The Portable Veblen

  • by Elizabeth McKenzie
  • Narrated by Laurence Bouvard
  • 11 hrs and 30 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

A riotously funny and deeply insightful adventure through capitalism, the medical industry, family, love, war and wedding planning - from an electrically entertaining new voice.
Meet Veblen: a passionate defender of the anticonsumerist views of her namesake, the iconoclastic economist Thorstein Veblen. She's an experienced cheerer-upper (mainly of her narcissistic, hypochondriac, controlling mother), an amateur translator of Norwegian and a firm believer in the distinct possibility that the plucky grey squirrel following her around can understand more than it lets on.
Meet her fiancé, Paul: the son of good hippies who were bad parents, a no-nonsense, high-flying neuroscientist with no time for squirrels. His recent work on a device to minimise battlefield trauma has led him dangerously close to the seductive Cloris Hutmacher, heiress to a pharmaceuticals empire, who is promising him fame and fortune through a shady-sounding deal with the department of defence. What could possibly go wrong?

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What the Critics Say

"Man oh man, do I love this book! Audacious, imaginative, and totally wonderful: The whole books zips and zings." (Karen Joy Fowler, author of We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves)
"Wildly brilliant. Razor-sharp, intimate, hilarious and profound. Every page is a delight." (Emma Jane Unsworth, author of Animals)
"The Portable Veblen is the squirreliest novel I ever read. I enjoyed it completely." (Ursula K. Le Guin, author of The Dispossessed and The Left Hand of Darkness)
"A deeply observed universe where heroines are named for economists and the high stakes of capitalism are set to collide with the chatter of small wild animals. Both humorous and wrenching." (Samantha Hunt, author of The Invention of Everything Else and Mr. Splitfoot)
"McKenzie's story of an ambitious young neurologist and the seductions of the darker side of the medical economy is both incisive and hilarious." (Abraham Verghese, author of Cutting for Stone)
"In scalpel-sharp prose, The Portable Veblen's gleefully perverse narrator seduces us with the story of a charming young woman soon to wed a handsome doctor.... I was knocked out, giddily so, by The Portable Veblen." (Nelly Reifler, author of Elect H. Mouse State Judge and See Through)
"Quirky and smart. If you loved Karen Joy Fowler's We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, you'll love this." (Glamour)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Sciurine-based irritation

Would you say that listening to this book was time well-spent? Why or why not?

No time with a book is ill spent, but this was bordering on vexatious. I can just about deal with books where the characters commune with squirrels, but when they answer back I'm afraid the jig is up.


What didn’t you like about Laurence Bouvard’s performance?

It's never a great idea to attempt to do all the individual voices in a reading. Especially across the genders. And even more especially across the genders and those with disabilities.


If this book were a film would you go see it?

I would not.


Any additional comments?

The writing was fine, and the character of Melanie was a joy, and made the book bearable. At least, as it was audio, I was spared the cutesy illustrations that I gather pepper the text. But this book is up for the Baileys Prize, so what do I know?

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- Gill Darling

Pleasantly readable book

Would you say that listening to this book was time well-spent? Why or why not?

It was worth listening to because it is well written. Mckenzie has a good ear for dialogue and I really enjoyed the conversations between the various dysfunctional family members especially Veblen's mother.


What was the most interesting aspect of this story? The least interesting?

The story wasn't that interesting and I found myself wanting to skip parts especially anything to do with squirrels - they were tedious in the extreme.


Did the narration match the pace of the story?

Laurence Bouvard narrated the story well.


Was The Portable Veblen worth the listening time?

On balance, The Portable Veblen is worth listening to, but not an award winning book.


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- stylo

Book Details

  • Release Date: 28-01-2016
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers Limited