A Brave Man Seven Storeys Tall (A Tournament of Books Selection)

Posted 25 February, 2015 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in Reviews

A Brave Man Seven Storeys Tall (A Tournament of Books Selection)A Brave Man Seven Storeys Tall by Will Chancellor
Published by Harper Collins on July 8th 2014
Genres: Coming of Age, Fiction, Literary, Sagas
Pages: 384

A Brave Man Seven Storeys Tall is an exuberant literary debut--a novel of real ideas and a playful examination of our in-between world, one that explores the nature of family, identity, art, and belief while also marking the introduction of an original new voice in contemporary fiction.Owen Burr is the six-foot-eight, Olympics-bound senior captain of the Stanford University water polo team. In his final collegiate match, however, he suffers a catastrophic injury that destroys his hopes and dreams, flattening his entire world into two dimensions. His identity as an athlete erased but his ambition indelible, he defies his father, a classics professor who lives in a "cave" of his own making, and moves to Berlin with naive plans to make conceptual art. Then he disappears.Without a single clue as to his son's location, Dr. Burr embarks upon a tour of public lectures from Greece to Germany to Iceland in an attempt to draw out his endangered son. Instead, he foments a violent uprising.

This book was a sleeper for me. I didn’t expect to enjoy it as much as I did – but the truth is I found it extremely enjoyable. Honestly, between you and me, I saw ‘athlete’ in the description and stopped reading the description. I’m such an anti-sports snob. I know. Get over myself.

The writing was excellent, the characters were strong and well developed. I found Owen’s living in Berlin without a penny to his name to be a little unbelievable, but this didn’t trouble me enough to ruin the enjoyment of the book. Owen was also a bit of a little shit, but I think he grew throughout the novel. 

As far as Prof. Burr (Owen’s dad) went – his story was quite the wild ride as well, despite the two narratives being vastly different worked well to compliment each other Prof. Burr’s disastrous speech in Athens (all undertaken to help him look for Owen) and Owen’s disastrous ‘debut’ into the art world parallel nicely.   

This book is a commentary on the intersection of art and life, which made it very compelling to me. I also loved the commentary on modern art and what drives the prices of it. I’ve always been a big fan of modern art museums, if for nothing else than finding the absurdity in them. Tate Modern in London is by far my favorite – probably because during one visit there I found a display of a hermetically sealed can in which the artist had preserved his feces. (If anyone knows the artist or the name of the piece, hit me up because I’ve long since forgotten it.) But, I’d also be remiss if I didn’t share my love for The Centre Pompidou in Paris too. 

Owen and Prof. Burr’s journey into Iceland was a bit surreal as well – but again – I felt like it fit with the book and I really enjoyed the atmosphere and descriptions of Iceland. It actually inspired me to finally read Burial Rites. Absolutely a fabulous debut.

Art! What a glorious thing. What about you, Reader? Do you have a penchant for modern art? Or any other visual art styles?


April @ The Steadfast Reader


  • I would have stopped at “athlete” too, but you actually read it. Go you! Thanks for the reminder that I could be less snobbish, too. 😉

  • This one was a little uneven for me, but I could definitely see the potential in the writing. I actually hope it beats out The Paying Guests (even though I haven’t read it), since I’d like to see more discussion on it.

    • I’m predicting it will beat out Paying Guests – for me PG devolved into a historical fiction romance murder mayhem thing… I wasn’t a fan. Still need to write that review. 🙂

  • A good reminder that we all miss gems when we let our biases get the better of us. Glad you enjoyed!

    • Right?! I guess it’s important not only to get out of your comfort zone, but get out of the zone of things that you ‘generally like’ as well…

  • I had the same reaction to this one. I think the only reason why I picked it (out of the handful of TOB I hadn’t read) was for the ebook price. Like you, I was pleasantly surprised. Maybe it was our low expectations? I was completely absorbed in the art sections, I don’t think I would have liked it as much without that.

    Also, LOVED Burial Rites.

    • Agreed. The art sections were what really made it though I did get a kick out of the riot in Athens, too.

      • Oh yes! The riot, that part was great. I could only imagine the news coverage of such a thing.

  • Katie McDermott

    This makes me more excited to try and get to this one yet – I’ve been feeling rather ho-hum about it. I think you’ll really like “Burial Rites” – I LOVED it! https://bookishtendencieskatie.wordpress.com/

  • I’m not a big fan of books about athletes, but you’ve hooked me with the modern art angle! Tate Modern is also one of my favorite places in the world — you can’t miss the painting made with menstrual blood! The Albright-Knox here in Buffalo and the Kroller-Muller Museum in the Netherlands are also fantastic. And the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art in Nice has by far the strangest collection I’ve seen!

  • I like a lot of modern art, but definitely draw the line at sealed cans of artists’ feces. I know, I’m so uncouth. This sounds like a good read!

  • I find it interesting that the books nominated for this award have been hit or miss for you. This might be silly, given the variety of opinions people have about books, but I would have guessed that picking books nominated for the same award would give you close to all books you liked or all books you didn’t.