Utopia Avenue
Utopia Avenue are the strangest British band you've never heard of. Emerging from London's psychedelic scene in 1967 and fronted by folksinger Elf Holloway, guitar demigod Jasper de Zoet and blues bassist Dean Moss, Utopia Avenue released only two LPs during its brief and blazing journey from the clubs of Soho and draughty ballrooms to Top of the Pops and the cusp of chart success, to glory in Amsterdam, prison in Rome and a fateful American fortnight in the autumn of 1968.David Mitchell's new novel tells the unexpurgated story of Utopia Avenue; of riots in the streets and revolutions in the head; of drugs, thugs, madness, love, sex, death, art; of the families we choose and the ones we don't; of fame's Faustian pact and stardom's wobbly ladder. Can we change the world in turbulent times, or does the world change us? Utopia means 'nowhere' but could a shinier world be within grasp, if only we had a map?

Utopia Avenue Details

TitleUtopia Avenue
Author
LanguageEnglish
ReleaseJul 14th, 2020
PublisherSceptre
Rating
GenreFiction, Historical, Historical Fiction, Music, Literary Fiction

Utopia Avenue Review

  • Nilufer Ozmekik
    January 1, 1970
    Welcome to the swinging sixties: to the world of youth-driven revolution, modernism combines with hedonism showing its creative flourishing at the art, music, fashion. The world of Vietnam War, hippies, drugs, sex, rebellion, rock n roll! But this is not a story about Four Liverpool boys conquer the world with their rhythm and charisma or the other band members made us empathize with devil and taught us the importance of having satisfaction.Nope this story is about Utopia Avenue, one of the stra Welcome to the swinging sixties: to the world of youth-driven revolution, modernism combines with hedonism showing its creative flourishing at the art, music, fashion. The world of Vietnam War, hippies, drugs, sex, rebellion, rock n roll! But this is not a story about Four Liverpool boys conquer the world with their rhythm and charisma or the other band members made us empathize with devil and taught us the importance of having satisfaction.Nope this story is about Utopia Avenue, one of the strangest British bands of the history. The most enjoying fact about the introductions is the method of characters’ definitions. They are described by their music and lyrics. We’re introduced to the band members starting with Elf Holloway: folksinger, a brilliant woman trying to survive at the man’s world but her parts of the story were mostly melodramatic about her fights with her insecurities and self-sufficiency.So let’s go back to meet with the others( I have to admit I enjoyed their stories more. Even though they’re tragic, heart wrenching and consisting a very dark humor and sarcasm.)Dean Moss: Blues bassist, dealing with his bad luck and surviving in his tragi-comic life choices.But our guitarist Jasper De Zot’s story was more heartbreaking than the others because of his inner fight with his mental illness. His pain, suffer at the creation process. (Let me tell you something, I haven’t read something so powerful, realistic and emotional that describes the challenging points of creating art!!! It reminded me of Bohemian Rhapsody movies’ tragi-comic scene (mostly silly-comic) as the band members locked themselves into a bar and finally they were illuminated by finding the lyrics world: they magically appeared in their minds!!!??? (Really, is that Oscar winning best movie script?)Anyways, I don’t want to compare this remarkable masterpiece with shitty script’s painfully absurd song creating process scene or Daisy and the six’s more daytime TV romance kind of story-telling by using docuseries transcripts. But I can imagine how challenging, compelling and aching process to create something concrete like giving a child birth.And of course I had no idea about the term named “emotional dyslexia” till I read the impeccable depictions and its effects on the people. Jasper is suffering from this unique, complex illness which means it is challenging for him to understand his own feelings and reflect them to the outside world. Sometimes his expressions and articulations don’t reflect what he’s bottled inside which makes him ticking bomb: too many unexpressed and hidden emotions create a whirlwind turmoil so only his music and song lyrics help him to survive!This is musically unique, vivid, original, head spinning, entertaining, ultra-smart journey with too many surprising cameos from John Lennon, Diana Ross, Leonard Cohen , Jerry Garcia to Keith Moon, Mama Cass. Just grab the book and join David Mitchell’s powerful, magical, extraordinary universe.Utopia means “nowhere” but maybe we can find my happiness at that place with right directions coming from our own hearts!4.5 magical, mesmerizing, complex, musical, experimental stars rounded 5!So much special thanks to NetGalley and Random House Publishing Group for giving me opportunity to read and review this ARC. I’m always a big fan of David Mitchell’s captivating, outstanding novels and I truly loved this book!bloginstagramfacebooktwitter
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  • Kyle
    January 1, 1970
    People of Goodreads, this one was worth the wait! David Mitchell is a gift to the literary world, and his groovy new novel, Utopia Avenue, TOPS THE CHARTS! This may very well be my favorite of the year (and it’s only February!).First things first: I LIIIIIIIVED for the music, pop culture, film, and history references in this book. David Mitchell chose his decade and setting well for this outing. The 60’s London music scene was (and is!) I-CO-NIC, but it was also a decade of momentous change, con People of Goodreads, this one was worth the wait! David Mitchell is a gift to the literary world, and his groovy new novel, Utopia Avenue, TOPS THE CHARTS! This may very well be my favorite of the year (and it’s only February!).First things first: I LIIIIIIIVED for the music, pop culture, film, and history references in this book. David Mitchell chose his decade and setting well for this outing. The 60’s London music scene was (and is!) I-CO-NIC, but it was also a decade of momentous change, conflict, and advancement. The Swingin’ Sixties was counter-culture and civil rights, Vietnam, hippies, beatniks, psychedelia and LSD, revolution, riots, and sex, drugs, & rock ‘n’ roll. All of that, you’ll find here. There is so much to pull from, and Mr. Mitchell wastes not a single important moment.This novel is really a who’s-who of the 60’s, and—to just get it out of the way—is mostly why I took off half a star. Why, you may ask? We meet so many (in)famous characters from the era, which is all super exciting, but it throws the narrative off a bit after the first dozen-or-so, and kind of becomes a whole ‘who can I toss into the plot now that was around in 1967?’ just for the hell of it. In keeping with the music vibe: It’s a bit of a scratch in an otherwise groovy record.Anywho, the review plows onwards...The interconnected-ness of David Mitchell’s novels makes me giddy, so if you’ve read his previous works, you’ll be treated to some fun Easter Eggs from his sprawling multiverse.(I may or may not have cried at some of the familiar names and places. You’ll never know, and I’ll never fully admit it). Each chapter header is a song, driven by the narratives of a character’s arc, which I thought a cool addition. It works to the story’s benefit.The way Mr. Mitchell crafts his characters from the get-go (and with such finesse!) was what hooked me. I was immediately invested in each of them—Dean, Elf, Jasper, Levon, Griff—they all came alive. It’s really a testament to the writing that barely 10% into the book, all the characters were already so fully realized. Each of their respective chapters—as the POV shifts between Dean (the bassist), Elf (the keyboardist), Jasper (the guitarist), and once each for Griff (the drummer) and Levon (their manager)—all have a distinctive voice and mood/emotion running through them.Dean’s chapters were tragi-comic, in a sense. Scraping by, down-on-his-luck. His felt at times like incertitude, desperation, excess, bumbling hopefulness. (A character comes in halfway through, and describes each band member through their music)... “Life is a battle, is hard, but you is not alone.”Elf’s were mostly personal drama. A talented woman trying to make waves in a man’s world, all the while grappling with her own confusions. Her chapters were insecurity, questioning, repression, finding an escape, and tightly-wound stresses. ”Life is sad, is joy, is emotions.”Jasper’s chapters were... well, let’s just say his POV introduction was ‘manic thoughts on a runaway train’. To be honest, and even though I loved them all, his chapters were the ones I looked forward to the most. I found them totally absorbing. David Mitchell has created such a complex character in Jasper. It’s all very ‘tortured artist’ on the surface, but it goes much deeper than that. Jasper’s struggles with (and I use this term loosely knowing the full context of the story) “mental illness” really hit me hard. Reading his racing thoughts was like reading my own—perfectly capturing the mania. Knock-knock. His chapters made me think: melancholia, tension, genius, artist... deeply removed, but holding on. He was constantly having to “act” the part of a “Normal” human being, and fighting to keep sane. (view spoiler)[When Jasper was walking into the sea... ”You can’t undo that ending.” I teared up quite a bit at that part. (hide spoiler)] ”Life is strange, is wonderland, a dream.”As the novel progresses, the subtle shifts and changes to each character became more pronounced as their careers blossomed. The way they metamorphosed (or degraded) was written brilliantly and realistically, I’d say, for the industry. Each character has their chance to shine in Utopia Avenue, and brightly they do.One thing that I am still a bit torn on is the treatment of “mental illness” in this book. At times, I found the discussions profound, and others... well, not so much. Jasper’s (I wouldn’t dare guess at a formal diagnosis) “emotional dyslexia” was handled well; Trying to understand and articulate what he felt inside, but an inability to decode and express it. Constantly trying to parse and understand the emotions, facial expressions, intonations of everyone and everything— A sort of social dysfunction. It was heartbreaking, but also beautifully done, his broadening detachments from reality. **I don’t want to say anything more on the subject for fear of entering spoiler territory, but in terms of the rest of his psychosis... I kind of wish it had gone a different route..