Victorian scientist Thomas Lumas, to know that copies are exceedingly rare. And, some say, cursed. With Mr. Y under her arm, Ariel finds herself thrust into a thrilling adventure of love, sex, death and time-travel.

I say: With the risk of sounding terribly silly, this was a real tour de force that I didn’t want to put down. I love books about books – especially if the book within the book is interesting, which The End of Mr. Y was – so it was a ridiculously perfect read for me.
I want to start all over again.

So, we have Ariel who is doing a PhD on mind experiments and has an obsession with Thomas Lumas, the author of The End of Mr. Y, but has never read the rare book which is said to kill everyone who reads it. Then her professor Saul Burlem disappears and she finds the book in a second-hand store – along with books that could only have belonged to Burlem – so she decides to read it, despite the fear of the curse.
Of course.

And then things start getting complicated with the travel into people’s (and animals’) minds and other such things that I cannot divulge as it would be spoiling the fun.
Well, some of it.

The one thing that I thought was trying with this novel is that Thomas goes into great detail about deconstruction, structuralism, science and language. I have just read about (and made a presentation of) the annoying J-named Frenchies; Rousseau, Derrida, Lyotard, and Baudrillard, and the Germans Heidegger, Husserl and Hegel, so this made the novel a lot easier because I understood the constant references to them and their work. Mind me, I am incredibly interested in philosophy, physics and language, but the hypothetical detail within the novel was a tad too much, even for me. They were discussing time travel and – of course – Einstein and Newton which made my head hurt.
So yeah, unless one is interested in gaining more in depth knowledge of the above persons’ work, this won’t be a fun read at 500 pages.

Having said all that, it was fluid and consistent in its execution; and brilliantly done. The last two sentences left me extremely disappointed, but when I flicked over to the first page it all made sense – I just didn’t like the paradox of it all - that’s why it gets a 4.5/5. I would love to deconstruct this novel for uni, but that would take me a ridiculously long time and I would have to revisit the idea of thought being matter yet doesn’t exist until we think it.


  1. Ooooooh! I bought this a while ago because a few of my blog friends are big fans of Thomas's, but I didn't really know what it was about so I haven't read it yet (as is my way). But NOW I'm really quite excited to read it! Philosophy and whatnot ftw!

    1. If you love philosophy, you'll love this! And read it so that I can read your review and take on all of it.

      I'd never heard of it, or Thomas, until I read the title in some list (as we do) and thought it was catchy enough for me to give it a go. Now I'll be looking for more of her work.