Book Review: The End of Mr. Y. by Scarlett Thomas

The End of Mr Y by Scarlett Thomas

JoV of Bibliojunkie announced a read-a-long of this book. While it wasn’t on my wish list, I had seen it in the shops and was tempted by its cover, which in my eyes is really beautiful.

I had no idea what the book was about, though. I must have read the back cover in the shop, but in general I tend to forget what that says really quickly, even if I end up buying the book.

So, it was a surprise. Not always a good one, but overall, I enjoyed this story.

The End of Mr. Y.: What it is about

Ariel Manto is a PhD student at an English university. She has read almost everything by a nineteenth century writer called Thomas Lumas. Her supervisor shared her love for Lumas’ books, but disappeared a year ago without a trace.

One day, Ariel finds a rare book by Lumas in a bookshop, the only one she hasn’t read yet. IT’s called The End of Mr. Y. It’s said to be cursed, with everyone who reads it suffering the same (unknown) fate as the writer.

After reading it, she ends up in the Troposphere, a mysterious place in which she can enter the thoughts of other human beings and animals. Is this real, or did her fantasy make it all up? In the end, she has to decide whether she wants to destroy the Troposphere, as it is a dangerous, but addictive place.

The End of Mr. Y.: What I thought

I like stories taking place in a university setting, as I spent many years at university as a student, researcher, and teacher myself.

The book’s beginning was a quiet story about a penniless PhD student who finds a book. Which was all well. But then she starts to travel to the Troposhere and I found this really odd. Although Ariel knows it’s not safe, she goes there several times. So I got really annoyed with her. I didn’t like her too much anyway, and now she was doing things that I didn’t want her to do!

But then after a while I accepted that this was the story and started to like it a lot more. The solution of why certain scientific discoveries have been made was interesting, very clever.

Spoiler: In white text. Select the text below to make it appear.

I really liked these ides: All scientific “findings” are simply the fruit of the imagination of the scientist in question. If he had not thought of it, it would not be like that. E.g., relativity only exists because Einstein made it so. And most interestingly: the fact that light can be both a wave or a particle depending what you expect to see – since people haven’t decided what light is, they see what they want to see.

There was a lot of scientific discussion, a bit too much for me. Luckily, I have an interest in popular science and most of what was discussed wasn’t new to me. I can imagine that some people might find this slow to read and hard to understand.

In the end, I did enjoy reading the book and when I closed it I was satisfied that I’d read a good book. But I was very different from what I expected (a literary fiction story, possibly a with some humorous elements).
Rating: 4/5 stars

I got this book: from my library

I read this in: Dutch, the original language is English

Number of pages: 384

First published: 2006

Genre: fantasy, literary fiction

Extras: This is my second book for the R.I.P. Challenge ; Have a look at Jo’s review of this book.


About Judith
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34 Responses to Book Review: The End of Mr. Y. by Scarlett Thomas

  1. parrish says:

    Although this does have appeal, not sure if enough to go forward & obtain it, as my TBR is overflowing & with your own reservations it doesn’t have the necessary appeal to jump the que. Thanks.

    • Leeswammes says:

      If you have enough other potential good reads, parrish, I wouldn’t bother with this one. Who knows? Maybe after you read something else by this writer one day, you’ll be curious.

  2. Firstly, the idea of hiding the spoiler in white text is ingenious and I may copy it if that’s ok?

    Also I have heard loads about this book so am quite excited to read it and pleased to see that you enjoyed it. The plot sounds like it has vague parallels to The Shadow of the Wind (Zafon)?

    • Leeswammes says:

      Readingwithtea, it’s not my own idea to hide the text by making it white, certainly you can use it. I can’t remember The Shadown of the Wind will enough to compare, but I don’t think there was a (possible) alternate world, there. But it probably has the same kind of atmosphere.

  3. Nadine Nys says:

    Didn’t know the author and hadn’t seen the book (which has indeed a beautiful appealing cover). If I see it in a bookstore, I will certainly buy it. Thanks for the great review, Judith.
    The ‘spoilertext’ in white is a smart idea, but I read your posts in Mobile RSS on my iPad, and the background color there is black, so it doesn’t work there.

    • Leeswammes says:

      Nadine, sorry you could still see the spoiler text. Next time, I’ll make it clear where the spoiler begins and end so hopefully you can skip over it. In fact, it didn’t spoil a lot. 🙂

      You’re also susceptible to nice covers then!

  4. Tes says:

    The cover looks really good and I think the story is very interesting,too 🙂

  5. Joanna says:

    This one has been on my TBR list forever. I’m sure I even have it somewhere in the house! 🙂

    • Leeswammes says:

      You better dig it out, Joanna and give it a try. If you’ve got it anyway, I would definitely make an effort to read it. Or stare at the cover for a few weeks.

