The Origin Of Species

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The Origin Of Species

by Nino Ricci

Doubleday Canada | December 21, 2012 | Trade Paperback

The Origin Of Species is rated 2.4 out of 5 by 10.

Set in Montreal in 1986, The Origin of Species is the story of a thirty-something Alex Fratarcangeli ("I can''t even pronounce it myself," he admits to an acquaintance), plagued by a familiar sense of being a fraud in all aspects of his life from his professional ambitions to his romantic involvements. Alex is by all accounts an unexceptional man, save for the fact that he is haunted by an extraordinary experience in the Galapagos Islands, the consequences of which threaten to upend the precarious balance of his ordinary life.

Format: Trade Paperback

Dimensions: 624 pages, 8 × 5 × 1.3 in

Published: December 21, 2012

Publisher: Doubleday Canada

Language: English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 0385677626

ISBN - 13: 9780385677622

Found in: Fiction and Literature

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Reviews

Rated 1 out of 5 by from I was filled with hate but driven by curiousity to finish this book. Does the strength of these compulsions mean that Nino Ricci is a skilled writer? Perhaps. I wanted to know why Alex got under my skin so effectively. Primarily, as the story unfolded I wholeheartedly disagreed with the choices he made, unconvinced a real person would do the same -- namely myself -- in his circumstances. I do acknowledge perhaps Alex's choices triggered the fear in me that my own partner possesses a similar disposition and therefore likely to commit the same grievances against me given the opportunity. Then I realized, what if Alex was too real? That facing the opportunity to make a difficult choice, to adapt and challenge stark probabilities with rare strength of character, to essentially EVOLVE, most people would rather slink back into the comfort of the mundane, silently moving toward extinction. this is what Alex represents to me. Choosing to be unremarkable is a choice and it angered me to observe how he fooled himself into thinking that inaction meant no accountability. Outside of the character profile, what else really gnawed at me throughout the book was the references to the "current events." References to El Salvadorian revolution, to separatist undercurrents of the early 80s in Montreal, to science fraud, Libya, Chernobyl, HIV / homosexual stigmas, Reagan politics, and on and on and on. I wonder how many of these references are relevant ? More than anything it made me feel excluded, perhaps as a consequence of my age, I don't have a reference to these issues in my life. Part of me felt like I was witnessing the unabashed antics of my younger sister trying to be the center of attention... so hard the effort feels to qualify as a "great Canadian novel." Well we have to put all those historical references, the french words, and the geography of Montreal, the ongoing conversation with CBC host Peter Gzowski, the awkward way Canadian culture might meet and clash in the patchwork of bigger cities.... I know when I went through the book a second time all of these things gave alot of context. For imagining the setting, the emotions, the type of motivations that drive characters to be on one side or the other of an issue. The dynamic between characters was real and gritty. Some events were mundane but also deliberate and uncomfortable. Perhaps all I can say is this book was too real for me to enjoy.
Date published: 2012-10-04
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Was expecting more It won the GG's??? And that is basically how the entire book feels like. It does start out with a very gripping circumstance, but then it kind of falls flat.
Date published: 2010-02-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from great Canadian novel! This book was chosen for my book club and a few members seemed daunted by the length. It read fast for me however, as there were no slow middle parts, even the Galapagos section. The characters are so well described, none are flat. I thought the Peter Gzowski reference was cool too.
Date published: 2009-11-09
Rated 3 out of 5 by from alex and evolution Book Review by Ethel Clark The Origin of Species by Nino Ricco Published in Canada, Sept. 30, 2008 by Doubleday ISBN 10:0385663609 The author focuses on two main topics: Alex,an anxiety-ridden and depressed Canadian Literature student in 1980’s Montreal and Charles Darwin’s theory on evolution and the meaning of life. Alex is not forceful, or that interesting. Lots of events happen, not plot-driven. The many facts and quotes from authors inspired me to research Darwin and Malthus, quite an educational enlightenment. It took me a while to get through it, going back to reread passages. The story begins and ends with Esther, giving it a smooth conclusion. Excitement didn’t begin until the middle of the book in the Galapagos Islands with Desmond and Santos in search of the special plants connected with Darwin. These characters were raw and attention-getting, making for a good plot. The author touched on too many subjects, characters and cities, making it difficult to concentrate on one. I enjoyed the scientific aspects and the geographic areas of the book more than the story itself.
Date published: 2009-09-07
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Boy, was that a disappointment. I have previously Mr. Ricci's books and I was so looking forward to a good summer read. I hardly ever stop reading a book once I am past the "100 page rule", so this is an exception to the rule. At times, I thought the interactions between the characters was heating up and then I could hardly remember what I had just read. I'm confused how this book won the Governor General's award and how Heather made one of her picks.
Date published: 2009-07-17
