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Appointment in Samarra  By  cover art

Appointment in Samarra

By: John O'Hara,Charles McGrath - introduction
Narrated by: Christian Camargo
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Publisher's Summary

One of the great novels of small-town American life, Appointment in Samarra is John O'Hara's crowning achievement.

In December 1930, just before Christmas, the Gibbsville, Pennsylvania, social circuit is electrified with parties and dances. At the center of the social elite stand Julian and Caroline English. But in one rash moment born inside a highball glass, Julian breaks with polite society and begins a rapid descent toward self-destruction.

Brimming with wealth and privilege, jealousy and infidelity, O'Hara's iconic first novel is an unflinching look at the dark side of the American dream - and a lasting testament to the keen social intelligence of a major American writer.

©2013 John O'Hara (P)2013 Penguin Audio

What listeners say about Appointment in Samarra

Average Customer Ratings
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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Quite good, but not a classic

O’Hara thought he was better than Hemingway…he wasn’t. Yet this novel has its points, examining the power of society and belief. I did not find this one of the best novels of the twentieth century, but it is more than respectable. The power of the story is the all too obvious inability of humans to be themselves. Hemingway liked this novel, which makes sense. Hemingway and O’Hara examined the same issue (society vs. individuality) from utterly different perspectives and both valued truth. Both perspectives are interesting making this, for me, a good read, if not a must read. I did not find this a downer as the point is to avoid reaching your end without ever being your true self.

The narration is good, but not great, occasionally losing intensity necessary to the story.

7 people found this helpful

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O'Hara's Best?

Although this was his first novel, in some ways, I think it's O'Hara's best. His style is fully formed, his voice distinct. It's much more focused than his longer, more rambling novels, and the portrait of a time and place are incredibly strong. The characters are vivid and unforgettable, and watching Julian's downward slide is a harrowing experience.

Christian Camargo's reading is flawless. He inserts just the right amount of bitterness and tenderness, makes the characters distinct without exaggeration. It's brilliant.

An American classic and highly recommended.

5 people found this helpful

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Not worth using your point

The reader did a great job with a tedious story of a member of the Gibbsville country club set getting drunk, doing dumb things, and having massive hangovers. I got tired of it all. What happens with Julian English was earned (O'Hara gives us plenty of warning). And yes, there is a little lesson about how these people lived and how people like Julian were naive, callow, excessive, and totally unprepared for what life was about to dish out. But I just didn't care. Hemmingway loved this novel. That alone, should have warned me off.

5 people found this helpful

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Book is a downer.

This book is often considered a classic. It has a catchy start and end with a Persian folk tale. Everything in between is depressing.

The entire story transpires in less than a week as a salesman destroys himself by stupid misbehavior during periods of heavy drinking. Nothing in this book is cheerful. From start to finish it is a downer.

Pure Schadenfreude. If you get pleasure from the misfortune of others you will enjoy this book.

I probably should have rated the performance as five star because the reader made a disgusting person seem more disgusting, but also so blind to his faults as to be helpless in a slide to death.

Jim Fuqua

4 people found this helpful

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excellent & a bit existentialist & Hemingway-esque

very nice writing. nice period detail. a bit Gatsby-ish but written with Hemingway-esque tone, and with the "lost generation" themes running through it, some aimless, drunken living, frank detail and again i think very existentialist feeling.

4 people found this helpful

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Appointment in Samarra

Story: Not much of a story but it is interesting background and writing. It was slowed in the middle but then came to a quick ending.

Production: The reader was excellent and the effects were good.

Overall, I would recommend to buy but do not make it an urgent buy.

2 people found this helpful

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Disappointed

The Great Gatsby poorly written. Maybe my mistake was hoping for something approaching literature. My disappointment had nothing to do with it being a depressing story, only that it wasn’t a good depressing story. Given “so many books, so little time”, I think this was my last O’Hara.

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Not sure yet...

Just finished and I'm a little stunned. Felt like I was finally figuring it out and it ended. It starts with many character, introduced quickly, then narrows it down to a manageable few. Still, I wasn't prepared for the end at all.... Narration was excellent and the author captured the times and society so well, I always liked forward to my next listen.

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An unexpected literary surprise

Until clued into this book by the Modern Library's Top 100 Novels list, I can confess that I had never heard of this before. Man, what a novel.

This, apparently, was what the general reading public likewise extolled in 1934 when they were tipped off about this debut novel by John O'Hara.

Like so many books of the period, it takes a cynical look at the middle class and aspirational conventions that pervade society in the anthracite coal rich reaches of a small town in Pennsylvania Dutch Country with a peak at the seamy underbelly that runs as a through line beneath the parochial facade. The obvious influences of both Joyce, Fitzgerald and Dreisen which run throughout don't detract from the uniqueness and originality of the story.

It's a great and highly recommended treat and quickly elevated to my top 25 favorite books.

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one of my favorite books from college

it's still a favorite. loved to listen to it, o'hara's ear into how people speak is such a pleasure to hear, Samarra lends itself well to reading aloud. and I loved this narrator, everything about his reading was just perfectly done. jazzy, yet not too much. Camarga is and will forever be Julian English.