** (view spoiler)[I think if I had read ‘The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet’ things might’ve been clearer, but at least having read ‘The Bone Clocks’ and ‘Slade House’ offered some answers. (hide spoiler)]Nearing the end, the plot (momentarily) shifts dramatically. It fits right into David Mitchell’s wheelhouse, though, and honestly makes for quite a surprise. But after those few chapters, the narrative sort of lost a bit of steam, until it meanders to its conclusion. I think it threw off the pace and dimmed a bit of the magic. I’ll say this, too: If you haven’t read Mr. Mitchell’s previous novels (two in particular), you will be confused regarding moments in the final 1/4th of this book (and if you’d like to know which two, I’ve mentioned them in a “spoiler” tag in the comments). It’s not exactly a major issue, but it’s certainly a sizable, confusing hole in the narrative without having prior context. I can’t decide if that’s for better or worse, because this book managed to whisk me mind, body, and soul straight out of my reading slump. The trio of nit-picky complaints I have don’t change the fact that I found Utopia Avenue an epic, engrossing, and wild f*cking ride from start to finish.Actual rating: 4.5 (rounded up)(A thousand thanks to Random House and NetGalley for providing me this ARC, in exchange for an honest review!)
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  • Doug
    January 1, 1970
    4.5, rounded up. In many respects, this is a departure for Mr. Mitchell, and I think how people will react to it will largely depend on whether they are long-time die-hard aficionados (as I AM!) ... or if this is their first exposure to this definitely sui generis author. This chronicle of two years in the formation and rise to fame of a late sixties 'psychedelic/pop/rock/folk' group could easily be seen as just a more literary version of the recent best-seller Daisy Jones & The Six - since it t 4.5, rounded up. In many respects, this is a departure for Mr. Mitchell, and I think how people will react to it will largely depend on whether they are long-time die-hard aficionados (as I AM!) ... or if this is their first exposure to this definitely sui generis author. This chronicle of two years in the formation and rise to fame of a late sixties 'psychedelic/pop/rock/folk' group could easily be seen as just a more literary version of the recent best-seller Daisy Jones & The Six - since it treads similar ground within the same time frame. And for those who approach it as such, they won't be disappointed, since it's like getting a bird's eye view to a period many of us weren't around for (indeed, Mitchell himself wasn't born till 1969 - so his feat of reconstruction here is astonishing). In fact, virtually EVERY famous and up-and-coming musical act of 1967-68 (from John Lennon to Leonard Cohen to Mama Cass to Keith Moon to Jerry Garcia to Diana Ross, etc., etc.) seems to make at least a cameo appearance in these pages - which MIGHT get a bit annoying if it wasn't also so much fun. For those without any knowledge of the Mitchell multiverse, the book is largely easy enough to follow (with perhaps the minor exception of ONE chapter, as explained below) ... and will be satisfying on that fundamental level alone. But for fans, the exhilaration in any new Mitchell novel is playing connect-the-dots between this and his previous opuses. These people will probably NOT be disappointed either, since characters and concepts from those works show up regularly - from minor shout outs (Robert Frobisher from 'Cloud Atlas'; Bat Segundo from his first novel 'Ghostwritten') to at least semi-major characters (Luisa Rey, Crispin Hershey, Esther Little and Marinus from several previous works) here. Since I have a mind like a sieve, I regularly had to consult the Wikipedia entries for each of the novels to refresh my memory about his canon, and I strongly suggest anyone who wants to get the most from the book to do the same. Thar said, however, the complex metaphysics so prominent in Mitchell's last novel, 'The Bone Clocks', with the cosmic meddling of the Horologists, etc., only makes a very late appearance in a single chapter, to explain the schizophrenia of guitar wizard Jasper de Zoet (progeny of the titular character in 'The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet', several generations removed), so those expecting Mitchell to expand on those concepts could come away unsatisfied. I must admit I got somewhat lost trying to follow the myriad intricacies in 'Bone Clocks', so actually appreciated the short shrift it gets here, but others might miss such pyrotechnics. The book comes to a most satisfying conclusion, though, especially for this San Francisco native, since the final chapters take place here, following the fabled Summer of Love - and this will surely make my 'best of' list for the year. Mitchell has garnered five Booker nominations for his previous seven books, so I wouldn't be at all surprised if this became his sixth - and he could perhaps even take home the prize this time (although I have a feeling either Mantel or Ali Smith will take it for the final volumes in their respective series).My sincere thanks to both Random House and Netgalley for providing me with an ARC in exchange for this honest and enthusiastic review.
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  • fourtriplezed
    January 1, 1970
    David Mitchell quotes one famous rock musician saying that “writing about music is like dancing about architecture.” I had read this quote before and that there was some debate as to who said it. Whoever said it may have had a point depending on one’s view on the topic of writing about music. Writing about any of the arts in general is fraught with danger. Aesthetic values are a very individual pursuit, as is reading and then reviewing a book on Goodreads. I was telling some work colleagues who David Mitchell quotes one famous rock musician saying that “writing about music is like dancing about architecture.” I had read this quote before and that there was some debate as to who said it. Whoever said it may have had a point depending on one’s view on the topic of writing about music. Writing about any of the arts in general is fraught with danger. Aesthetic values are a very individual pursuit, as is reading and then reviewing a book on Goodreads. I was telling some work colleagues who are immersed in film and TV culture about a novel I recently finished and explained the length; rather long, the prose; deeply thought provoking; and the final outcome; a youthful pursuit of the arts and spirituality. “That author wrote all that for just that?” blurted out one colleague. Yeah, the author did write all “that for just that” and I personally loved that. Maybe it was dancing to architecture. So can this be applied to Utopia Avenue? Mitchell admits it as such by his use of that metaphor and if he is nothing else he is at least honest about that. His long tome is just a generic rock and roll band story and for vast parts of the story is mere dancing to architecture. I have written elsewhere that I received advice that it was a good idea to read Mitchell’s works in order, just start at the very beginning. That was the best advice ever given to me about a specific writer’s oeuvre. Yes, many will love this as a stand-alone book, I understand that, but I suspect that plenty will need to do a bit of research because the usual Mitchell jigsaw puzzle pieces that are references to his past writings are littered throughout this reading journey. First time Mitchell readers will not understand some rather subtle nods and winks, Chetwynd Mews anybody? One major character, Jasper De Zoet, is an obvious jigsaw puzzle piece. So what makes this rock and roll story mostly generic is tempered with what Mitchell’s admirers have come to know and love, his great big uber novel pretensions. I like his uber novel pretensions but then I like some rather pretentious music and will willingly dance to that kind of architecture.Did I like this novel? Yes I did but I don’t think it is anywhere near his others novels for inventiveness alone. For me it is just another rock and roll story with the originality, and at its best, the uber novel pretenses. These will be obvious to long time readers of Mitchell. I now hope that David Mitchell writes that operatic novel I am sure he once said he was interested in writing. I think I would find that much more interesting than the rock music of the 60’s. I find nothing particularly interesting about an LSD riven rock star singing in the corner of a party somewhere “have you got it yet?” even if it is a nod and a wink to some (admittedly) very good research on the era. I prefer the puzzle pieces of the fantasy rock star guitar player Jasper De Zoet much more to be honest. I just might be in a minority on this matter I suspect. I recommend this to those that want a very readable novel about the late 60’s music scene.I recommend to those that like to research those obscure references to music history. I also recommend it to those that know their music history. I recommend it to those that like the uber novel concept. I recommend it to those that like to dance to all things architectural.