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Dating as Evolutionary Biology I was set to like this book, in fact I expected to really like this book. I thought I had good reasons to love it. Previously I had read "Lives of the Saints" Mr. Ricci's debut novel and loved it. The cover picture of 'Origins' still speaks to me, the colours(the clouds at the top of the cover should be more blue), the image of the blue footed booby grabbed me the instant I saw it, even the fake coffee rings on the front and back covers. The clincher was knowing that Alex, the main character, would travel to the Galapagos islands, to me a mysterious and enchanting location. Whats not to love? Unfortunately it didn't come together for me. I followed Alex Fratarcangeli as he worked to complete the requirements for his PhD in Interdisciplinary studies (linking literary theory with evolutionary biology) at Concordia University in Montreal, Quebec. It is the day after the disaster at Chernobyl and Alex meets his neighbour Ester. She is also a student at Concordia as well as living with Multiple Sclerosis. There is an attraction between these two right from the start. Its not sexual, possibly maternal, Alex doesn't give a thought but immediately comes to her rescue that first day. I was talking with my sister about this book. She hasn't read it, but has read several others by Mr. Ricci. We were talking about the 'evolutionary aspects of this literary work' kind of like the thesis that Alex is writing. From an evolutionary aspect, a species seeks to reproduce so that their genes continue. Perhaps its in his subconscious, but that's what Alex is seeking to do. Felix offers him the possibility of a relationship, but Alex chooses not to follow-up on that. No chance of reproducing. Alex is involved with a number of females in the story. First there is Liz, they do manage to reproduce, but there is no live offspring, so Liz is out as a mate. Then he does get together with Amanda, but turns out to be not suitable as a long term mate. He meets Ester and she gets along well with Alex, and there is a mutual attraction. Unfortunately she has a terminal illness, so offspring are not likely. He also has an infatuation with Maria, but she doesn't reciprocate and then leaves. Alex is back to Ingrid. They have a history that Alex seems to keep trying to avoid/ignore. She is biologically the best mate since they have already successfully reproduced, hence their son Per. It became obvious to me that evolutionary biology was trying to tell Alex to get his act together and go back to Ingrid and take care of his offspring. My sister is looking forward to getting my book so she can figure out for herself whats going on in this book.
Date published: 2009-04-21
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Fascinating (if somewhat dysfunctional and exasperating) protagonist This GG-award winning story was an engaging read. The protagonist, Alex, is an Anglophone Italian-Canadian who is an English Major studying at McGill University in Montréal . He's pathetically out of touch with his inner life due to emotional and psychic fallout from a series of ill-informed choices, yet he manages to make meaningful connections with a few key individuals in spite of himself. All of the characters were entirely believable, and the story unfolds in a non-linear fashion that feels like real life. Not all of the details are sewn up neatly, but it all made sense by the time the book reached its conclusion. I found some of the academia a bit tedious and densely worded, but that is more of a statement about my own lack of exposure to such things than of the writing itself. Even so, I felt that I owed it to the character (and to the author) to pay attention and not to skim those portions - and I learned a few things in the process. At the story's conclusion, I found myself with a bit of longing and a sense of melancholy. As it turned out, I ended up sincerely caring for how Alex's life - and the lives of the peripheral characters - would unfold after I closed the book for the last time.
Date published: 2009-01-11
Rated 1 out of 5 by from It has its moments... but they are definitely scarce When 'The Origin of Species' didn't make the Giller shortlist, I immediately disregarded it. But then it won the G.G., so I thought I'd give it a chance. I regret the chance I gave it. I won't delve into plot, since, there isn't much of one in this novel despite its hefty 450-odd pages. The protagonist, Alex, shows great promise in the begining, but Ricci utterly screws up the character. He delves into overly excessive detail of Alex's thought processes over the most minute of decisions, which generally involve Alex always making the wrong choice (even though he is clearly of the repercussions). Definitely overwritten, Ricci makes frequent (and generally unnecessary) references to the political issues of Montreal circa-1980. Having been born in '88, I was not familiar with many of the issues talked about in the book. And if you're not Canadian, forgot about it, you won't understand a quarter of the novel. Ricci has effectively limited his audience to a small subset of the Canadian population, really smart move. Even they will find much to complain about. Alex travels to the Galapagos islands and Sweden, and the Galapagos is portrayed fairly well, but the long flashback that uses it as a setting is dreadfully boring. Sweden didn't come as evocative, but the Sweden sequences were at least mildly entertaining. Another issue is Alex's sex life. He has sex with so many females which are exchangeable personality wise it gets confusing to remember who is who. The only distinct female character is Esther, a woman with multiple sclerosis. According to the flap, she is supposedly a prominent character. In reality, she is absent from 85% of the book. Ricci, did anyone bother to notify you of one particular literary device that is strikingly absent from your novel? Plot. Yes, this story not only defies traditional plot structure, it eschews any semblance of a plot entirely. The entire novel lacks any sense of tension, it seems Ricci is reaching for something bigger here, but he ends up coming empty handed. Sorry Nino Ricci, I have never read any of your previous works and will now never read any of your future works. I could feel your attempt at creating an emotionally charged ending, but honestly, I didn't feel anything and was just glad the book was over so I could start reading some else. Boyden's Through Black Spruce was, while flawed in its own right, far superior to this. In the middle there are, admittedly, some interesting bits (when Ricci explores Alex's relationship with his former girlfriend, Liz. But, as with every other plot thread in this book, it essentially goes nowhere). For anyone considering purchasing this, I don't recommend you do. The brief moments of good prose cannot counteract this overwritten, plot-less, and generally boring novel. Note: (I did give one star, but my actual assessment would probably be around 1.5. Trapped within this borefest were moments of quite good writing. Ricci definitely has the capability of writing well, that much is clear, but he didn't capitalize on his abilities in this novel unfortunately).
