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book cover of Unknown Pleasures

Unknown Pleasures

A novel by

I found myself endlessly absorbed by distant places, other times, ... the opportunities missed, the doors unopened down the passages we never took, the pleasures unknown.

Joshua Winter, the narrator in Jason Cowley's claustrophobic debut novel, Unknown Pleasures, is a boldly realised creation, an obsessive and delusional young man haunted by loss and the enigma of his father's disappearance when he was in his early adolescence. Joshua returns to England to take up a new job after 10 years' exile in Canada, it isn't long before curiosity gets the better of him and he launches into an increasingly desperate search for clues to the mystery. As he delves deeper for traces of his father Joshua's behaviour becomes increasingly erratic and fixated, leading him into trouble that he doesn't fully comprehend. The winter Joshua discovers in the detritus of his family's past is bleaker than he could have ever imagined.

There is much to admire in this self-assured first novel. Jason Cowley's unhurried pace and easy, descriptive prose style, combine to build a tense and atmospheric vision of mid-90s London; "so huge and complex, so much of its growth haphazard and serendipitous". The London Joshua arrives in is a dark, cruel anonymous place which quickly punishes his blunders. A tension is built between the reader and chief protagonist through the effective use of flashbacks, which provide telling glimpses into the circumstances surrounding Anthony Winter's disappearance. Armed with this insight the reader stays one step ahead of Joshua's floundering search for the truth; this is a novel in which knowledge is a powerful force and Cowley is careful to ensure that the reader has more. It is easy to get caught up in Joshua's search, and it is this that provides the gathering momentum of the plot.

Unknown Pleasures is about painful obsession, loss, the lost, and "the lies we tell ourselves, the painful truths we evade". We are at the mercy of the fallout from our parent's lives, evil begets evil, and the only escape is ignorance and denial. --Iain Robinson


Used availability for Jason Cowley's Unknown Pleasures

Paperback Editions

June 2001 : UK Paperback

Title: Unknown Pleasures
Author(s): George Eaton, Jason Cowley
ISBN: 0-571-20531-3 / 978-0-571-20531-8 (UK edition)
Publisher: Faber & Faber
Availability: Amazon   Amazon UK   Amazon CA   

May 2000 : UK Paperback

Title: Unknown Pleasures
Author(s): Jason Cowley
ISBN: 0-571-20233-0 / 978-0-571-20233-1 (UK edition)
Publisher: Faber and Faber
Availability: Amazon   Amazon UK   Amazon CA