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  • Blair
    January 1, 1970
    David Mitchell's new novel is the history of a fictional band. Utopia Avenue form in 1967, as the hippy idealism of the free-love Sixties is colliding with the bleeding edge of rock 'n' roll. There are four members, three of whom get their own detailed backstories and subplots. Elf is a folk singer battling sexism and figuring out her sexuality. Jasper is a posh, eccentric guitar prodigy, heavily implied to be on the autistic spectrum ('emotional dyslexia' is the term used in the book). Dean, th David Mitchell's new novel is the history of a fictional band. Utopia Avenue form in 1967, as the hippy idealism of the free-love Sixties is colliding with the bleeding edge of rock 'n' roll. There are four members, three of whom get their own detailed backstories and subplots. Elf is a folk singer battling sexism and figuring out her sexuality. Jasper is a posh, eccentric guitar prodigy, heavily implied to be on the autistic spectrum ('emotional dyslexia' is the term used in the book). Dean, the bassist, has been dirt poor all his life, and is haunted by a difficult relationship with his father. Griff is a jazz drummer from Yorkshire whose character is less developed than the others.Utopia Avenue differs from the other Mitchell novels I've read in that it follows a straight narrative, telling Utopia Avenue's story over the course of a couple of years as they rise to fame, briefly enjoy its rewards, then come to an unceremonious end. It still exists within the author's extended universe: there are appearances from/references to Luisa Rey, 'the Mongolian', Robert Frobisher and Marinus; Jasper's surname is de Zoet; as ever, I'm sure there's plenty I missed. There are fantastical elements too, mostly in Jasper's story – he is plagued by a knocking sound in his head, and his belief that this is the trapped consciousness of another person seems, eventually, to prove correct. Mostly, though, Utopia Avenue concerns itself with a detailed full-colour portrait of the music scene in the late 1960s, from scuzzy venues in small English towns to decadent celebrity parties in LA. Virtually every musician who was famous in 1967–68 makes a cameo appearance in this book.And I have mixed feelings about it. The way I felt about Utopia Avenue reminded me of the way I've felt about other literary novels by accomplished authors which I liked and admired but didn't feel able to love, for example The Bass Rock and Cleanness. The characters are well-rounded, ditto the relationships; the writing is assured; the description is evocative. So I'm reading it, thinking, 'this is a very good book! This person can really write!' and all those things you ideally should think about a book. The ingredients are all there. But my moment of connection with the story is missing. I'm wondering where it is when I'm 50 pages in, and I'm wondering the same thing hundreds of pages later, and at the end... I'm still wondering. I sometimes think that when novels are this well-researched, this painstakingly devoted to recreating their epoch, some of the magic is lost. Utopia Avenue is technically fantastic, but it never quite crosses the line from 'a series of well-written chapters about made-up people' to whatever alchemy it is that makes a novel truly extraordinary. I think I might prefer something a bit rougher around the edges and less imaginatively restrained.I'd still rank this above The Bone Clocks, but below Ghostwritten, Slade House, Cloud Atlas and number9dream. More than any of Mitchell's work, it's reminiscent of L.R. Fredericks' novels, especially The Book of Luce. (Lots of other reviews mention Daisy Jones & The Six, but really the only thing this has in common with Daisy Jones is that they're both essentially biographies of fictional bands.)I received an advance review copy of Utopia Avenue from the publisher through Edelweiss.TinyLetter
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  • Ron Charles
    January 1, 1970
    David Mitchell’s groovy new rock novel belts out the lives of a fictional band in such vivid tones that you may imagine you once heard the group play in the late ’60s. Set in London when “new labels are springing up like mushrooms,” “Utopia Avenue” is a story of creative synthesis, one of those astonishing moments when a few disparate individuals suddenly fall into harmony and change the sound of an era. Mitchell — cult writer, critical darling, popular novelist — knows much about the unpredicta David Mitchell’s groovy new rock novel belts out the lives of a fictional band in such vivid tones that you may imagine you once heard the group play in the late ’60s. Set in London when “new labels are springing up like mushrooms,” “Utopia Avenue” is a story of creative synthesis, one of those astonishing moments when a few disparate individuals suddenly fall into harmony and change the sound of an era. Mitchell — cult writer, critical darling, popular novelist — knows much about the unpredictable currents of fame, and he brings that empathy and his own extraordinarily dynamic style to this tale of four musicians.One of the many delights of “Utopia Avenue” is seeing the cosmic dust of genius swirling in chaos before the stars are formed. On a dark day in 1967 when the novel opens, Dean Moss, a bass player, gets evicted from his apartment and fired from his cafe job. Across town, a folk musician nicknamed Elf has been dumped by her. . . . To read the rest of this review, go to The Washington Post:https://www.washingtonpost.com/entert...
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  • Henk
    January 1, 1970
    So looking forward to this!:😊🎉🥳📚💞Announcing the book, which will be released next June, Mitchell quoted the maxim that “writing about music is like dancing about architecture”, saying that Utopia Avenue stemmed from it.“Songs (mostly) use language, but music plugs directly into something below or above language. Can a novel made of words (and not fitted with built-in speakers or Bluetooth) explore the wordless mysteries of music, and music’s impact on people and the world? How?” Mitchell asked. So looking forward to this!:😊🎉🥳📚💞Announcing the book, which will be released next June, Mitchell quoted the maxim that “writing about music is like dancing about architecture”, saying that Utopia Avenue stemmed from it.“Songs (mostly) use language, but music plugs directly into something below or above language. Can a novel made of words (and not fitted with built-in speakers or Bluetooth) explore the wordless mysteries of music, and music’s impact on people and the world? How?” Mitchell asked. “Is it possible to dance about architecture after all? Utopia Avenue is my rather hefty stab at an answer.”https://www.theguardian.com/books/201...
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  • Julie Ehlers
    January 1, 1970
    When the hefty ARC of Utopia Avenue turned up in my mailbox, it immediately felt promising to me. Sure, I’d never read any David Mitchell (sorry), but of course I’d heard many great things, and the plot of this novel—concerning a rock band in sixties London—sounded amazing. (It didn’t hurt that both the title and the cover reminded me of my beloved Telegraph Avenue—although I have no idea if that will delight or annoy most Mitchell fans.)At the beginning, Utopia Avenue seemed poised to live up t When the hefty ARC of Utopia Avenue turned up in my mailbox, it immediately felt promising to me. Sure, I’d never read any David Mitchell (sorry), but of course I’d heard many great things, and the plot of this novel—concerning a rock band in sixties London—sounded amazing. (It didn’t hurt that both the title and the cover reminded me of my beloved Telegraph Avenue—although I have no idea if that will delight or annoy most Mitchell fans.)At the beginning, Utopia Avenue seemed poised to live up to its promise: An immediate immersion in the streets of London and the life of Dean, a hangdog coffee-shop employee and unemployed bassist whose life is about to change for the better. It was funny and lively and vivid, with a great sense of character and place. Then the band got together and the whole thing fell apart. There’s Dean’s typical tale of a groupie-chasing musician with daddy issues. There’s guitarist Jasper, whose story of mental illness was also fairly typical until it suddenly wasn’t, devolving in a way that didn’t work for me at all. (Yes, I'm aware (view spoiler)[it hearkens back to an earlier Mitchell novel, but knowing that didn't redeem it for me. (hide spoiler)]) And there’s pianist Elf, the only female in the band and the only member whose story revolves around her relationships with others rather than her own goals, issues, and dreams. There’s also a drummer, Griff, who intrigued me but who never got his own storyline at all. Poor drummers.As for the writing, some sections (all Elf’s, of course) were sentimental and maudlin in a way I wasn’t expecting and found excruciating. And even when these rock ‘n’ rollers were engaging in sex and drugs, the whole thing felt weirdly stodgy, even dull. The numerous encounters with famous musicians of the time all felt fake, forced, and corny, and Janis Joplin unforgivably sounded English (really hope an editor fixed that before the final publication). If I’m being honest, I found this so tedious I had to take a break midway through. I had to force myself to finish. And then I hated the ending so much I wondered if it was even worth it. Maybe my expectations were too high, but really, why shouldn’t they have been? It’s David Mitchell we’re talking about here.I know some people are going to love this, either because they love it, or because they’re loyal Mitchell fans, or both. I really don’t want to argue with anyone. If people love it, I’m glad for them. I didn’t love it.I won this ARC in a Shelf Awareness giveaway. Thank you to the publisher.
