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Unconvincing,
Confusing,
Slow

1 review

Spilling Clarence
by Anne Ursu

Published: 2003-01-15
Paperback : 304 pages
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What if you could suddenly remember everything that ever happened to you, every joy and every sorrow that you had ever endured? Would it be a blessing -- or a curse?

This is the fate of the residents of the town of Clarence, who fall under the spell of a strange and powerful drug that ...

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Introduction

What if you could suddenly remember everything that ever happened to you, every joy and every sorrow that you had ever endured? Would it be a blessing -- or a curse?

This is the fate of the residents of the town of Clarence, who fall under the spell of a strange and powerful drug that unlocks their memories. The past comes flooding back without the buffer of time, and the townspeople, young and old, find themselves awash in their own reminiscences -- of love and death, of war and childhood, of happiness they've experienced, and sins they've committed.

Beautifully rendered with a light comic touch, this bittersweet novel is about more than the sum of its beguiling parts. Spilling Clarence explores our relationship with our histories, the seductive pull of regret, the unreliability of memory, and the bliss of forgetting. A universe peopled by exquisitely drawn characters, Spilling Clarence is a moving introduction to the impressive talents of an exciting new writer.

In Anne Ursu's gracefully layered first novel, Spilling Clarence, a fire at a psychopharmaceutical plant releases a yellow cloud of psychoactive chemicals into the air of a sleepy college town named Clarence. Disturbing effects begin to show up in the townspeople, especially in the residents--mainly former professors--of the cleverly named Sunny Shadows retirement home. They find themselves remembering events and people they had long forgotten, or revisiting their favorite memories to find that new details have been recovered, a few of which they would rather have kept suppressed. Happiness is only sometimes a side effect of these startling recollections. In some ways, the chemical spill speeds along emotional processes that are already a staple of contemporary fiction: recovered memory, the discovery of unexpected connections, and the confrontation of the past. Some readers may find Ursu's plot too cinematic, but she is never glib or opportunistic. Like a good theorist, she pursues her idea to its logical, often surprising conclusion in the life of each of her characters. --Regina Marler

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  "Spilling Clarence...just a mess..."by hokiegirl (see profile) 07/11/09

This book never quite gave me enough about the characters to really feel connected to them and to make me really care about them. The premise of the book was interesting but the actual story was disappointing.... (read more)

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