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Extended Audio Sample The Laments: A Novel Audiobook, by George Hagen Click for printable size audiobook cover
3.62 out of 53.62 out of 53.62 out of 53.62 out of 53.62 out of 5 3.62 (34 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: George Hagen Narrator: Clare Higgins Publisher: Penguin Random House Format: Abridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: June 2004 ISBN: 9780739312582
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Meet the Laments—the affably dysfunctional globetrotting family at the center of George Hagen’s exuberant debut novel.

Howard is an engineer who dreams of irrigating the Sahara and lives by the motto “Laments move!” His wife Julia is a fiery spirit who must balance her husband’s oddly peripatetic nature with unexpected aspirations of her own. And Will is the “waif with a paper-thin heart” who is given to Howard and Julia in return for their own child who has been lost in a bizarre maternity ward mishap. As Will makes his way from infancy to manhood in a family that careens from continent to continent, one wonders where the Laments will ever belong.

In Bahrain, Howard takes a job with an oil company and young Will makes his first friend. But in short order he is wrenched off to another land, his mother’s complicated friendship with the American siren Trixie Howitzer causing the family to bolt. In Northern Rhodesia, during its last days as a white colony, the twin enfants terribles Marcus and Julius are born, and Will falls for the gardener’s daughter, a girl so vain that she admires her image in the lid of a biscuit tin. But soon the family’s life is upturned again, thie time by their neighbor Major Buck Quinn, with his suburban tirades against black self-rule. Envisioning a more civilized life on “the sceptered isle,” the Laments board an ocean liner bound for England. Alas, poor Will is greeted by the tribal ferocity of his schoolmates and a society fixated on the Blitz. No sooner has he succumbed to British pop culture in the guise of mop-top Sally Byrd and her stacks of 45s, than the Laments uproot themselves once again, and it’s off to New Jersey, where life deals crisis and opportunity in equal measure.

Undeniably eccentric, the Laments are also universal. Every family moves on in life. Children grow up, things are left behind; there is always something to lament. Through the Lament’s restlessness, responses to adversity, and especially their unwieldy love for one another, George Hagen gives us a portrait of every family that is funny, tragic, and improbably true.

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Quotes & Awards

  • The Laments is a fine novel, about family, migration, identity, and the struggle to find and hold on to it. It is also hugely entertaining and very, very funny. Roddy Doyle, author of The Barrytown Trilogy
  • A vital international journey through the vicissitudes of family life. This story, centering on the timeless theme of a child swapped at birth, is immensely readable, funny, and touching—a complete joy. Elizabeth Strout, author of Amy and Isabelle
  • “George Hagen’s highly entertaining debut novel features an irresistibly headstrong family, a global sweep, and not only a sense of loss and displacement that’s perfectly in tune with the world we live in but also a full measure of resilient humanity. Gary Shteyngart, author of The Russian Debutante’s Handbook

Listener Opinions

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Bybee | 2/17/2014

    " If you liked the novels The World According to Garp and The Lonely Polygamist, you'll enjoy this one. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Denise Maria | 2/16/2014

    " This book treats the many-foibled characters with unblinking clarity mixed with tenderness and humor. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Nate's Bookgroup | 2/16/2014

    " The Laments was about a south african family who move from continent to continent every time things get a little rough where they live. It was more character driven than plot driven. Rather funny in spots, but not a lot of substance. It had a lot to say about the sacrifices we make every day to maintain relationships, but it did so in such a silly manner you couldn't really take what was being said seriously. There were some great moments when the family moved to America and felt obligated to put up a flag on the fourth of July by their neighbors. When the mother revolted by putting up the Union Jack and the neighborhood fathers came by to discuss the mother's actions with the father, I felt a pang of recognition: there was a winter my parents decided not to put up Christmas lights with similar backlash. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Mandy | 2/9/2014

    " if you are a wandering gypsy who has moved a lot, you may relate to this book and the strange urge to keep moving on to see what else is out there. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Heidi | 2/5/2014

    " The Laments lamented--it's true, they travel--this is a good one. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Leslie | 2/3/2014

    " Very enjoyable. The humor was delightful. The family situations were fun yet insightful. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Elizabeth | 2/1/2014

    " Don't know. Who recommended this but the library didn't have it so I actually bought it. I. Will be looking for the author's other books. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Denise | 1/20/2014

    " ineffectual writing, with tragic events out of nowhere... just didn't move me at all "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Ruth | 12/31/2013

    " This book was delightful... quirky, unpredictable, tragic and very funny. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Recynd | 12/21/2013

    " Another one of those quiet sorts of stories; I liked it quite a bit, though. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Kay | 12/8/2013

    " Will Lament is secretly adopted by Howard and Julia when their baby dies. This is a family who move a lot in search of happiness. Trying to find his place in the world, his family and his parents' affection Will is painfully funny and sad. Loved it. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Jessica | 12/5/2013