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  • Marchpane
    January 1, 1970
    “David Mitchell's new novel tells the unexpurgated story of Utopia Avenue; of riots in the streets and revolutions in the head; of drugs, thugs, madness, love, sex, death, art; of the families we choose and the ones we don't; of fame's Faustian pact and stardom's wobbly ladder. Can we change the world in turbulent times, or does the world change us? Utopia means 'nowhere' but could a shinier world be within grasp, if only we had a map?”https://www.thebookseller.com/news/sc... “David Mitchell's new novel tells the unexpurgated story of Utopia Avenue; of riots in the streets and revolutions in the head; of drugs, thugs, madness, love, sex, death, art; of the families we choose and the ones we don't; of fame's Faustian pact and stardom's wobbly ladder. Can we change the world in turbulent times, or does the world change us? Utopia means 'nowhere' but could a shinier world be within grasp, if only we had a map?”https://www.thebookseller.com/news/sc...
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  • Krista
    January 1, 1970
    'Utopia' means 'no place'. An avenue is a place. So is music. When we're playing well, I'm here, but elsewhere, too. That's the paradox. Utopia is unattainable. Avenues are everywhere.I read the majority of David Mitchell's books before I started compiling reviews on Goodreads, and in my memory, they were all four or five star reads; Black Swan Green and Cloud Atlas, in particular, remain in my memory as some of my all time favourite reads. So it is with a heavy sigh of disappointment that I sit 'Utopia' means 'no place'. An avenue is a place. So is music. When we're playing well, I'm here, but elsewhere, too. That's the paradox. Utopia is unattainable. Avenues are everywhere.I read the majority of David Mitchell's books before I started compiling reviews on Goodreads, and in my memory, they were all four or five star reads; Black Swan Green and Cloud Atlas, in particular, remain in my memory as some of my all time favourite reads. So it is with a heavy sigh of disappointment that I sit down to write yet another three star review, acknowledging that if the rating seems harsh to a reader who loved Utopia Avenue, it may just be that I have been led to expect something more original and engaging from this author. (Note: I received an ARC through NetGalley and passages quoted may not be in their final forms.) The Kinks' “Waterloo Sunset” comes on the radio. Elf looks out at Denmark Street. Hundreds of people pass by. Reality erases itself as it rerecords itself, Elf thinks. Time is the Great Forgetter. She gets her notebook from her handbag and writes, Memories are unreliable...Art is memory made public. Time wins in the long run. Books turn to dust, negatives decay, records get worn out, civilisations burn. But as long as the art endures, a song or a view or a thought or a feeling someone once thought worth keeping is saved and stays shareable. Others can say, “I feel that too.”Covering a short time over 1967 and 1968, Utopia Avenue recounts the early days of a famed rock/folk/blues band of that name in swinging London. Filled with real life people from the artistic scene and brimming with period detail, Mitchell nails the historical novel angle; and by creating four distinct and relatable characters to people his imagined band, Mitchell sets up an interesting scaffold upon which to hang conversations about art and immortality and how to live a life. Somehow, though, this potential didn't pay off for me – interesting things happen in the personal lives of the characters, and I liked seeing how they turned those experiences into art; I was also interested enough in seeing how the music industry works and how long and hard artists need to pay their dues to become an overnight success (yet, is there anything new in this?); but between an overabundance of real life people flitting in and out and an ultimately shoe-horned tie-in to Mitchell's uberverse (which started out fascinating and eventually disappointed me), this didn't, in the end, really feel like a book about the core characters so much as a book about the times they were moving through (And is there anything new to say about the swinging Sixties London scene? At any rate, there's nothing new here.).To briefly (and nonspoilery) address the uberverse: You'll see some familiar characters' names here (from Marinus and Esther to the band's guitarist discovering and being inspired by one of the few extant recordings of The Cloud Atlas Sextet, composed by Robert Frobisher), but this guitarist, Jasper de Zoet, is, obviously, the most direct reference; and it starts so good. In flashback scenes to Jasper's youth, we see him confronting an experience that might be supernatural or might be mental illness, and these scenes have a real Stephen King vibe; neither the character or the reader really knows what's going on or if the danger is real or hallucinatory. We eventually learn that this experience places Jasper as a hinge between the Horologists (last seen fighting their war with the Anchorites of the Dusk Chapel of the Blind Cathar of the Thomasite Monastery of Sidelhorn Pass in The Bone Clocks) and the necromancer Abbot Enomoto (last seen in the eighteenth century at the Mount Shiranui monastery in Japan's remote Kirishima Mountains, in The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet),and what started so spooky eventually felt kind of lame and deliberate. (And I see that there are some reviewers who say they've read Utopia Avenue as their first David Mitchell, which is a total shame; I loved The Thousand Autumns and its mindblowing climax is given away here in a few explanatory lines.)Line-by-line, there was much interesting writing. I liked when a character observed (in reference to a man blind to his wife's illicit affair), “An ounce of perception, a pound of obscure.” Or when Jasper and his photographer girlfriend are developing some photos: As they watch, a ghost of Elf emerges on the paper, in a state of rapt concentration at Pavel's Steinway. Mecca has the same expression now. Jasper remarks, “It's like a lake giving up its dead.”“The past, giving up a moment.” But more than a few times, Mitchell put in some weirdly clunker lines that made me wonder if they were meant to be ironic, as when it is noted, “The silence in the studio was silent.” Or this spat between Elf and her boyfriend: Bruce sighed like a patient grown-up. “Why do you do this?”Elf folded her arms like a wronged woman. “Do what?” If this was my first time with Mitchell, I might have thought him a bit amateurish, which he isn't – which then makes me wonder if those unartful lines were deliberate – but if so, why? As for the real life characters – they were hit and miss for me. I didn't recognise the puppyish energy given to the still unknown David Bowie, but I did like Rogers Waters being descibed as having “a smile that is both cloak and dagger”; I thought it was too forced to have Elf discuss sexism in the music industry with Janis Joplin during a very brief tête-à-tête, but I did like having David Crosby explain how it was commercialism that killed the Summer of Love. I thought it was sensitively explored how Jasper seems to be on the autism spectrum (and constantly needs to use contextual clues to determine the intent of other speakers: Irony? Humour? Sarcasm?), but I didn't know how authentic it felt to have him comparing psychoses with a just met Brian Jones or having Jasper bumping into John Lennon under a banquet table at a garden party as they both look for their “fookin' minds”. Protest rallies and police riots; free love and expensive consequences; gay rights and the patriarchy; Ho Chi Min and pirate radio; sex, drugs, and long-haired rock and roll – it's all in here and it all seems to suffocate the narrative.“Music is vibrations in the air, only. Why do these vibrations create physical responses? It's a mystery to me.”“How music works – the theory, the practise – is learnable. Why it works, God only knows. Maybe not even God.”“So, photography is the same. Art is paradox. It is no sense but it is sense.”So, I'll end on that quote because it kind of says what my problem is with Utopia Avenue: I don't think it really works, and especially when compared with the Mitchell books that worked so well for me, this one doesn't feel like art.
