The Hour I First Believed

The Hour I First Believed

3.79 (49,792 ratings by Goodreads)
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From the author of the international number one bestseller I Know This Much is True comes a magnificent novel which explores the consequence of violent events, and the chaos that ensues, for human lives blown irrevocably off course Caelum Quirk and his wife Maureen move to Colorado and find jobs at Columbine High School. One day in April 1999, when Caelum is called away by a family emergency, Maureen cowers in a cupboard in the school library, hiding from two students on a murderous rampage. Though miraculously she survives, Maureen cannot recover from the trauma. Seeking solace, the couple returns to Connecticut to an illusion of safety on the Quirk family farm. As Maureen fights to regain her sanity, Caelum discovers a cache of forgotten memorabilia spanning five generations of his family. As he painstakingly reconstructs the lives of his ancestors, he must confront their secrets and fashion a future from the ashes of his own tragedy. His personal quest for meaning becomes a mythic journey that is both contemporary and quintessentially more

Product details

  • Hardback | 832 pages
  • 156 x 234 x 62mm | 1,120.37g
  • HarperCollins Publishers
  • HarperCollins Publishers Ltd
  • London, United Kingdom
  • English
  • 0007290683
  • 9780007290680
  • 690,789

Review Text

A glacially paced novel of modern manners and mayhem, its chief elements being middle-aged angst, mass murder and pizza.Like Jack Torrance of Stephen King's The Shining, Caelum Quirk is a man of ambition who moved to Colorado to find his fortune and wound up teaching creative writing to the unwilling. At the beginning of the book, we learn that Caelum's wife, Maureen, has been engaging in certain extracurricular activities. While Caelum does not take an ax to the offending parties, he is consigned to the hell of anger-management courses all the same. For her part, Maureen discovers horror when violence erupts at the school where she works - namely, Columbine High, in the tidy Denver suburb of Littleton. Caelum, a teacher, is absent, attending to a sick aunt across the country. While doing so, and over the course of much time and much talk among many characters, Maureen reckons with having become unhinged while Caelum discovers ominous clippings in the family archive. Lamb (I Know This Much Is True, 1998, etc.) writes at considerable leisure about all this; indeed, the gunfire starts 150 pages into the narrative. Meanwhile and after, there is much pondering. Lamb knows how to put together a good, meaning-charged sentence ("I've stalked the monster during long, meditative runs on country roads, at the bottoms of wine and scotch bottles, and over the Internet, that labyrinth inside the labyrinth"), but there are plenty of clunkers, too. Moreover, the takeaway point isn't quite clear: Lamb seems to be suggesting that inside every one of us, or at least every family, there's a Dylan Klebold screaming to get out and plenty of skeletons for too few closets.A clearer focus and a forgone subplot or two would have helped. Of interest, however, as an entry in the body of literature that has emerged from real tragedy. (Kirkus Reviews)show more

Review quote

Praise for THE HOUR I FIRST BELIEVED 'A fine and humane novel which tries to make sense of America's turbulent times' Daily Mail 'Captivating...he entrances' Financial Times 'Those who love a good plot will not be disappointed...He avoids any maudlin sentiment and constantly surprises. He delivers on his message of is genuinely moving.' Independent Praise for I KNOW THIS MUCH IS TRUE 'A modern Greek tragedy![Lamb's] success is to present this with terrific readability, tenderness, optimism and, most surprisingly, wit! The hallmark of the book is fine writing and a commendable depth of characterisation' The Times 'Wally Lamb's achievement is to force you to feel Dominick's pain! the events in Dominick's everyday nightmare are presented with a sneaky simplicity which generates emotional tension' Daily Telegraph 'A triumph of simple beauty' Time 'I Know This Much Is True never grapples with anything less than life's biggest questions! a modern-day Dostoyevsky' New York Times 'Every now and then a book comes along that sets new standards for writers and readers alike. Wally Lamb's latest novel is stunning -- and even that might be an understatement' Associated Press Reader reviews on Amazon include: 'This is my top read ever. It's fantastic.' 'I will re-read it for years to come. Why can't they all be this good?' 'The book had such an insight of human nature that it left me wondering how was it possible to capture so much truth in a simple way.' 'It will make you laugh, gasp and cry.' 'Lamb creates a nuanced picture of a flawed but decent man. And the questions that permeate the novel! contribute to a fully developed and triumphantly resolved exploration of one man's suffering and redemption' Publishers Weekly 'Captivating' Bookseller Praise for THE HOUR I FIRST BELIEVED 'It's disturbing yet achingly tender, a complex story related with such clarity and intimacy that the reader is captured by the narrator's dilemma right from the start. Caelum Quirk in his vulnerability, his confusion, his sympathy and above all his quiet decency, expresses so much about what it means to be a man trying to cope with the ripple effects of private and public trauma.' Debra Adelaide, author of The Household Guide to Dying 'Wally Lamb spins a great yarn, and this one is epic' Sunday Mail Brisbaneshow more

About Wally Lamb

Wally Lamb has been a high school teacher and a teacher of creative writing at the University of Connecticut. He has led writing workshops with women in prison and edited anthologies of their work. He lives in Connecticut with his wife. They have three more

Rating details

49,792 ratings
3.79 out of 5 stars
5 28% (13,840)
4 37% (18,276)
3 25% (12,428)
2 8% (4,049)
1 2% (1,199)
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