    " The story is heartbreaking at times, but such a great story. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Anne Thessen | 9/27/2013

    " I'm so very glad I gave this book a second chance. It's incredibly serious and hilarious at the same time. Well worth the time I spent reading it. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Christine Laney | 9/21/2013

    " B&N Book club book. Margaret finally enjoyed a book club! "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Kathy | 4/23/2013

    " Listened to this Audio Book while working in the kitchen...and eating meals. Very pleasant. Nothing intellectual about the book...but, as I said ...a pleasant listen. This was a break from the more serious books that I have been listening to and reading. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Kris Marolt | 1/6/2013

    " Funny novel. Written in an ironic/humorous vein. A story about a chap who was switched at birth and what he has to overcome in his life. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Ellanor | 12/19/2012

    " Story of a child switched at birth and consequences of adoption by hugely eccentric family who travel from England to Africa back to England and onto America, humor not unlike Zaddie Smith "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Shannamay | 6/27/2012

    " I read this cover to cover in one sitting - it was absolutely fantastic! It has been a while since I feel in love with a novel instantly, but this was one. I couldn't turn the pages fast enough. I would recommend this book to everyone. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Marni | 12/20/2011

    " Just did not do anything for me. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Andrea | 11/15/2011

    " great read. South African family keeps moving to find happiness. First son is "replacement" for one lost to John Irving-like bizarre accident. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Carolyn Brandt | 11/13/2011

    " This fictional memoir was a great read, very informative, and very recommendable. Loved it! I recommended this book immediately to my family and friends. They all loved it too. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Tony | 2/1/2011

    " More of a 3 1/2 star review, but I don't think those are permitted on this site. It's a very well written novel, but I couldn't get over a plot point in the beginning of the book. I don't think it would have been treated as lightly as it was in the book. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Jana | 11/12/2010

    " Mildly amusing to begin with, but too silly to stick with. And when I looked at other reviews people said it was sad along with silly. So bye-bye, back to library. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Heather | 11/11/2010

    " I read this book a few years ago and remember absolutely loving it. The book is hilarious at times, and terribly tragic even more times. My copy has been on semi-permanent loan to cross-coast relatives, but this is one of those books I plan to read again someday. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Kathy | 9/22/2010

    " Listened to this Audio Book while working in the kitchen...and eating meals. Very pleasant. Nothing intellectual about the book...but, as I said ...a pleasant listen. This was a break from the more serious books that I have been listening to and reading. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Miss natalie | 7/12/2010

    " a tear jerker.. which means it made me fel things... which means it was good... and sad. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Melissa | 3/9/2010

    " A wonderful portrait of an intelligent, slightly nomadic family. I wouldn't call it a light, happy read, but it isn't overly heavy either and it's a quick read. I loved the characters, especially the kids. It may not be a perfectly written novel, but I was very happy I took the time to read it. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Kris | 1/28/2010

    " Funny novel. Written in an ironic/humorous vein. A story about a chap who was switched at birth and what he has to overcome in his life. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Tony | 1/9/2010

    " More of a 3 1/2 star review, but I don't think those are permitted on this site. It's a very well written novel, but I couldn't get over a plot point in the beginning of the book. I don't think it would have been treated as lightly as it was in the book. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Nancy | 11/23/2009

    " too much predictable tragedy. Reads like a Hallmark movie gone bad. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Anne | 2/17/2009

    " I'm so very glad I gave this book a second chance. It's incredibly serious and hilarious at the same time. Well worth the time I spent reading it. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Ruth | 2/3/2009

    " This book was delightful... quirky, unpredictable, tragic and very funny. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Heidi | 12/19/2008

    " The Laments lamented--it's true, they travel--this is a good one. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Shannamay | 10/20/2008

    " I read this cover to cover in one sitting - it was absolutely fantastic! It has been a while since I feel in love with a novel instantly, but this was one. I couldn't turn the pages fast enough. I would recommend this book to everyone. "

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About the Author
George Hagen is the author of two novels for adults: The Laments, a Washington Post bestseller and recipient of the William Saroyan International Prize for writing, which Publishers Weekly called “a funny, touching novel about the meaning of family;” and Tom Bedlam, which was described by Booklist as “Dickensian in scope and spirit. . . . Shot through with humor, and populated with a cast of eccentric charmers.”
About the Narrator

Clare Higgins, an award-winning English actress, is a graduate of the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts. As a stage actress, she has had leading roles in London and on Broadway in such plays as A Streetcar Named Desire, Night of the Iguana, and Measure for Measure. She has had roles in numerous BBC television plays and series, including Downton Abbey. In film, she best known for Hellraiser, Hellbound: Hellraiser II, and The Golden Compass. Her acting awards include three Olivier Awards, a Tony Award, and a London Critics Circle Award. She has narrated more than a dozen audiobooks, earning three AudioFile Earphones Awards.