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  • Nat K
    January 1, 1970
    Here we go! Another buddy read with the Talented Mr.Collski. Very exciting.*** WOO ***
  • Eric Anderson
    January 1, 1970
    It's so interesting coming to this novel having read and admired – but not entirely loving - much of David Mitchell's fiction. His novels encompass a wide range of subject matter and diverse group of characters. Yet there's something so distinct about his writing style which I thought was exemplified in his most recent (uncharacteristically short) novel “Slade House”. Mitchell often builds realistic stories about the lives of individual characters into a larger fantastical narrative that bends t It's so interesting coming to this novel having read and admired – but not entirely loving - much of David Mitchell's fiction. His novels encompass a wide range of subject matter and diverse group of characters. Yet there's something so distinct about his writing style which I thought was exemplified in his most recent (uncharacteristically short) novel “Slade House”. Mitchell often builds realistic stories about the lives of individual characters into a larger fantastical narrative that bends time and dips into the ethereal. This new novel celebrates the psychedelic music scene of the late 60s by recounting the formation, rise to fame and short-lived career of Utopia Avenue, a fictional band that combines different folk, jazz and rock musicians to make a unique sound. This environment is fertile ground for a David Mitchell tale as it captures a certain sociopolitical shift by delving into the lives of each band member and explores how their music reflects this era of protest and evolving consciousness. Out of their individual stories of drug use and psychological breakdown emerges a larger tale set on another plane of reality that includes incorporeal battles and spirit possession. This also provides a direct link to Mitchell's past fiction; given that one of the band members is named Jasper de Zoet it's not hard to guess which source a branch of this story grew from. It's certainly not necessary to have read Mitchell's previous books to appreciate this novel but there are specific references which will excite his fans. Read my full review of Utopia Avenue by David Mitchell on LonesomeReader
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  • Tom Mooney
    January 1, 1970
    My first time reading David Mitchell and what a treat!This is a very enjoyable and perfectly pitched novel about the creation and relative success of a folk/rock/psychedelic band in the late 60s. Read just as that, it is engaging, realistic and a hell of a lot of fun. The characters are great, there's good pace to the storytelling and some hilarious cameos from the great musicians and counter-culture figures of the era (plus a brief chilling and creepy appearance from Jimmy Saville). But there's My first time reading David Mitchell and what a treat!This is a very enjoyable and perfectly pitched novel about the creation and relative success of a folk/rock/psychedelic band in the late 60s. Read just as that, it is engaging, realistic and a hell of a lot of fun. The characters are great, there's good pace to the storytelling and some hilarious cameos from the great musicians and counter-culture figures of the era (plus a brief chilling and creepy appearance from Jimmy Saville). But there's also a huge amount going on under the surface. Mitchell uses his band and their rollicking journey to explore our shifting attitudes to sexuality, gender politics, fame, success and mental health.I've always been put off Mitchell in the past because I know his books can be a bit weird. But this was played straight, for the most part, and when the little weirdness happens, it's there for a reason.This was a really great read.
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  • Kasa Cotugno
    January 1, 1970
    This account of the relatively short-lived history of a fictitious band from late '60's London is so Mitchell, with its combination of pop culture, personality, a little of the supernatural, and many tie-ins to his previous works. There are cameos of many figures of the time, and since Mitchell wasn't born until 1969, it's amazing because it's as if he witnessed the era firsthand. The structure is unique. Chapters headings are song titles by the band members, identified by the composer, and form This account of the relatively short-lived history of a fictitious band from late '60's London is so Mitchell, with its combination of pop culture, personality, a little of the supernatural, and many tie-ins to his previous works. There are cameos of many figures of the time, and since Mitchell wasn't born until 1969, it's amazing because it's as if he witnessed the era firsthand. The structure is unique. Chapters headings are song titles by the band members, identified by the composer, and form the framework for the backstories and furthuring of the plot. I don't think I've read a novel that presents the creative process so well and with such engaging characters. Last year's Daisy and the Six was more about the soap opera aspects of band memberships, but here the subject is well written with people you really care about. Well done.
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  • Liviu
    January 1, 1970
    The first page reads quintessential David Mitchell so this looks as promising as the super high expectations I had, but of course, it is early...On page 50 now and so far it only got better so much so it made me reread the first pages up to here (end chapter 2 - btw chapters have cool names, 1 is Abandon Hope and 2 is A Raft and a River, both quite appropriate for what happens).Finished the novel and I wouldn't want to spoil it beyond the tidbits from my progress notes. Ties in with a bunch of e The first page reads quintessential David Mitchell so this looks as promising as the super high expectations I had, but of course, it is early...On page 50 now and so far it only got better so much so it made me reread the first pages up to here (end chapter 2 - btw chapters have cool names, 1 is Abandon Hope and 2 is A Raft and a River, both quite appropriate for what happens).Finished the novel and I wouldn't want to spoil it beyond the tidbits from my progress notes. Ties in with a bunch of earlier novels, not only with Thousand Autumns, great ending, lots of things happening and of course a crash course in the history of the counterculture music of 1967-8. The only slight negative is that as opposed to the other books in the cycle, I thought that here the fantastic part (immortals, souls etc) was less natural as the novel almost became a split storyline at some point, though things got nicely tied at the end. Overall fulfilled my great expectations, so highly recommended.
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  • Brian
    January 1, 1970
    Here's one for lovers of progressive rock. Flashback to the sixties: The Beatles, Cream, Pink Floyd, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Jerry Garcia. I remember being a teen in the nineties, and the resurgence of these bands, along with the drug culture. The story focuses on a group formed in these times, their journey to the top, the culture of the times, and the hidden philosophies of the music. David Mitchell has been one of my favorite authors for his eclectic style and imagination, and wisdom of p Here's one for lovers of progressive rock. Flashback to the sixties: The Beatles, Cream, Pink Floyd, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Jerry Garcia. I remember being a teen in the nineties, and the resurgence of these bands, along with the drug culture. The story focuses on a group formed in these times, their journey to the top, the culture of the times, and the hidden philosophies of the music. David Mitchell has been one of my favorite authors for his eclectic style and imagination, and wisdom of philosophical themes. The three I have read connect shorter stories into one. Utopia Avenue lacks the shorter stories. Rather, it flows into one, single narrative. The story didn't captivate or resonate with me as the others.However, I'm only one drop in an ocean. I believe others in the water will find great delight in these pages. It touched me and moved me, thrilled me, but could not compare with the three others I've read.
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  • Chris Haak
    January 1, 1970
    I have to admit that I prefer Mitchell's books 'Bone Clocks' & 'Cloud Atlas,' but I do like 'Utopia Avenue' a lot! I always enjoy reading stories about bands and music, and Mitchell does a great job here. He has come up with excellent characters as well, especially Jasper, Dean, Elf and even Levon. The only one who seems to be slightly lacking in background info and depth is the drummer Griff. 'Utopia Avenue' is filled with references to Mitchell's other work, which makes me want to read those n I have to admit that I prefer Mitchell's books 'Bone Clocks' & 'Cloud Atlas,' but I do like 'Utopia Avenue' a lot! I always enjoy reading stories about bands and music, and Mitchell does a great job here. He has come up with excellent characters as well, especially Jasper, Dean, Elf and even Levon. The only one who seems to be slightly lacking in background info and depth is the drummer Griff. 'Utopia Avenue' is filled with references to Mitchell's other work, which makes me want to read those novels again, but there are so many other interesting, beautiful books coming out!My favorite part is the bit near the end about Jasper, when the band is in the US and they're performing om stage. Don't worry, I won't give anything away to anxious good readers here ;-)A great read!Thank you Random House and Edelweiss for the ARC
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  • Sadie
    January 1, 1970
    One of my favourite authors writing about one of my favourite subjects/themes? David Mitchell going fake!late-60s pop band? Is this for real? I mean - this blurb alone! I'm madly in love already.
