Skip to content

Non 1001 Book Review: Gnomon by Nick Harkaway


 Book worm is getting us back on track with our blog schedule with a book that might be good enough to break my reading slump. Check it out.

Gnomon by Nick Harkaway
Published in: 2017
Reviewed by: Book Worm  and/or Jen
Rating: ★★★★★
Find it here: Gnomon

This ARC was provided by Random House UK (via NetGalley) in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis from Goodreads: Gnomon, which took Harkaway more than three years to complete, is set in a world of ubiquitous surveillance. Pitched as “a mind-bending Borgesian puzzle box of identity, meaning and reality in which the solution steps sideways as you approach it”, it features: a detective who finds herself investigating the very society she believes in, urged on by a suspect who may be an assassin or an ally, hunting through the dreams of a torture victim in search of the key to something she does not yet understand; a banker who is pursued by a shark that swallows Fortune 500 companies; Saint Augustine’s jilted mistress who reshapes the world with miracles; a refugee grandfather turned games designer who must remember how to walk through walls or be burned alive by fascists; and a sociopath who falls backwards through time in order to commit a murder.

Book Worm’s Thoughts: I love a novel with a twisted timeline and a story that messes with your head, and boy does this book do that. From the moment I read the first sentence I was hooked. I felt like Alice falling down the rabbit hole and the more I read, the more deeply I feel in love with the book.

At over 700 pages it took me a while to read, but when I got to the last 20% I didn’t want the book to end. Then I was hit with the anxiety what if, after all this build up, the ending is a let down? Don’t worry it wasn’t! I really felt the time I invested in reading this book was paid back by the amazing world to which Harkaway transported me.

I can’t really say much about the plot because the joy of this book is immersing yourself in each narrative and trying to catch the points where they overlap and the clues hidden within. I think I missed a lot of clues and I won’t claim to fully understand the book but that didn’t stop me loving it.

The other things I loved are the observations about people and their relationship to books and the ways in which books were connected to life. Here are a few quotes I can’t resist sharing:

“The human condition is most accurately chronicled in pulp, I think. The ugly and ordinary lusts, the contradictory drives, are all ignored by more self-consciously poetic writers striving to peel away the dross to reveal the inner person who of course exists only as the sum of the dross.”

“These books exist, one sometimes thinks, only in the rumour and desire they excite.”

“People will be very alarmed, and in his experience they always feel better knowing there’s a bookshop open” TRUTH

While I loved this book I know there will be people who won’t love it so here are a few warnings: 1) Harkaway loves making you work. Don’t expect an easy read. The writing can be convoluted and very detailed I have seen a lot of reviews calling the book boring because of the level of detail; 2) If you want a book you will understand, forget it. I am not sure anyone will truly understand it, and those who claim to will all have their own different understanding (in my opinion); and 3) The criticism of modern politics is very blunt (like a hammer) and it’s clear where Harkaway stands (if you voted for Trump or Brexit be prepared to be offended).

Who would like this book? I would recommend this to those who like a longer more in-depth read that makes you think and question yourself. I would say if you loved 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami or The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell you will love this as it has the same feel as these (well it did for me).

Want to try it for yourself? You can find a copy here: Gnomon

We want to hear from you! Have you read this book? What did you think? 

7 Comments Post a comment
  1. Thats a dazzling array of characters and a dizzying plot. Maybe a book best read with a glass of wine or two so if you don’t understand it you can blame the wine

    Liked by 1 person

    November 10, 2017
  2. I’m torn after reading this description! It sounds like something that could easily irritate me, if it’s not done perfectly . . . But if you’re comparing it to Haruki Murakami and David Mitchell that’s like a guarantee that I should love it. I’ve never read Harkaway before, so I’m really going into this blind. But I’m pretty intrigued and think I’ll have to try it out.


    November 10, 2017
    • Book Worm #

      I feel a great weight of responsibility now I hope you like it.

      It was my first Harkaway and I am planning to hunt down more of his works soon.


      November 10, 2017
      • Haha. Don’t worry, I won’t blame you if I hate it. I adore both Murakami and Mitchell but can easily see how others wouldn’t, so I think I’m prepared to give Harkaway a shot.


        November 10, 2017
  3. The reference to Borges hooked me in, and the review only made me want to read it more. I hadn’t heard of Harkaway.


    November 10, 2017
  4. This book is dense and not an easy and quick read at all. Also, I probably lengthened the time spent with this book by about 10% just because I kept having to look up words I did not know. I went back and forth while reading between “I’m loving this narrative and these characters!”


    December 28, 2022

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Most Anticipated 2018 Books | The Reader's Room

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: