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Shortlisted for the 2013 East Midlands Book Award
Entertaining Strangers is a tragi-comedy about the eccentric Edwin Prince – a depressive intellectual obsessed with high culture and ants – and the mysterious, homeless narrator Jules, who gradually unravels Edwin’s impossible relationships with his landlady, neurotic mother, psychotic brother, domineering ex-wife, dead grandfather and, above all, his ant-farm. At the same time, Jules continually experiences traumatic memories full of fire and water, and gradually a terrible pre-history emerges from beneath all of the other stories, which seems somehow to shape both Jules’s fiery dreams and Edwin’s obsessions – a great fire, massacre and one girl's drowning in Smyrna, 75 years earlier.
‘Entertaining Strangers made me laugh. If you are interested in landladies, eccentrics, philosophers, bad families, music, degenerates, and ants, Jonathan Taylor's entertaining and illuminating novel will make you laugh too.’ —Kate Pullinger
‘... gripping tale of deeply strange and obsessive characters, funny and horrifying, great read.’ —Michele Hanson
‘Original, strange, funny, profound.’ —Louis De Bernières
‘Taylor achieves a heartfelt yet unsentimental memoir that is also a reconciliation.’ —Carol Birch
‘A brave and unsentimental book.’ —Diana Athill
‘Riveting, detailed, moving account of his father’s Parkinson’s, mysterious past, and his own response to it.’ —Michele Hanson
‘A literary novel, with prose like music.’ —Sophie Duffy
‘Somehow Taylor has created a penniless, snobbish autodidact who’s completely adorable. Prince is the kind of character who comes along once in a lifetime, the kind who echoes in your thoughts for days after reading. The initial absurdity of his preoccupation with ants (and the ensuing repetition of the word ‘ants’, unleashing laughs which I thought I’d reserved exclusively for Stewart Lee) develops into a more profound leitmotif and ultimately a poignant symbol of his self-destructiveness. The line between tragedy and comedy is redrawn in satisfyingly unexpected ways.’ —Fiction Uncovered
‘This is not to dumb down the novel at all, but to big it up: A literary novel, with prose like music. A novel that demands a reader response. A novel whose many many expletives swirl around hurt lives and confused emotions. A novel that deals with the crunchiness of living on the edge. That deals with families. And the way families can pass on their baggage of abusive behaviour and guilt to the next generation. And the one after that…And it is the stranger who falls through time and space through the front door that holds the key to the past.’ —Sophie Duffy
‘Entertaining Strangers is probably one of the more creative and original novels I've ever read. It's definitely an intellectual's book: one clever and gigantic allegory full of surprises, and an abundance of intriguing information about ants.’ —Dreamworld Book Reviews