  • Neil
    January 1, 1970
    Utopia Avenue, the title of David Mitchell’s new book, refers to a (fictional) rock band from the late-1960s and the book charts the eponymous band’s rise and fall beginning in 1967 and running through to the following year. Structurally, the book is organised into three “albums” (Paradise is the Road to Paradise, The Stuff of Life, and The Third Planet) with each chapter in a “album” given the name of a track written by one of the band members. The writing credit for each track tells us which c Utopia Avenue, the title of David Mitchell’s new book, refers to a (fictional) rock band from the late-1960s and the book charts the eponymous band’s rise and fall beginning in 1967 and running through to the following year. Structurally, the book is organised into three “albums” (Paradise is the Road to Paradise, The Stuff of Life, and The Third Planet) with each chapter in a “album” given the name of a track written by one of the band members. The writing credit for each track tells us which character will be in focus for that chapter.There’s Dean Moss on bass and vocals, a lady’s man who will try any substance he is offered. He was the first warning to me that things might no go too well as I read this book: his apparent cockney accent seems to consist purely of him saying “yer” instead of you or your, and it quickly becomes rather aggravating (’I don’t know how to thank yer. I’ll pay yer back.’ ‘I know. Get yer record deal first.’). There’s Elf Holloway, a singer and keyboard player with folk roots. There’s Griff Griffin, the drummer with no creative input but a line in comedy asides (no stereotyping here, then). And there’s Jasper de Zoet, an introverted and troubled young man who plays guitar like a god and must be modelled on Syd Barrett (of whom more later).At the mention of “de Zoet”, the ears of David Mitchell fans globally prick up. Mitchell is famed for his multiverse in which characters recur and form connections across the whole set of his novels. As soon as a Mitchell fan starts reading this book, it is clear that Jasper de Zoet must be some relation to Jacob who was the central character in “The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet”. And, in fact, a whole host of characters get at least a name check as the novel progresses. I know that Mitchell fans everywhere will want to identify all these for themselves (that’s part of the fun, isn’t it?), so I won’t mention any names, but I got to almost 20 and I know that I forgot to check some names out so I imagine there are more than that. (By the way, my David Mitchell collection sits on my Kindle so checking out a name is very, very easy - I haven’t done anything impressive here).There are many, many other well known names mentioned in this novel. It is set in the 1960s and it seems that Mitchell has set himself the target of including a small cameo for every well known musician from the period. Again, I won’t make a list, but all the obvious people turn up (Jimi Hendrix, David Bowie, Pink Floyd - here’s Syd Barrett again - and so on) as do a lot of maybe less well known people.The trouble with both these lists of people (recurring characters and famous musicians) is that they whilst start off amusing, they quickly head to gimmicky and then end up annoying. When a character says ‘Syd’s here? There’s too many famous people at this party. It’s bloody ridiculous.’, the reader can only sigh and agree.The problem for me when reading this book is that if you take out the recurring characters and the cameos from famous musicians, there really isn’t much story left but there really is an awful lot of book left. Because this is a long book. I was really looking forward to reading this, but sadly it turned into that bad combination of a very long book that gets more disappointing the more you read.For the true Mitchell fans (and I count myself as one), there is a section about three-quarters through that pulls together ideas (especially from Thousand Autumns and Bone Clocks) and will be of interest to those who have followed the Mitchell world as it has developed through the course of his novels.But all the verbal fireworks that led to sentences like the “fluffy bunny of incredulity” in Cloud Atlas (by the way, Jasper de Zoet loves The Cloud Atlas Sextet by Robert Frobisher) are missing.What a shame.
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  • Sonya
    January 1, 1970
    David Mitchell's newest novel is delightful and very true to his own cultivated form. It's about the year 1968 when four young musicians are brought together by a manager to form a psychedelic rock band in London. The novel is about their development and career trajectory along with the back stories of each band member. The characters are richly drawn, flawed, funny, and talented.I was pulled right into this specific universe, which is set in real, historic period, so figures like Janis Joplin, David Mitchell's newest novel is delightful and very true to his own cultivated form. It's about the year 1968 when four young musicians are brought together by a manager to form a psychedelic rock band in London. The novel is about their development and career trajectory along with the back stories of each band member. The characters are richly drawn, flawed, funny, and talented.I was pulled right into this specific universe, which is set in real, historic period, so figures like Janis Joplin, Crosby, Still & Nash, Jimi Hendrix, and Leonard Cohen (among many) make appearances in the story. The rollicking energy of Mitchell's prose and the distinctions between the characters, both as band members and with very detailed backstories, will keep you entertained all the way through. There is also the expected Mitchell practice of introducing characters from past novels, specifically The Thousand Autumns of Jacob DeZoet and The Bone Clocks. While it's not 100% necessary to have read those novels to enjoy this one, it would enhance understanding some of what's happening to one of the characters. This novel is exists in both the fictional Mitchell universe and the actual history of the time. It's satisfying and fun.Thanks to NetGalley for an advanced review copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
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  • Nadine
    January 1, 1970
    My first non-5 star book by David Mitchell, and while it doesn't match up to his other titles, it is still wonderful to have a new addition to the Mitchell universe, where themes and characters recur and interweave in space and time (and out of it too). I loved the characters, the story lines and the magic of Mitchell's writing - so many lovely little pearls ("The moon is a chipped cueball." "A fighter jet unzipped the horizon.") I loved the intricate way he went forward and backward in time to My first non-5 star book by David Mitchell, and while it doesn't match up to his other titles, it is still wonderful to have a new addition to the Mitchell universe, where themes and characters recur and interweave in space and time (and out of it too). I loved the characters, the story lines and the magic of Mitchell's writing - so many lovely little pearls ("The moon is a chipped cueball." "A fighter jet unzipped the horizon.") I loved the intricate way he went forward and backward in time to give us context while still moving the story along quickly. I loved the way each chapter title and story line dovetailed the band's song titles. Mitchell's gentle humor was strong as ever.But even Mitchell's genius couldn't turn the sow's ear of music writing into a silk purse. In fact, Mitchell acknowledges this by putting these words into Frank Zappa's mouth: "Like Charles Mingus says, writing about music is like dancing about architecture." And yet, Mitchell is forced to do exactly this for long stretches, and no matter how wonderful his wordsmithing, the result can't help but seem purple and ridiculous. (I'd include some quotes, but it's just too painful.) On the other hand, the lyrics to the band's songs are terrific. At least there's that.I was also a little put off by the way the author's voice on occasion took over a character's voice - making them too eloquent for too long a stretch, as if they were reading from a speech. Throwing in some cockney slang or Scottish-isms didn't balance it out. This was something I'd never seen in any other Mitchell book.Because of these problems, the novel felt too long - something I never thought I'd say about a Mitchell novel. Still, it was well worth reading, and I'm just as excited as ever to read his next book the moment it is published.Thanks to Netgalley for an Advanced Reading Copy.
