Book Review – Ulysses by James Joyce

Packshot of Ulysses


James Joyce (Author)

This edition of Ulysses has been remastered by Robert Gogan to make it a little easier to understand.

I received this book from in return for an honest review.

It contains a reading guide at the back broken down episode (chapter) by episode.


‘Ulysses’ is the latin for Odysseus and this book is Joyce’s attempt to create events and characters that mirror those found in Homer’s classic ‘The Odyssey

It took Joyce 7 years to write this epic novel which actually only covers 14 hours of time.


Each chapter is a part of the whole but completely different from each other, it would be extremely difficult to write a review of this book as a whole without breaking it down into its chapters a little bit, so here goes my attempt.


I am no scholar and many experienced scholars have studied this work for years and still not come to a final conclusion about some of the things in it so my review will be on the basis that it is being read by the ordinary reading public.


I found the guidelines extremely helpful, by reading each chapter guideline immediately prior to reading its corresponding chapter.

The other things I found particularly helpful in this re-worked edition were the fact that Gogan altered the type for all internal monologue (that is character’s thoughts) to italics so that you could distinguish between narration and thoughts.

Also certain parts of this book were deliberately written with little or no punctuation, which made it extremely difficult to read.  Gogan has added punctuation in these areas particularly the final chapter to make it easier to understand.



Episode 1  The book starts of at 8am in the Mortello Tower where there are 3 main characters having a discussion, this episode is written in a familiar narrative style and we come across the first instance of internal monologue by Stephen Dedalus.  Stephen’s thoughts are very like our own they flit around all over the place and don’t always seem to make a lot of sense.

Episode 2 starts at 10am and follows Stephen Dedalus at work as a teacher, a lot of this chapter is his own abstract thoughts and again can be very difficult to understand.

It does get easier so please persevere.

Episode 3 is probably one of the hardest to persevere through as we listen to more of Stephen’s thoughts as he walks around Sandycove.

Episode 4 skips back to 8am as it introduces other important character’s at the start of their day.  This is where we meet the books main character and my favourite characterisation of the book, Mr Bloom.  We still have a lot of internal monologue but now it is Mr. Blooms thoughts and they are much clearer and easier to follow.  This is where I started to enjoy the book.

Episode 5 is where we follow Mr. Bloom from 10am on his journey to the funeral of Paddy Dignam.  We hear about his daughter Molly and find out more about his life as a newspaper columnist.  This is a fairly easy chapter to read and provides a lot of detail in characterisation which Joyce does extremely well.

Episode 6 from 11 am covers the funeral and more of Mr.Bloom’s thoughts again an easy and enjoyable chapter.

Episode 7 I would class as a middle difficulty chapter, it is 12 noon and Mr.Bloom is at his newspaper offices, as he leaves Stephen enters and the chapter has monologue from both Mr. Bloom and Stephen Dedalus.

Episode 8 covers lunchtime in a pub with Mr.Bloom and some interesting conversations with other people as Mr.Bloom walks from the pub to the library.

Episode 9 – we now leave Mr. Bloom and return to Stephen Dedalus in the library with his friends discussing Hamlet.  This is a long and complicated discussion made even harder to understand if you have never read Hamlet.

Episode 10 is completely different in form and content and neither of the two main character’s play much of a role in this chapter. It is separated into 19 mini-chapters and is the fastest paced episode in the book, you will meet many of the character’s of Dublin in this chapter and hopefully enjoy it as much as I did.

Episode 11 is another very difficult episode it is written in another completely different style – that of a musical fugue – and the beginning makes little sense until later. It is based in the hotel that many of the character’s from the previous chapter were heading to.  It is now 4pm

Episode 12 We again meet Mr. Bloom in a pub at 5pm and we meet a new character – The Citizen- the narrative of this chapter is quite easy to follow but it does contain some long lists of names.

Episode 13 takes us from the busy pub to a scene of three girls one of whom a 20-year old notices Mr. Bloom watching from a distance, she exposes her underwear for him to watch and it is apparent through Blooms thoughts what he thinks and what his reaction is to this, we are presented with an aspect of Blooms character that may astonish you.

Episode 14 takes us to the maternity hospital at 10pm where people are waiting for Mrs.Purefoy to have her baby.  There is a noisy discussion, the birth of a baby boy and the celebration in a pub. If read straight through this would be the most difficult chapter of all but if you read each individual section slowly and maybe a few times, you will appreciate it more, the style is very difficult.

Episode 15 is set in a brothel at midnight Mr Bloom follows Stephen to the red light district and tries to keep him out of trouble, the difficulty with this chapter is ascertaining what is really happening and what are hallucinations but it makes for interesting reading.

Episode 16 follows Mr. Bloom helping an extremely drunk Stephen to walk out of nighttown. Most of the chapter takes place in the Cabman’s Shelter.  This is one of the easiest chapters to read.

Episode 17 follows on as they leave the Cabman’s Shelter and walk back to Mr. Blooms house, they talk for a while, then Mr. Bloom goes to bed with his wife laying at the opposite end with a bolster between them. This is because they have no sexual relations since their second child died which you hear about much earlier in the book.

The final chapter is unique in that it is all monologue from Molly Blooms perspective.  This is the chapter in which Gogan has had to add much punctuation.  Molly’s thoughts are quite difficult to follow because she has what I describe as ‘a butterfly mind’ her thought flit from one place to another untamed. As a female monologue, written by a man, it is amazing.


I did enjoy this book even though it was very difficult in places and takes a long time to read because the information needs digesting.  I was shocked by the amount of erotic content in a novel from its period and I expect it was a very shocking work at its time of publication.

If you have time to peruse a book rather than just read it then this book is for you.


Ease of reading – 2/3 out of 5

A work of art – 5/5

An individual easy read – 1/5

An individual study read – 4/5

A general reading group read – 2/5

An extended reading group study – 5/5

Personally 4/5

Reviewed by: adele symonds

Personal read: 4

Group read: 3

Publisher: Music Ireland

ISBN: 978-0-9550974-4-7

Published Date: Sun 01st Jul 2012

Format: Trade Paperback

~ by adelesymonds on August 22, 2012.

3 Responses to “Book Review – Ulysses by James Joyce”

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