We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves

Although I’ve been a member of a book group in Whitley Bay for a couple of years now; during 2015 I’d not made it to many meetings. A mixture of crazy times at work and then no time at all at work meant that before I knew it, we’d arrived at Christmas and I was left with a somewhat guilty feeling of neglect. I vowed that this year I would make an effort to finish the books and attend the meetings – I don’t really have any excuses at the moment!

DSC_1928

February’s book was We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler. The story follows Rosemary, the narrator, as she works through the story of how her sister disappeared from her life as a child – a story she’s never told before.

This had been on my radar for quite some time, and I was really looking forward to reading it…. so I was a little bit disappointed when I reached the end of the book and couldn’t figure out if I had actually enjoyed it or not. It certainly wasn’t one of those books that ‘grabbed’ me. There is a pretty big twist which crops up at 77 pages in; which I wasn’t expecting at all. It completely threw me off course and upended everything I was expecting from the story.

The book starts in the middle of her story; while Rosemary is an undergraduate at the University of California. A chance encounter (and brief jail stay) with a girl called Harlow leads Rosemary to share her story – or, at least; a version of her story with her. Having told this; Rosemary then admits to the reader that the story is not true – the truth is something she has never told anyone. The story then goes back to her beginning, at 5 years old, to the time when her sister was still in her life; and then finally comes back to present day.

“… I don’t see how to go further forward without going back – back to the end of that story, back to when I returned to my family from my grandparents’ house. 

Which also happens to be the exact moment when the part I know how to tell ends and the part I’ve never told before begins.”

Although the way she jumps between periods of time and memory is a clever vehicle for telling her story; at times I did find myself feeling quite bored with the narrative and a little confused with what was going on. Rosemary’s brother Lowell is woven into the story but not fully explored; which I thought was a bit of a loss and could have added another interesting element to the book. That being said; there are some parts of the book which left a real impression and some quite beautifully written sentences throughout.

The nature of the twist is such that, in order to not give anything away, this review needs to stay fairly generic in detail. What I will say is that the book deals very cleverly with the whole concept of memory: the memories we retain from childhood; the way our mind can warp them, and the impression they can leave on us as adults. It also impresses upon the reader how the drive of money and power pushes industry; held up by science and experiments. The book lays out in fairly graphic detail the lengths that those in power will go to, in order maintain their position.

“An oft-told story is like a photograph in a family album; eventually, it replaces the moment it was meant to capture.”

On reflection; although I didn’t enjoy We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves as much as I was expecting (or hoping); when I was pulling my thoughts together to write this review, I found that it deals with a lot more, and makes you question a lot more; than I had originally thought.

DSC_1923

DSC_1925

DSC_1924

World Book Day 2016

Happy World Book Day!

Today marks a worldwide celebration of books and reading; in over 100 countries around the world. Amazing stuff! In the UK and Ireland; the main aim of World Book Day is to encourage young children to pick up a book and learn how much fun reading is. Across the country; hoards of schoolchildren have been sat in class dressed as Harry Potter, Alice in Wonderland, Mr Twit, The Cat in the Hat and numerous other characters from famous children’s literature.

I thought today would be a good day to look back at the books that I loved as a little girl, and that inspired me while I was growing up and moving on into secondary school. I always had my nose in a book when I was younger. I was probably the one you would have labelled as the ‘loner’ at school – didn’t really have many close friends, very happy to just sit and play and read by myself. Books were my escape and I remember thinking when I was very young that I wanted to be an author when I grew up. Now, here I am; all grown up (though not quite an author yet) and these books still leave a strong imprint on my mind. Continue reading World Book Day 2016

Cravings of the Literary Variety

For the last couple of days, I have had a very prominent craving. I am craving a book. A very specific kind of book.

We are not short of them in our house. In fact, I would go so far as to say that we have books coming out of our ears; and I am in the middle of reading quite a few. My current victim is ‘The Year of Reading Dangerously’ by Andy Miller – his account of a year spent reading all the books that we all say we’ve read; or maybe sometimes even think we’ve read, but haven’t. His list includes titles like Middlemarch, Anna Karenina, Paradise Lost and 100 Years of Solitude. I would consider myself a well-read person; but I have read none of these. As much as I am enjoying his book; it is making me crave a good, solid classic…. I have to admit it’s been a while since I’ve read anything that falls under that category!

I have decided that I would like to undertake my own ‘List of Betterment‘ over the course of 2016. I have started putting together a list of both modern and older titles which I have always wanted to read; but never actually got around to reading. I will share that list with you another time; but for now I need to decide what to start with.

There has been a copy of Ulysses by James Joyce sat on my bookshelf since a ‘cultural’ trip to Dublin in 2011 (if spending the weekend in the Guinness and Jameson’s factory can be classed as cultural). It is, without a doubt, the thickest and most intimidating book I own. When I picked it up; I had visions of broadening my mind like a true intellectual on the flight back home. The reality was a stinking hangover and a very short attention span – I didn’t open it once. I got home, unpacked it and have been sneaking guilty glances at it ever since. I think, if Betterment is the aim; this is to be the first. I have to at least try. Having toyed with this idea for the last couple of days; this article then dropped into my inbox this morning. Although I can’t say I’ve taken much encouragement from it; I do think it has sealed the deal.

So if you need me any time over the next few weeks (or maybe months, who knows how it will go!) I will probably be sat in my little bookish corner trying to wade my way through this:

DSC_1821

DSC_1823