Date published: 2009-01-10
Rated 1 out of 5 by from It has its moments... but they are definitely scarce When 'The Origin of Species' didn't make the Giller shortlist, I immediately disregarded it. But then it won the G.G., so I thought I'd give it a chance. I regret the chance I gave it. I won't delve into plot, since, there isn't much of one in this novel despite its hefty 450-odd pages. The protagonist, Alex, shows great promise in the begining, but Ricci utterly screws up the character. He delves into overly excessive detail of Alex's thought processes over the most minute of decisions, which generally involve Alex always making the wrong choice (even though he is clearly of the repercussions). Definitely overwritten, Ricci makes frequent (and generally unnecessary) references to the political issues of Montreal circa-1980. Having been born in '88, I was not familiar with many of the issues talked about in the book. And if you're not Canadian, forgot about it, you won't understand a quarter of the novel. Ricci has effectively limited his audience to a small subset of the Canadian population, really smart move. Even they will find much to complain about. Alex travels to the Galapagos islands and Sweden, and the Galapagos is portrayed fairly well, but the long flashback that uses it as a setting is dreadfully boring. Sweden didn't come as evocative, but the Sweden sequences were at least mildly entertaining. Another issue is Alex's sex life. He has sex with so many females which are exchangeable personality wise it gets confusing to remember who is who. The only distinct female character is Esther, a woman with multiple sclerosis. According to the flap, she is supposedly a prominent character. In reality, she is absent from 85% of the book. Ricci, did anyone bother to notify you of one particular literary device that is strikingly absent from your novel? Plot. Yes, this story not only defies traditional plot structure, it eschews any semblance of a plot entirely. The entire novel lacks any sense of tension, it seems Ricci is reaching for something bigger here, but he ends up coming empty handed. Sorry Nino Ricci, I have never read any of your previous works and will now never read any of your future works. I could feel your attempt at creating an emotionally charged ending, but honestly, I didn't feel anything and was just glad the book was over so I could start reading some else. Boyden's Through Black Spruce was, while flawed in its own right, far superior to this. In the middle there are, admittedly, some interesting bits (when Ricci explores Alex's relationship with his former girlfriend, Liz. But, as with every other plot thread in this book, it essentially goes nowhere). For anyone considering purchasing this, I don't recommend you do. The brief moments of good prose cannot counteract this overwritten, plot-less, and generally boring novel. Note: (I did give one star, but my actual assessment would probably be around 1.5. Trapped within this borefest were moments of quite good writing. Ricci definitely has the capability of writing well, that much is clear, but he didn't capitalize on his abilities in this novel unfortunately).
Date published: 2009-01-10
Rated 4 out of 5 by from What Happens in Galapagos Stays in Galapagos Having just recently won the Governor General's award for Fiction for 2008, Nino Ricci's latest work "The Origin of Species" is a journey through the surreal. The plot and writing style remind me in a way of a Charlie Kaufman film in that there is a lot of self-realization and philosophy of the mind throughout the novel. The story is simple enough. The main character Alex is a CanLit graduate student in Montreal during the 1980s. Alex is a self-loathing, sexually promiscuous, and fundamentally racist person that as a reader you wouldn't immediately be drawn to. But a series of relationships and events intersect his life which causes Alex to pause and reflect on the destructive lifestyle he has led to date. The subplot throughout is the life of Charles Darwin who wrote the original "Origin of Species", that manifesto on the theory of evolution. Ricci metaphorically links Alex to Darwin throughout the book showing the parallel paths each took. Frankly, I thought the connection was a little contrived, but Ricci does a decent job using Darwin as a bookend. Set in the tumult of the Quebec sovereignty question, Ricci carefully contextualizes the many debates. The book jacket plays up the historical context but to honest, it doesn't feature prominently in either the writing or the plot other than a couple of sprinkles here and there. If anything, philosophy and sociology are used throughout so if you're unfamiliar with Derrida, Foucault, Darwin (of course), or Malthus better keep wikipedia handy. This is my first Ricci book so I'm not sure if this is how he writes all his books but the writing is realistically explicit and graphic. At times, I felt a little too cynical, too realistic, certainly one could characterize the novel as cynical realism. But I mean it in the most positive way, I dislike reading books that are too patronizing. Overall, I think Ricci has a real gem here. I would not be surprised to see it made into a film someday. The book is quite lengthy and with the non-linear style it may require you to read it a little slower, but all the more reason to appreciate the true brilliance of the writing.
Date published: 2008-12-06