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  • Hugh
    January 1, 1970
    I find David Mitchell a slightly frustrating writer, but there is always plenty to enjoy in his books. As I have said before, I find the fantasy elements of his imaginary world and his battling immortals far fetched and impossible to take seriously, but when he writes about subjects more grounded in reality he can be engaging and perceptive.Music and musicians are notoriously difficult subject matter for literature, but for me this book does it pretty well, and I found it a lot more convincing t I find David Mitchell a slightly frustrating writer, but there is always plenty to enjoy in his books. As I have said before, I find the fantasy elements of his imaginary world and his battling immortals far fetched and impossible to take seriously, but when he writes about subjects more grounded in reality he can be engaging and perceptive.Music and musicians are notoriously difficult subject matter for literature, but for me this book does it pretty well, and I found it a lot more convincing than Rushdie's The Ground Beneath Her Feet. It tells the story of the eponymous fictional psychedelic pop-rock band, mostly in 1967 and 1968. The band's four members include three very different songwriters, and the structure of the book reflects this - each song on each of the band's three albums gets a chapter that follows its writer through some of the events that inspired it. Inevitably, one of the three, guitar virtuoso Jasper de Zoet, is a host for one of Mitchell's immortal spirits, and as always there are plenty of links to his earlier books, but for me the other two main characters are more interesting. Dean Moss is perhaps the most typical rock star - a humble background from a troubled working class family in Gravesend, and an obsession with money and the trappings of fame. Elf Holloway is the band's keyboard player, something of a hybrid of Sandy Denny (whose folk background she shares, and also the unreliable Australian partner, and the hit American cover of an early song, in Denny's case Judy Collins and Who Knows Where the Time Goes) and Christine McVie, whose role in the band is closer to Elf's.The band's journey includes many encounters with real musicians, and some of the anecdotes are based on stories associated with these real characters. I think all of the real people that the band meet are now dead, but this is never explicitly mentioned or explained. Inevitably these encounters lack depth and in some cases are just fleeting conversations, but that reflects the nature of music journalism.Mitchell's credits mention Joe Boyd's White Bicycles: Making Music in the 1960s, and Boyd's story was clearly a major influence - the band's idealistic manager Levon Frankland shares many of Boyd's qualities, and many of the details are reminiscent of things that happened with Fairport Convention (who were one of Boyd's successes).The recreation of the late 60s setting is fairly convincing and affectionate, and Mitchell largely avoids the more obvious pitfalls associated with writing about music and particularly describing fictional pieces, and the many real stories about the less glamorous side of life in bands offer plenty of scope for balance and entertaining escapades.I don't want to be too critical - I found the story very readable, and was surprised how quick a read it was for such a large heavy book. So yes, another curate's egg, but for the most part a successful one.
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  • Amy Imogene Reads
    January 1, 1970
    Coming home to this on my doorstep made a really crappy day into an unbelievably fantastic one. Can't wait to dive into this! Is it weird that it's giving me Daisy Jones & the Six vibes??Thank you to Random House for an ARC of this title in exchange for an honest review. Coming home to this on my doorstep made a really crappy day into an unbelievably fantastic one. Can't wait to dive into this! Is it weird that it's giving me Daisy Jones & the Six vibes??Thank you to Random House for an ARC of this title in exchange for an honest review.
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  • MundiNova
    January 1, 1970
    So, this is what it feels like to read a David Mitchell book?I'm hollowed out, uplifted, cosmically one with everything ... and grieving. It's been a while since I've had a book hangover and Utopia Avenue was far better than I was expecting. There's so much to say, I don't know where to start. The Kinks "Sunny Afternoon" is playing in the background so I'll take that as a sign I should start with the music. The references, famous musician cameos, and songs playing on the radio in the background So, this is what it feels like to read a David Mitchell book?I'm hollowed out, uplifted, cosmically one with everything ... and grieving. It's been a while since I've had a book hangover and Utopia Avenue was far better than I was expecting. There's so much to say, I don't know where to start. The Kinks "Sunny Afternoon" is playing in the background so I'll take that as a sign I should start with the music. The references, famous musician cameos, and songs playing on the radio in the background of scenes added depth and realism. I went so far as to create a Spotify playlist of all the songs listed to listen to while finishing up the last 25% of the book. This book is a crash course in 1966 - 1968 rock music. I have a much better understanding and appreciation for The Animals and The Kinks now.This book is two books in one. Both would be spectacular on their own but combined they become this otherworldly thing. There's the story of a band who was kinda famous in the '60s. It could be compared to Daisy Jones & The Six. But then there's the David Mitchell connection to another world. There's something more going on here. Life is more than the life we see. What we experience is only one dimension. The parallels between the psychedelic 60's rock n' roll and what people expect from a Mitchell book sounds a little too on the nose, but it works! Boy oh boy, does it work. This book is long, but it's not boring. The story comes together like peeling an onion in reverse - more and more is added until you have more than the whole. You'll get to know the characters so intimately that you'll want to warn them about mistakes they're about to make. For too many pages I wanted to take Elf aside and tell her to break up with Bruce. Elf started out as my favorite character to follow, but then Dean started having this amazing arc that makes it hard to focus on anything else. Last, but not least, Jasper. Who is Jasper? I both know how to answer that question and don't. I big thank you to Netgalley and Random House for an advanced copy for an honest review. Story: 5 starsCharacter Development: 6 stars (I know these people now. I loved them)Writing/Prose: 5 stars
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  • Lolly K Dandeneau
    January 1, 1970
    via my blog: https://bookstalkerblog.wordpress.com/𝑻𝒐 𝒃𝒖𝒊𝒍𝒅 𝒚𝒐𝒖𝒓 𝒐𝒘𝒏 𝑼𝒕𝒐𝒑𝒊𝒂 𝒊𝒔𝑨 𝒄𝒓𝒊𝒎𝒊𝒏𝒂𝒍 𝒐𝒇𝒇𝒆𝒏𝒔𝒆𝑾𝒉𝒂𝒕 𝒊𝒔 𝒑𝒍𝒐𝒕𝒕𝒆𝒅 𝒘𝒊𝒍𝒍 𝒖𝒏𝒓𝒂𝒗𝒆𝒍𝑾𝒉𝒂𝒕 𝒊𝒔 𝒃𝒖𝒊𝒍𝒕 𝒘𝒊𝒍𝒍 𝒔𝒍𝒊𝒑 𝒐𝒖𝒕 𝒐𝒇 𝒋𝒐𝒊𝒏𝒕,𝑮𝒐𝒐𝒅 𝒊𝒏𝒕𝒆𝒏𝒕𝒊𝒐𝒏𝒔 𝒈𝒆𝒕 𝒇𝒐𝒓𝒈𝒐𝒕𝒕𝒆𝒏𝑴𝒂𝒌𝒆𝒔 𝒚𝒐𝒖 𝒘𝒐𝒏𝒅𝒆𝒓, 𝒘𝒉𝒂𝒕’𝒔 𝒕𝒉𝒆 𝒑𝒐𝒊𝒏𝒕Can the same be said about building a band? 𝘜𝘵𝘰𝘱𝘪𝘢 𝘈𝘷𝘦𝘯𝘶𝘦 is about the rise and fall of an eccentric British band, new on the London psychedelic scene in 1967. Elf fronts the group, a folksinger whose break-up with her boyfriend Bruce has her on the edge of quitting the music via my blog: https://bookstalkerblog.wordpress.com/𝑻𝒐 𝒃𝒖𝒊𝒍𝒅 𝒚𝒐𝒖𝒓 𝒐𝒘𝒏 𝑼𝒕𝒐𝒑𝒊𝒂 𝒊𝒔𝑨 𝒄𝒓𝒊𝒎𝒊𝒏𝒂𝒍 𝒐𝒇𝒇𝒆𝒏𝒔𝒆𝑾𝒉𝒂𝒕 𝒊𝒔 𝒑𝒍𝒐𝒕𝒕𝒆𝒅 𝒘𝒊𝒍𝒍 𝒖𝒏𝒓𝒂𝒗𝒆𝒍𝑾𝒉𝒂𝒕 𝒊𝒔 𝒃𝒖𝒊𝒍𝒕 𝒘𝒊𝒍𝒍 𝒔𝒍𝒊𝒑 𝒐𝒖𝒕 𝒐𝒇 𝒋𝒐𝒊𝒏𝒕,𝑮𝒐𝒐𝒅 𝒊𝒏𝒕𝒆𝒏𝒕𝒊𝒐𝒏𝒔 𝒈𝒆𝒕 𝒇𝒐𝒓𝒈𝒐𝒕𝒕𝒆𝒏𝑴𝒂𝒌𝒆𝒔 𝒚𝒐𝒖 𝒘𝒐𝒏𝒅𝒆𝒓, 𝒘𝒉𝒂𝒕’𝒔 𝒕𝒉𝒆 𝒑𝒐𝒊𝒏𝒕Can the same be said about building a band? 