  6. Lucybird says:

    I love this books. I read it a few years ago (before I was a book blogger) and have read all of Scarlet Thomas’ releases since, I am actually thinking about giving away Pop Co. which is my favourite by her for the Literary Giveaway Hop.

    I see what you mean about the scientific bits being a bit hard but I found when I really got into the book it didn’t really matter.

    • Leeswammes says:

      Same here, Lucy, when I got further in the book I didn’t mind about the scientific bits.

      Hope your giveaway is worldwide as I would love to read another book by this author! 🙂

  7. anilbalan says:

    Good review – seems worth a look

  8. Trisha says:

    I’m pretty sure I have this on the shelves somewhere. That cover looks familiar. Then again, these days people are recycling covers with only mild manipulation for different books, so who knows.

  9. I am a massive fan of science in literarture and so loved this book. It is one of the cleverest plots I’ve ever come across. I can see why non-scientists would struggle, but I wish there were more books like this. It is a long time since I read it so can’t remember the finer details, but don’t remember getting annoyed with Ariel – I was probably too distracted by the great science! I’m glad you’ve tried her work though – she is one of my favs 🙂

    • Leeswammes says:

      Jackie, in a way I *am* a scientist but when I want to read science, I’ll get a science book. I don’t like it when I’m forced to read a whole lot of science that I haven’t asked for in a novel. I know mot of this stuff anyway, so that’s not the problem. And as I say in my spoiler, I *love* the way science is explained here, very clever.

  10. Vishy says:

    Nice review, Leeswammes! I just finished reading ‘The End of Mr.Y’ and loved it, especially the scientific and philosophical parts. I also loved what you have said in the spoiler – that was beautifully explained and made one think.

  11. Pingback: Double Read-Along – Wrap-up and Reviews « Bibliojunkie

  12. You have made me very curious. I love people who disappear without a trace. And I am not too afraid of the scientific stuff, but I am not nearly as sure about the Troposphere.

  13. JoV says:

    Now, why didn’t I thought of that! it is sooo.. ingenious the way that you hid those spoilers or quote. But really you haven’t spoiled anything.. I’ll use this trick when I have the chance but must always make sure that the background is white (because mine is grey! LOL).

    I studied science for many years and love it but it is the philosophy about the theories discussed that kind of lost me. I do get annoyed here and there in the book because really Ariel, despite her beautiful name, is really not likeable. I’m glad you finally read this one even if your Dutch version didn’t have the attractive cover! It was great reading this book with you.

    • Leeswammes says:

      Jo, I think my main problem was that I wasn’t expecting all the scientific discussions, as I thought this was a more light-hearted book. I also felt the author wanted to show how clever she was by mentioning all these scientific and philosophical topics. But in the end, she proved she was clever anyway, with the explanation that’s in the spoiler.

  14. Kailana says:

    I have never heard of this before. Thanks for the review!

  15. Pingback: Book Review No.28 – The End of Mr.Y by Scarlett Thomas « Vishy’s Blog

  16. Amy says:

    Your review intrigues me and really piqued my interest about this book, this is the first I’ve heard about it. I like the university setting and, although it would also annoy me that Ariel continually visits the Troposphere although she knows it’s not safe, I think I would have trouble stay away from it, too, because it’s uniquef and gives her these ‘powers’! So I’m very curious about whether or not Ariel destroys the troposphere.
    I read the spoiler part of your review and I think that’s what convinced me that this is a book I’d like to try reading. So much of physucs, mathematics and other sciences go right over my head but still captivate me!

    Sorry to go on and on, I really enjoyed your review, Judith :o)

    • Leeswammes says:

      Amy, it’s great that you go on and on, it shows that you appreciate my review. From what you write I do think you will enjoy this book. Put it on your list, for sure!

  17. Nadine Nys says:

    Oh no Judith, the spoiler text was no problem for me. I am sure I will have forgotten it when I eventually read the book. I only told you because I think other people might see it too, and perhaps they would mind.
    And I do tend to only buy books that have beautiful covers, I know I shouldn’t, but I can’t help it.

  18. Athira says:

    Oh, I didn’t realize you read this with JoV – silly me! I enjoyed your review, and I have a feeling this is a book I may enjoy!

    • Leeswammes says:

      Athira, The End of Mr Y was quite different from what I (more like a normal, realistic, story) so I was a bit shocked with the turn the book took. But if you know this in advance, it’s probably great.

  19. sakura says:

    I really enjoyed this book too and was blown away by how you could insert all this science and still make it readable. Glad you liked it. And can I just say I love the way you’ve put your spoiler in white? It really works!

    • Leeswammes says:

      Sakura, for me there was a bit too much science in the book, but in the end, it worked out fine, and the reader needed at least some of the information (as per spoiler). I’m always weary of authors trying to educate me or wanting to show off their knowledge. I’m still not sure… but I enjoyed the book!

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