– More About This Product –

The Origin Of Species

by Nino Ricci

Format: Trade Paperback

Dimensions: 624 pages, 8 × 5 × 1.3 in

Published: December 21, 2012

Publisher: Doubleday Canada

Language: English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 0385677626

ISBN - 13: 9780385677622

Read from the Book

Part One – May 1986– There has never been a document of culture which was not at one and the same time a document of barbarism. Walter Benjamin “Theses on the Philosophy of History,” VII Chapter 1 The girl standing in the foyer when Alex went down to get his mail, trembling slightly on her cane, was Esther. Not a girl, really: a woman. Everyone in the building knew her. Or everyone, it seemed, except Alex, who, in the few months since he’d moved here, had never quite managed to be the one to open a door for her, or put her key in her mailbox, or start a conversation with her in the oppressive intimacy of the building’s elevators. She was looking out through the plate glass of the entrance doors to the street, where sunlight now glinted off the morning’s earlier sprinkling of rain. “I wouldn’t go out there if you don’t have to,” Alex said, then regretted at once his admonitory tone. From the confusion that came over her, plain as if a shadow had crossed her, it was clear she hadn’t understood. “The rain,” he said. “Oh!” She looked up through her thickish glasses at the now cloudless sky and her whole face seemed to twist with the strain of trying to follow his meaning. “Chernobyl,” he said, making a botch of it. “The fallout. They say you shouldn’t go out if it’s rained.” “Oh-h-h!” She drew the word out as if in understanding. “R
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From the Publisher

Set in Montreal in 1986, The Origin of Species is the story of a thirty-something Alex Fratarcangeli ("I can''t even pronounce it myself," he admits to an acquaintance), plagued by a familiar sense of being a fraud in all aspects of his life from his professional ambitions to his romantic involvements. Alex is by all accounts an unexceptional man, save for the fact that he is haunted by an extraordinary experience in the Galapagos Islands, the consequences of which threaten to upend the precarious balance of his ordinary life.

About the Author

NINO RICCI was born in Leamington, Ontario, in 1959. His first novel, Lives of the Saints (1990), won the Governor General''s Award for Fiction, the SmithBooks/Books in Canada First Novel Award, and the F.G. Bressani Prize. The novel was also a long-time national bestseller, and was followed by the highly acclaimed In a Glass House (1993) and Where She Has Gone (1997), which was shortlisted for the prestigious Giller Prize. He is also the author of Testament (2002). Ricci holds a B.A. from York University and an M.A. from Concordia University. He is a past president of PEN Canada.

Editorial Reviews

Praise for The Origin of Species
"Ricci''s masterstroke to date. This novel does so well, on so many levels, that it''s hard to know where to begin tallying up the riches. . . . Each sentence, each word, feels exactly right. . . . He triumphs utterly here in rare achievement."
—Toronto Star

"Ricci writes beautifully, sentence by sentence."
—National Post

"The Origin of Species is an achingly honest look at how our life choices get stacked up to form the picture of who we are whether we like it or not. Ricci''s dry, sardonic prose is sharp, with the cadence of natural thought that tumbles forward without getting lost."
—The Boston Globe
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