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Losing Nelson
BARRY UNSWORTH

Losing Nelson by Barry Unsworth
33 reviews (1999) (352p)
Amazon.com Best Books

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Book Description
"Stunningly original. . . . Pulpy and juicy, full of wisdom and horror." —Los Angeles Times Book Review Losing Nelson is a novel of obsession, the story of Charles Cleasby, a man unable to see himself separately from the hero—Lord Horatio Nelson—he mistakenly idolizes. He is, in fact, a Nelson biographer run amok. He is convinced that Nelson, Britain's greatest admiral, who lost his own life defeating Napoleon in the Battle of Trafalgar, is the perfect hero. However, in his research he has come upon an incident of horrifying brutality in Nelson's military career that simply stumps all attempts at glorification. "Books about the sea and those who sail it are much in vogue. This seems to have been set off by the surprising and much deserved popularity of Sebastian Junger's The Perfect Storm, not to mention the Aubrey/Maturin novels of Patrick O'Brian. . . . [Losing Nelson is] the best book of the lot."—Jonathan Yardley, Washington Post Book World (1999 Critic's Choice). A Publishers Weekly Best Book of 1999; A New York Times Notable Book of 1999. Reading group guide available. .


Amazon.com Review
Perched high atop his pedestal in London, Admiral Horatio Nelson has remained one of the loftiest icons of English nationalism. Now, however, he has been seriously rattled by Barry Unsworth's Losing Nelson, a gripping study of the dark side of heroism and hero worship. In the basement of his large, anonymous North London house, Charles Cleasby obsessively reenacts the admiral's every military maneuver: "Usually when we fought these battles I had a feeling of fulfilment, they brought me closer to him..." Cleasby's admiration also extends upstairs--to his life's work, a biography of the great man. His only assistant in his heroic struggle is Miss Lily (real name, Lilian Butler), a hired secretary who carefully transcribes his painstaking pages. Cleasby wants nothing better than to rescue Nelson from the revisionist clutches of unpatriotic academic cynics. Alas, his passion soon reveals a sinister side, as he declares that he is in fact the admiral's twin:
I will say what I think angels are. They can be dark or bright, but they all have the gift of spontaneity, of creating themselves anew. This is a pure form of energy, and Horatio was winged with it. All the same, angels are not complete, they need their counterparts, the dark needs the bright, the hidden needs the open, and vice versa. Sometimes they meet and recognize each other. Sometimes, as with Horatio and me, the pairing occurs over spaces of time or distance. He became a bright angel on February 14, 1797, during the Battle of Cape St. Vincent. I became his dark twin on September 9, 1997, when I too broke the line.
As the book builds to its inexorable climax--and Cleasby's only solace is his amanuensis--Losing Nelson confirms Unsworth as one of England's most elegant, understated novelists. His historical grasp of Nelson is outstanding. But his book really excels, and also profoundly disturbs, in its exploration of the tarnished angels of patriotism. --Jerry Brotton


Other Award Winning Books by Barry Unsworth
Morality Play by Barry Unsworth
53 reviews (1995) (206p) (Booker)
Read Reviews | Visit this book's Amazon.com page
Sacred Hunger by Barry Unsworth
45 reviews (1992) (629p) (Booker)
Read Reviews | Visit this book's Amazon.com page
Pascali's Island by Barry Unsworth
5 reviews (1980) (192p) (Booker)
Read Reviews | Visit this book's Amazon.com page

Barry Unsworth Award Stats
Major Prize* Nominations 3  
Unique Books Nominated for a Major Prize* 3  
Pulitzer Prize Wins 0  
Pulitzer Prize Nominations 0  
National Book Critics Circle Award Wins 0  
National Book Critics Circle Award Nominations 0  
National Book Award Wins 0  
National Book Award Nominations 0  
Man Booker Prize Wins 1 Sacred Hunger ·  
Man Booker Prize Nominations 3 Morality Play · Pascali's Island · Sacred Hunger ·  
PEN/Faulkner Award Wins 0  
PEN/Faulkner Award Nominations 0  

*Major Prize = Pulitzer Prize, National Book Critics Circle Award, National Book Award, Man Booker Prize, and PEN/Faulkner Award

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