𝘜𝘵𝘰𝘱𝘪𝘢 𝘈𝘷𝘦𝘯𝘶𝘦 is about the rise and fall of an eccentric British band, new on the London psychedelic scene in 1967. Elf fronts the group, a folksinger whose break-up with her boyfriend Bruce has her on the edge of quitting the music scene altogether. It all changes when she is approached to bring the spirit of folk to a new group. Of course she disappoints her family, who don’t much like a daughter ‘cavorting’ in Soho. They’d far rather Elf start a family, settle herself. But she is only now beginning to understand her own desires, seeing what others hint at. Jasper de Zoet is the character that had the most draw for me, tormented by Knock Knock, a noise that haunts his mind. Is it madness, is it real? Is there another being trying to push him out? Or is this just the crossed wires of genius, talent? His guitar playing is beyond divine, if only he could master his mind. His story confronts mental disturbances and those of another realm, which makes this more than just a typical band’s journey. Where hallucinogens create an altered reality for those on a high with Jasper, it seeds naturally. To his band-mates he is ‘Mr.Enigma’, spaced out more often than not. Dean Moss is the luckless, blues bassist who is sick of being skint, especially now that he’s been booted out of his band. When Levon Frankland offers him a place to sleep he asks only for a small favor, listen to a band- he lures Dean into the group that doesn’t exist yet, one he is curating. Even if Dean fears Levon’s queerness, that the man could be making a pass at him, it beats dodging landlords and being anywhere near the father who tried to destroy his dreams with his mean fists, the same ones he used on Dean’s mother, long gone. Drummer, Peter Griffin “Griff”, just like Dean comes from working class people, at home in his skin, enjoys his drink, and a little anarchy. He has his jazz, his joking, his growling and his thunderous drumming.They light the sky like a comet, for a bit anyway. No one can alter what’s coming. The band may be a distraction from real life, but it’s always waiting to take you down. Love betrays, there is incarceration, mental collapse, David Bowie, death, fame and every ugly beast that hitches a ride. Of course a band Mitchell writes about is going to be ‘eccentric’. I really kept reading for Jasper though, because he is the universe here. Through him the reader catches a glimpse of what it’s like to live in a brain that tries to sink you. Mind-bending.Publication Date: July 14, 2020Random House
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  • Heather
    January 1, 1970
    Wow. The thing about David Mitchell is, I'm not really a fan of all the paranormal, worlds colliding, deep thoughts about reincarnation, soul transference, horology, etc. stuff, but he's such a good writer that I get sucked into it anyway because the rest of the novel is such a fun, well-written read about the late 60s as told through the eyes of a newly-formed, burgeoning psychedelic rock band. Loved the name dropping, loved each and every one of the characters, really the most fun I've had rea Wow. The thing about David Mitchell is, I'm not really a fan of all the paranormal, worlds colliding, deep thoughts about reincarnation, soul transference, horology, etc. stuff, but he's such a good writer that I get sucked into it anyway because the rest of the novel is such a fun, well-written read about the late 60s as told through the eyes of a newly-formed, burgeoning psychedelic rock band. Loved the name dropping, loved each and every one of the characters, really the most fun I've had reading in a long time.
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  • Mark Mazzuca
    January 1, 1970
    Oh dear how to start? This is 100% a Mitchell feeling book with tons of catnip tie ins from his other books. The format works, I bonded with the characters, I deepened my connection to past characters. The story is so charming and heartwarming. He is my favorite author and if you are also of the Mitchell faith track it down ASAP.
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  • Drew
    January 1, 1970
    5+ out of 5.Another vivid delight from Mitchell, who hit his imperial phase with THE BONE CLOCKS and keeps on swinging. It's a novel of rock and roll, a band that comes together and is suddenly on a rocketship towards stardom. But sex, drugs, a psychotic event, accidents, politics, and more get in the way -- as they do. Utopia Avenue feels like a real band and Mitchell has a ball evoking the summer of love and the music scene, with cameos from everybody you can imagine: Jimi Hendrix, Leonard Coh 5+ out of 5.Another vivid delight from Mitchell, who hit his imperial phase with THE BONE CLOCKS and keeps on swinging. It's a novel of rock and roll, a band that comes together and is suddenly on a rocketship towards stardom. But sex, drugs, a psychotic event, accidents, politics, and more get in the way -- as they do. Utopia Avenue feels like a real band and Mitchell has a ball evoking the summer of love and the music scene, with cameos from everybody you can imagine: Jimi Hendrix, Leonard Cohen, David Bowie, John Lennon, Big Bill Broonzy, Little Richard... everybody drops in, just about, including a few of Mitchell's old favorites, like a very young Crispin Hershey. And, of course, the guitarist of UA has a last name that won't go unnoticed by Mitchell devotees.But here's the thing: you don't ~need~ to love Mitchell's expansive uber-novel to love this one. Yeah, sure, there's a horology digression that might infuriate some more-sober-minded readers / confuse those who aren't familiar with the psychospiritual weirdness of Mitchell's oeuvre. But that's not what the novel is about and anybody who wants to pitch a fit about how Mitchell shouldn't be doing it can get stuffed. He's having a blast and writing beautifully while he does so. If you love the music of the late 60s and early 70s, this novel is for you. Go along for the ride and imagine hearing it as you go. I only wish I could get a band t-shirt with their debut album cover...
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  • Gumble's Yard
    January 1, 1970
    I sat down to write this review, as something of a maybe-reader of David Mitchell’s novels (a huge fan of his earlier works, but less than convinced by his most recent efforts), they were the best-of-books (culminating in Cloud Atlas) and the worst-of-books (“Slade House” – which was a kind of twitter-feed, novella, other).But while I was trying to write it, I was constantly interrupted: a surprisingly literate down-and-out type character asked me if there was any chance I could pay him to write I sat down to write this review, as something of a maybe-reader of David Mitchell’s novels (a huge fan of his earlier works, but less than convinced by his most recent efforts), they were the best-of-books (culminating in Cloud Atlas) and the worst-of-books (“Slade House” – which was a kind of twitter-feed, novella, other).But while I was trying to write it, I was constantly interrupted: a surprisingly literate down-and-out type character asked me if there was any chance I could pay him to write a review, then a Englishman with a half-Durham, half-English accent asked if I would review his book “Upstate” instead.Now what do you think of that as a book review.Do you think a) That is brilliant. Gumble’s Yard has cleverly worked in references to some of his most liked book reviews – for a fan of his reviews that is so clever.b) While writing about reviewing he has two famous reviewers playing cameos in the review – for someone who loves book reviews that is just fabulous?c) Isn’t a review meant to actually tell you something about the book – what is unique about it, what’s at its core, what are its weaknessesOr actually (d) all of the above.(*) Milkman, Ali’s Smith’s Seasonal Quartet and Girl, Woman, Other(**) Nicholas Lezard and James Wood
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  • OutlawPoet
    January 1, 1970
    I did not read Cloud Atlas.I feel like I need to start with that because my understanding is that there are numerous Cloud Atlas references within this book that went, clearly, right over my head.As for Utopia Avenue, I liked it. It’s trippy and engaging. The author puts the reader squarely into the sixties music scene, complete with iconic figures from that era, and it’s so very well done.Our characters are wonderfully vivid and the plot just sings.I enjoyed this read. Now, I need to read Cloud I did not read Cloud Atlas.I feel like I need to start with that because my understanding is that there are numerous Cloud Atlas references within this book that went, clearly, right over my head.As for Utopia Avenue, I liked it. It’s trippy and engaging. The author puts the reader squarely into the sixties music scene, complete with iconic figures from that era, and it’s so very well done.Our characters are wonderfully vivid and the plot just sings.I enjoyed this read. Now, I need to read Cloud Atlas.*ARC Provided via Net Galley
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