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Poppy Shakespeare

3.32 of 5 stars 3.32  ·  rating details  ·  671 ratings  ·  81 reviews
When Poppy Shakespeare walks into the Dorothy Fish Day Hospital in her six-inch skirt & 12-inch heels, she is certain she isn't mentally ill & is desperate to return to her life outside. Together with another patient, Poppy plots to gain freedom. But in a world where everything's upside-down, is she crazy enough to upset the system?
Paperback, 352 pages
Published March 5th 2007 by Bloomsbury UK (first published 2006)
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Community Reviews

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I bought this book after watching the TV adaptation which, unusually, was both brilliant and true to the book. The story is told by a character called N, and deals with her experiences within the mental health services in Britain.

I've noticed from other reviews that some people have found the fact it's written in a North London accent a bit hard to follow. I didn't find it to be a problem myself, though I suppose being British myself, and having already seen the TV adaptation, helped with that!

This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Frank, amusing and dark, I thought this book was a good read for anyone interested in mental health. I found the writing style very frustrating at first, as it's not often you read a book written in anything but eloquent prose. But once I got used to it I found that the style really made the book. It just wouldnt have been so frank and funny if it wasnt written the way that N thinks. It's hard to know where reality ends and where N's world begins, or whether she is even ill at all. Working in me...more
Jul 10, 2007 Elizabeth rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Anyone with an interest in or knowledge of mental health issues
Shelves: stories
I'm giving this book four stars in my opinion (I thought about giving it 5!) but its not for everyone. Its a particular sort of portrayal of life within and around a mental health unit in the UK, written from the point of view of one of the day patients. You know how sometimes you read a first hand accout (like A Million Little Pieces) and wonder how on earth the person could have written this? Well this is a book which will NOT leave you asking that! Its a fantastic read but you've have to be w...more
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This is Claire Allen's first novel and was shortlisted for The Guardian First Book award . Subsequently it was made into a drama on Channel 4 (where else) ? It is an angry, funny and often frustrating polemic on the state of mental health services in the 1990"s. The narrator a woman called N is that for narrator or butter, guides Poppy, the new inmate and the reader through the various, often incomprehensible layers of the Abaddon ( Abandon) mental health facility in North London, although for s...more
seanat (elka)
In the unusual position of preferring the tv adaptation of this, which I really enjoyed, rather than the book. Not sure I would have continued with it if I hadn't watched the dramatisation and known where it was going.

It's a great idea, a satirical look at the mental health system where the world is divided into 'dribblers' and 'sniffs',from the viewpoint of N, who was a 'dribbler' before she was born.
Poppy Shakespeare is thrown into the system when she fails a personality test and has to prove...more
Jo Bradford
It took me a while to get into this book, but I'm glad I stayed with it. The first person dialect is distracting at first, but I really felt like I got to know the main character 'N' through her unique perspective. I've read several books recently where character point of view affects the outcome and you question the honesty of their narrative, but here there is no question of how genuine N's storytelling is; even if she has a warped view of events, it is clear that she believes everything she s...more
An enjoyable send up of mental health institutions, bureaucracy generally, and government. The narrator, N, is a patient or "client" of a day mental health hospital -- she spends her days there, but lives in her own apartment. The story she tells is of a new patient named Poppy Shakespeare who arrives in the hospital insisting that nothing is wrong and that she's being unfairly forced into treatment. The narrative style is somewhat stream-of-consciousness (and a "mentally ill" consciousness at t...more
Zulaikha Sizarifalina
I found this book at e@curve and bought two. One for me and one for Shima Scarlett. As I expected, both of us love to book. If you are familiar with my choice of books, you might have already realized that 50% of the book I bought are those that I can relate with. so with this book, it is about being in a psychiatric ward and surrounded with people with various exceptional problems. If your really want to know what happens in this type of closed and guarded vicinity , you must not only read, GIR...more
Kasey Jueds
I also found this book, which I'd never have heard of otherwise, through Nick Hornby's review of it in Shakespeare Wrote for Money. Thank you Nick Hornby! I loved Poppy Shakespeare; I'd expected to find it funny, but not laugh out loud funny (which it is--I embarrasssed myself a couple of times by giggling on the train). It's also incredibly smart and at times incredibly moving, and honestly like no other book I've ever read before. Part of that is the narrator's voice, which is a hilarious Nort...more
Been listening to this audiobook whilst walking. Due to the frequent swearing, was unsuitable for in-car listening.Really don't know what to make of this book. Kept expecting a 'reveal' about the Dorothy Fish (the institution that the narrator, N, and the eponymous character attend), which never really came about. It was the 26 inmates, each having a name representing a letter of the alphabet that made me expect a plot twist. For instance, Poppy Shakespeare was admitted only when Pollyanna left....more

A brilliant book that pulls no punches in its biting assessment of Mental Health services in the UK.

I did listen to much of this on audio though did also read parts. The benefit of audio was the flavour of N's London accent that was well executed by the reader.

I even found myself falling back into London slang myself after a few days with it, you do know what I mean? :)

I have great admiration for Clare Allan drawing on her own experiences as a 'service user' as well as continuing to write on m...more
Written with acerbic wit and grim irony, Poppy Shakespeare satirises the current situations regarding the health system, mental health treatment and institutions. The dark humour of a patient being involuntarily committed after having taken a 'personality assessment', then having to prove she's mad to get legal help to try to prove she's sane, has elements of the absurd, and would be absurd - if it wasn't terribly close to how in reality government departments are running services these days. If...more
It's been compared to a cross between Catch-22 and One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest. I'd add that it's Faulknerian and Kafkaesque.

