The Great Believers

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 19 Aug 2018

Member Reviews

Author Rebecca Makkai has such amazing ideas for books that I always want to read them and inevitably think about them long afterwards. While I’m reading them, however, I don’t find them particularly engaging and I struggle to determine why. I don’t know why after reading THE GREAT BELIEVERS any more than I did after both times of reading THE HUNDRED-YEAR HOUSE. The plot is a study of contrasts of love relationships: a man-woman, two men, a mother-child, and a mother-grandchild. It is a study of the loss of that love relationship through war, illness, anger, depression, distance, and misunderstanding. It is finally a study of the passage of time on our understanding of love: how it...

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A thought-provoking, intelligently written and intense third novel from Rebecca Makkai. Entwining the stories of two friends set in two different eras, The Great Believers packs an emotional punch by showing its characters as real, complex people and looking at the effects of the AIDS crisis in devastating detail. I did think it was perhaps a little overlong and could have been pruned in places, but overall I really enjoyed this novel and will recommend to fans of City On Fire, Life After Life and Tell The Wolves I'm Home.
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I absolutely loved this book. One story-line is set in 1980's Chicago, centering around a group of gay men dealing with the AIDS crisis as well as their own personal lives, relationships, and challenges. The book opens with one of our narrators, Yale, attending the memorial service for his friend Nico who has just died of AIDS. Nico's sister, Fiona, is our other narrator, whose story-line takes place in Paris in 2015. The characters felt complex and flawed in very real ways. Their love for each other, their heartbreaks and their regrets, gave this book so much emotional potency. I couldn't put it down. This novel completely wrecked me. I've already ordered a copy for my...

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The protagonists of Rebecca Makkai’s terrifyingly sad novel, The Great Believers, Fiona and Yale, are trapped by love and obligation. In 1985, Yale is living through the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Chicago. His friends and dying all around him while he and his lover worry about catching the virus. In 2015, Fiona is tracking down her estranged daughter, who disappeared after leaving a cult. Both of them desperately want to love someone who can’t love them back. The stakes in 2015 are different from those in 1985 and I often wondered why the 2015 chapters were included. It wasn’t until near the end that I saw the echoes and similarities between the two plots make sense. When they did, I was floored...

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Writing: 3 Characters: 4 Plot: 4

In this epic novel of lives dismantled by the AIDS epidemic, the action bounces between the gay community in Chicago circa 1985, modern day Paris, and Bohemian Paris on the brink of WWI. There are strong themes of blame, shame, and redemption and good insights into human feeling and behavior in the midst of wide-spread tragedy. The loosely linked narrative streams each elaborate on the impact (both obvious and unrecognized) of large scale bereavement on both survivors and the world at large.

I learned a lot from this book and found the messages powerful, but it was a slog and it did not need to be. The narratives were way too long with little gems of...

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