04/02/2013 § Leave a Comment
A collection of medically focused mini-biographies of literary greats, most of who are connected by acquaintance and shared ailments. Although comprising some occasionally tenuous theories, Orwell’s Cough is fascinating whether you’re interested in literary or clinical history. It details the development of medicine via profiles of prolific authors plagued by the signature illnesses of bygone creative minds; mental disorder and venereal disease. From a collection of well researched essays Ross has put together a sinuous and gritty read that will enable you to see the writers of your favourite works (and their doctors) in a new, and not altogether flattering, light.
13/11/2012 § Leave a Comment
Edward is a 39 year old Asperger’s and OCD sufferer living alone in Montana. Coping with solitude and a fraught paternal relationship, Edward relies on his stringent routine of diligently recording seemingly benign data and religiously watching episodes of Dragnet. That is, until an unexpected friendship with a nine year old and enlightening foray into internet dating proves more therapeutic than even the most logical of psychiatrists. 600 hours is to Mysterious Incident what the Wilderness years were to Adrian Mole. It may be less enthralling and inventive, but spending 25 days with Edward is still heart-warmingly hilarious and enlightening.
28/09/2012 § Leave a Comment
Danny, a recently dumped twenty-something, is in a funk. Prompted by the random words of a stranger, he decides to rid himself of perpetual nights in watching Eastenders by saying ‘Yes’ more. Specifically to everything, all the time. The results are comedic, bizarre and highly readable. Admittedly, the portrayals of Danny as both a naïve simpleton who believes internet scams, and also an astute philosopher able to mock his own idiocy are a little hard to reconcile. Despite this frustration, and its over-hyped ‘profound’ message, Yes Man is worth picking up for the Hypnodog encounter and ‘lost glasses’ incidents alone.
31/08/2012 § 2 Comments
Six characters, whose lives traverse aeons, geographies and genres, are linked by disparate windows into one another’s worlds. This is not just another book jumping onto the multi-storyline bandwagon. Mitchell produces both quality and quantity by delivering an extravaganza of extraordinarily distinct narratives that are unified by cohesive themes. This novel reads like an all you can eat buffet; with generous helpings of humour, atmosphere, tension and philosophy. Readers will mourn the loss of one account only to fall in love with the next. Their richness will leave you pondering Cloud Atlas’ intricacies long after you’ve gobbled up the final words.
13/08/2012 § 2 Comments
Bromden, a paranoid schizophrenic in a 1960’s mental hospital is taciturn and feigning deafness. Initially a remote narrator, Bromden is drawn into his own plot by the new and apparently sane patient, McMurphy. This venerated clown effectively unnerves the reader by representing at once a hero subverting the tyranny of ‘Big Nurse’, and a paedophilic psychopath with a warped vendetta. Powerful demonstrations of insanity are diluted by patient inactivity and Bromden’s long delusionary parentheses. This contrasts the monotony of institutionalisation with the terrifying immediacy of a psychotic break, with the unfortunately inevitable result of making the novel tiresome in places.
11/06/2012 § Leave a Comment
Lily, a fourteen year old living in 1960’s South Carolina, flees her abusive father and her cantankerous housekeeper’s racists attackers to search for answers about her mother’s tragic death. Led by an abstruse clue to a harem of black bee keeping sisters, Lily is transformed by their sacred world of honey, heart and home. Although at times implausibly cerebral, Lily’s narration is mesmerising; artfully rendering the intricacies of those she describes. A seductive new religion, bigotry, mental illness and grief are carefully balanced ingredients that yield a deliciously sweet read reminiscent of, if not quite equal to, Harper Lee.
30/03/2012 § 1 Comment
In 1785 a young engineer is instructed to remove the vast cemetery of Les Innocents in Paris, which is poisoning its city; literally and figuratively. As he commences his work John-Baptiste and those around him are consumed by the hellishness of their task; to purify the dead whilst fearing becoming them. This novel is enriched with parable and metaphors without being buried by them, and from the ashes rises a quirky story that is poetically written, often quote-worthy, and wickedly funny. Miller makes the engineer’s plight against madness and toward modernity a pungently gripping and compulsive must-read.
09/03/2012 § Leave a Comment
Chrissie is unable to hold onto her memories as she sleeps. She is forced to trust the devoted stranger she wakes up to every morning, who tells of a terrible accident that robbed her of her history. That is, until Chrissie begins to keep a secret journal, the truths of which slowly unravel her fragile and transient existence, seeming to reveal everyone as dishonest and unfamiliar, including herself. An intriguing concept is subsumed by the necessarily repetitive narrative, which Watson fails to overcome. The anticipatory nature of the plot is dampened by consistent predictability making this a rather bland and feeble read.
29/01/2012 § Leave a Comment
This non-fiction work retells the early history of England’s first criminal lunatic asylum, Broadmoor. Using its recently released archives as source material, Stevens creates a complete picture of the institution within the Victorian period that includes portraits of its staff and (in)famous ‘guests’ as well as escape attempts, births and deaths, all of which occurred within the confines of this eminent and progressive component of the judicial system. Retold in a readable and engaging manner this unexpected gem is an eye opening quick read for anyone intrigued by mental health, criminology or the justice system. And if you own a kindle, it’s free!
29/01/2012 § 1 Comment
Sixteen year old Jacob has long ceased believing his manic Grandfather’s farfetched tales about a childhood spent with ‘peculiar children’ and hunted by monstrous beings. But a traumatic experience has Jacob questioning his own sanity, and whether there was in fact some truth behind the old man’s fictions. Punctuated with genuine, thought provoking photographs, this novel has a unique pulling power. Unfortunately the story’s substance fails to equal the eerie intrigue or excitement that its images suggest, with an inconsistent narrative voice hindering the characterisation of its central figure. Peculiar children is an overly ambitious children’s novel, which unfortunately fails to translate for an adult audience.