Cover Image: Foregone


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So far, I'd loved every novel that I'd read by Russell Banks, but I have to admit this one didn't deliver. I found Fife's ramblings rather repetitive and had a hard time finishing the book. I won't deny some readers might find it of interest but I'm afraid I wasn't hooked at all.
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Leo is a respected documentary maker but when he realises he is dying from cancer,  he asks one of his students to turn the cameras to him and film his last day's. 
Leo is an unreliable narrator and as the book unfolds it is hard to determine his dreams from morphine induced thoughts and those rare moments of lucidity. 
This is not a plot focused novel and at times it was maddening but brilliant at the same time. I actually read this book twice and it did have much more clarity on the second read. 
Banks has written a brave novel, a book like no other I've read and will definitely generate lots of discussions. 
If you fancy something different this is definitely one to try. 
Thank you @noexitpress for this copy to read and review.
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Many thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the eARC, in exchange for an honest, unbiased review.

Unfortunately I found the whole book dreadfully dull, and extremely repetitive. The story dragged on and on, and to be totally honest I was bored senseless. 

I expected a big reveal at the end, or at least some answers to the incoherent ramblings of Leo Fife, but there were none. 

I’ve read so many good reviews for this book, but sadly it wasn’t for me.
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Foregone is award-winning author Russell Banks's first novel for a decade, and boy was it worth the wait. It's 2018 and in his late seventies and dying of cancer, famed left-leaning Canadian-American documentary filmmaker Leonard Fife, one of sixty thousand draft evaders who fled to Canada in 1968 to protest and avoid the Vietnam War, has agreed to one final interview. He is determined to bare all his secrets and demythologize his mythologized life; this is despite being shackled to a wheelchair, under the influence of intravenous morphine and bearing a bladder bag. 

The production team sets up their recording equipment, much to Leonard's chagrin, and he wonders why he agreed to partake in such an interview to discuss his rich life and influential work. But the story that unspools in front of the camera on April 1, 2018, in front of an intimate chorus of observers, including Fife’s wife, his Haitian nurse, and his acolyte and former star student Malcolm Macleod, is confoundingly unexpected, the dark and affecting account of a man entirely unknown to all. 

This is a compelling and intelligent novel addressing issues including the fallibility of memory, age-related amnesia, the effect disease has on the psyche and the propensity of guilt to eat away at you from within. It hauntingly explores the conscientious objectors who opposed the Vietnam War and is a subtle, seductive page-turner. A searing novel about memory, betrayal, love and the faint grace note of redemption, Russell Banks’s Foregone is a daring and resonant work about the scope of one man’s mysterious life, revealed through the fragments of his recovered past, and how little we truly know about ourselves and others. Highly recommended.
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American author Russell Banks, now in his eighties, known for books like The Sweet Hereafter and Cloudsplitter, is clearly in a mood to reconsider his life. His latest novel Foregone is more than a little bit autobiographical, with his main character sharing many of his life experiences, and containing some of the DNA of his 2016 non-fiction book Voyager.
Leo Fife, a famous Canadian documentary maker, is dying from cancer. He offers Malcolm, an old colleague, the opportunity to record one final interview, an opportunity that Malcolm finds too good to pass up. But Fife is not interested in reliving or explaining old glories which is what Malcolm is there for. Instead, Leo insists that his wife Emma be in the room for the interview and uses the process to come clean about the life he had before he came to Canada. That life included two former wives and a couple of children left behind when he fled the United States in 1968 as a supposed conscientious objector. The bulk of the story is Leo’s increasingly muddled reminiscence of his various relationships and different points in his life – from running away from home at 18 to go to Cuba (but only getting as far as Florida), his first marriage which ended badly and his second marriage which he also ended up fleeing from. But also around this is the story of the documentary being made, of the tension between those wanting to make their careers on the back of Leo’s confessions and his wife Emma, seeking to preserve his reputation.
Reader’s patience with this narrative will depend on how they connect to Leo Fife. Leo is not a particularly likeable person. He is selfish and mendacious, recounting as he does a life of lying in order to get what he wants. But he is also fascinating and his story, rambling though it is, is told in a compelling way. So that by the end readers may still not like Leo but they might feel they understand him more. Of course by that time, there has been doubt thrown on the whole narrative, a suggestion that the drugs he is on encourages him to confabulate and that the stories he is telling are actually a recasting of Emma’s own story.
Foregone is another masterwork from one of America’s great novelists. Those familiar with Banks’ biography and the stories that he told in Voyager will find plenty of resonance in the life of Leo Fife. This is not strictly Banks’ history but he has clearly used the detail of his life to give Leo’s tale the deep richness that it has. And that is what impresses here, the way in which Leo’s story comes together, the depth of the characters that he encounters, the underlying commentary on the American experience and the pathos that Banks manages to generate.
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Foregone" is the latest novel from Russell Banks, probably one of the best wordsmiths on the Canadian literary landscape at work today.
It's the powerful but rather bleak story of Leonard Fife, an American documentary filmmaker nearing 80, exiled in Canada since 1968 and dying from terminal cancer. It takes place during the course of a single day (April fool's day) in Montreal where former students of Fife are gathered around him in order to shoot a documentary about his works. But Fife has no desire to talk about his professional life, deciding instead to unleash a powerful flood of erratic ramblings and dubious memories about his personal life, his betrayals, his secrets and his emotional failures. 
I couldn't really decide if he was knowingly not telling the truth most of time or if his mind was too addled by the inefficiency of his drug treatment.
"Foregone" is a magnificent and very compelling novel about memories, aging and one's abilities to differentiate between real and fictional facts when going down memory lane. Suffice too say that the depressing bleakness brought upon us by the current health catastrophe might actually turn some people away from this beautiful novel and this would be quite understandable. I will probably wait a few more months and read it again. Reading it was a very moving experience but it definitely left me shaken and very sad. To be handled with caution...

Many thanks to Netgalley and Oldcastle Books for giving me the opportunity to read this wonderful novel prior to its release date
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I can see this becoming a nextflix mini series.
It really moving and though provoking!!

First time I've heard of this author let alone read a book by him but definitely not the last!
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