Not an easy read, and not flawless (it's not exactly what I'd call "action-packed," for instance), but a genuinely new take on the mental institution genre from the perspective of a lifer.

N's voice is REAL. It's infiltrated my thoughts, and I keep finding myself saying, "Do you know what I am saying?" Poppy herself is not as compelling as I thought she would be, but...more
Bloody brilliant.
I actually listened to the audio version over the coure of a couple weeks (during my commute). I think it would have been exhausting to *read* read (a reviewer concurred: "There's a profusion of names, colloquialisms, and stream of thought sentences in this novel, and they leave you exhausted.") And, now that I have heard the story and have all the pictures in my head I would distrust a TV / film adaptation to get it right. (Although I did read a good review of the BBC TV adapt...more
Matthew Lippart
I enjoyed it less as I continued reading- at first I thought "wow, what a neat take on One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest", but after a while the voice of the narrator started to wear me down, and began distracting me from the book itself. And this is probably due to the mental issues of the narrator, but parts of the book make no sense. Why was Poppy institutionalized in the first place? How did the narrator get released? I think if the book were shorter (and I love Russian Classics, so coming fro...more
I picked this book up thinking that it would be a nice change from what I normally read. It was about a hospital for mentally ill patients and how one character fights to show how she is not sick in the head and should not be there. It was okay. It was also another book that I did not have to pick up and read, but was there. The writing style is broken up, as if it took on a patients brain skills. As the sentences are hard to follow at times and some are repetitive. Which was kinda good. However...more
Jen McGovern
an interesting look into what really makes someone worthy of being put in a mental hospital. i only found out after reading it that clare allan had been in a "day hospital" herself for 10 years, but that explains how she manages to so clearly convey what it's like. the characters are easy to picture and also unsettlingly easy to relate to (a little freaky to feel yourself relating to a "crazy person"). definitely makes a psych major start to diagnose herself while reading. note that it is britis...more
I didn't like it at first due to the writing style, the fact that it is not particularly 'pc' and that it was a little sterotypical, but it grew on me once I got over that. The writer seems to be making a point.

I was hoping for a better ending. I wanted it to go on a bit longer to see what happened. Saying that, it was a page turner which is why I rated it as 'I really liked it'. I might have to pass it on to a mental health advocate to get their opinion!

In the meantime, I will be watching the...more
Shonna Froebel
Poppy Shakespeare, woman driven mad by situation.
N becoming sane?
What really happened here?
Did people recover or just get pushed out?
Very disturbing, you wonder if you would react that way too.
When I first started to read this, I hated it. I couldn't bare the way it was written. But as I read on I learned to really enjoy the writing style, like the main character was talking right at me.

I can imagine anybody who's not from the UK reading this and getting a little confused as it does include slang language but it's amazing.

The story is so clever, so hilarius and so realistic. The view of the mental health services is put perfectly, anyone who has experiences with it will enjoy it, as...more
This book tells the story of a woman in a psychiatric institute, in their opinion there is nowhere to go, they wouldn't like to get back in normal life. However one day Poppy arrives and she is the one who wants to get out of this institute. To be honest I really don't know what it's like to be in and how these people think but I can imagine the writer knows a lot about these people. The book hooked me and although I find it hard to go on with it, I finally succeed in it, never regret it though....more
Feel like giving Clare Allan an infinite hug.
Struggled a little with the style of writing at first but got used to it ... A dark and really quite scary look at mental health services and care in the uk .. I'd hope it was far fetched but reading a bit about the author Clare Allan and her experiences I don't think it is ... Dark read but worth reading ... Quite a shocking outcome ... Although I started to see it coming as the book progresses but no less shocking.
Set in London in the modern day a view of one mental health patient who chances upon a woman called Poppy Shakespeare. Poppy changes her view on life and her out look.

I read this after watching the Channel 4 (UK) film adaptation and have to say I enjoyed reading it just as much as I did watching it. As always the book has a little more content and leaves more to your imagination.
Jul 16, 2010 Holly rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: zoe pratten
one flew over the cuckoos nest for modern times. This book made me laugh out loud all the way through but managed to leave me feeling a bit hollow. Not that this should reflect badly on it... its best to read this in the north london accent its written in, a bit like irvine welsh books, its just easier in the end. i read it in 3 days and it was well worth the time and effort.
Written in colloquial language with the narrator being a day patient of a mental health hospital. It's funny and light hearted yet with a serious message. It raises the question of how the best way to help people with mental health difficulties. It also raisies the controversial issue of the aim of our health services. A book that made me laugh several times!
Excellent use of voice. Although I sometimes found it hard to understand what the narrator, N, was talking about (especially since she's British), I think that was on purpose as Poppy Shakespeare, a woman who insists she's not mad, enters an outpatient mental health hospital and tries to figure out how to escape the clutches of the bureaucracy that has engulfed her.
Hornby wrote about this in The Believer - a first novel, set in an institution - "a brilliant fictional creation whose subordinate clauses tumble over each other in an undisciplined, gloriosu rush of North London energy. It's not often you finish a first novel by a writer and you are seized by the need to read her second immediately."
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