Miss Renshaw suggests to her class of eleven schoolgirls that they are going on an excursion to the gardens to think about death. The kids, however, t...moreMiss Renshaw suggests to her class of eleven schoolgirls that they are going on an excursion to the gardens to think about death. The kids, however, think that their teacher just wants to meet Morgan, the gardener who takes care of the plants in the garden and who, according to Miss Renshaw, writes a lot of poems. At the park, Morgan mentions the ancient caves where the aborigines carved a lot of paintings. Even though some kids don't want to go to the cave, their teacher insists that they all visit the cave. Once inside the dark cave, the girls panic and scramble their way out of the cave. Miss Renshaw asks them to wait but they are too panicky to listen. Outside, they sit and wait for their teacher; only she doesn't come out. They wonder if she is lost, or if they should go back in and look for her, but they are too scared to do so. Some of the girls want to head back to their classes, because it's snack time soon, but most of them wonder if it is appropriate for them to return to class after losing their teacher. Whoever heard of students losing their teacher?
The Golden Day is told from the perspective of eleven girls, but mostly Cubby. Kids as young as her make for an interesting observer because they see things they don't understand and sometimes cannot fathom the significance of what just happened. When Miss Renshaw fails to come out of the cave, they start worrying. They wonder if maybe Morgan and Miss Renshaw got out through another exit. Maybe they are just hiding in there. Or maybe they are lost inside the cave. But eventually, after weeks of waiting, they accept that Miss Renshaw may never come back. They haven't yet embraced the notion that maybe she is dead though the thought hangs in the air; her not coming back is a sufficiently tragic thought. The teachers sense that they are not telling the whole story of what happened, but Miss Renshaw had made them promise not to tell anything and they didn't want to break that promise, even if it meant stressing out everyday about the what-ifs.
I thought the first half of the book was slightly dragging. It was definitely a fast read though. Once Miss Renshaw goes missing, the pace picks up, with the characters wondering what could have happened. The Golden Day has a very poetic narration. There is so much atmosphere and emotions in this tiny book. Having a kid as the narrator means seeing the world a little differently - feeling captivated by colors and butterflies and lovely grass; not feeling it very odd that Miss Renshaw likes to meet Morgan very often; happily skipping away when she sends them off to write poems while she sat and spoke to him. Kids worry about different things - going back to class without their teacher worries them because how can they explain that they lost their teacher? Especially, when said teacher told them not to reveal certain things? The author shows how the little innocent things that adults don't think twice about, can upset kids.
Dubosarsky explores how ambiguity and lack of closure can weigh a person down, especially with kids. Very often, when a tragedy happens, it is easy to forget the kids who bore any kind of witness, with the adults being busy solving crimes and occasionally remarking that the kids are suffering. The author actually focuses on the kids here - their worries, fears, and behaviors. A classmate of Cubby's provides practical and sensible arguments most of the time, but when it comes to her dead mother, she prefers to believe that the mother is abroad. Another girl cries all the time at the smallest triggers.
Even for the reader the book ends ambiguously. Did Morgan murder Miss Renshaw? Did they run away together and are they still alive? Or was Miss Renshaw's plan to think about death in the park an ominous hint of a planned suicide? We will never know and the deliberate ambiguity is pretty clever - to follow that of the children's and compare our reaction to theirs. Are we just upset in not knowing what happened? What about the kids? Wouldn't they be traumatized?(less)
Will Traynor is just stepping out of his hotel to start a busy day of work when he gets hit by a car, making him a quadriplegic for life. Grumpy and h...moreWill Traynor is just stepping out of his hotel to start a busy day of work when he gets hit by a car, making him a quadriplegic for life. Grumpy and hard to be with, he doesn't do anything to make the lives of people around him better. They do not call him out on his irritable actions, fearing they will upset the quadriplegic in him. After two years of living like that, he requests his mom to let him die. He wants to go to Dignitas in Switzerland, where assisted suicides are provided for terminally ill people. But he gives her six months. She seizes on that lifeline to find someone who can be a life partner to Will and help him change his mind. Louisa Clark is that person.
Louisa, having just lost her job after her boss decided to shut down the coffee shop where she worked, found about the caretaker job after searching high and low for something that she could do. She didn't initially want the job as cleaning up after old people is not something she wishes to spend her time on, not that she had any options. But after being convinced that looking after Will will not involve any of that (plus, she was going to get paid a lot), she took the job. To say that Will and Louisa got off to a great start will be a huge lie. They didn't. Will didn't try to make it easy for Louisa, and Louisa, chatty though she is, struggled to penetrate the thick bubble around Will. The description of her job however requires her to spend a lot of time with him, and slowly they get to know each other.
Ah, Jojo Moyes. Why did you have to write such a sappy boring prologue to such an incredibly amazing book? I tell ya - if I don't like the first two pages of a book, I don't bother with it. That's what happened when I picked this book to read months ago. It sounded like another sappy light romance book (the kind I enjoy watching movies about but not reading about). But couple of months back, I gave it one more try on audio. I'm very liberal with audiobooks - I reserve it for books I sort-of want to read but am not yet sold on it. Oh, and it shouldn't be very literary nor should the writing be a treat to read, because then I would rather read it. I made myself sit through the yet-again sappy prologue, but after that, I was hooked. There is so much goodness in this book that I want to rave about, but first, I do want to reiterate that this is not a sappy romantic book. In fact, there is so little romance to speak about. Yeah, I know the cover seems to sing hymns for Saint Valentine but rest assured, the book has very little of that.
Me Before You is really about a lot of things but the core theme is that of Will's desire to die. Losing your ability to do anything by yourself can be a real blow in itself, and then finding that you cannot do a decent day's job, much less work at the head of a corporate company, or that your relationship with your girlfriend is suffering and then finding her dating your colleague, can be really painful to digest. Moyes does a great job of showing Will's perspective. I started the book by saying that no way, suicide is pretty much a crime, but my thoughts were all over the place by the end. She does a great job of putting you in his head and then you would feel bad if you still believed that he shouldn't be allowed to die, especially if you still had two arms and legs and could take care of your bathroom needs.
But she also shows the other picture - the people who have invested in Will's life, the people who love him dearly and would love his company every day. Louisa does a heck of a job keeping Will's spirits up. She makes him see that he can still do a ton of things, that being bound to a wheelchair doesn't mean not being able to live and enjoy life. After all, that is her job - to make sure he sees value in living and doesn't decide to die.
I loved Me Before You because it really makes you think about how people with disabilities live. It makes you stop making judgments on other people's choices or imagining answers to the "What would I do in his situation" questions. It makes you reevaluate your blessings and be thankful for what you have and not take those for granted. Because that's what happened to Will - he was living a dream when it was snatched away from him.
But that said, there IS a lot of sappiness in this book. That is part of the reason why I couldn't get past the prologue when I first attempted it. (He smelt of the sun, as if it had seeped deep into his skin, and I found myself inhaling silently, as if he were something delicious.) Audiobooks have a way to dulling the impact of some of those eye-roll triggering lines. Which is a good thing because otherwise I may not have lasted the entirety of this book. Funny that I couldn't read the book and then I go give 5 stars to the audiobook.(less)
Niladri, aka Neil Kapoor, watches despairingly as his mom is taken away for schizophrenia treatment. Even when he visits her just before she leaves, h...moreNiladri, aka Neil Kapoor, watches despairingly as his mom is taken away for schizophrenia treatment. Even when he visits her just before she leaves, his mother is obsessed with her looks and how awful she will look on screen. Occasionally, motherly instincts jump out from her but not often enough. He is angry at his dad because she has to go away again. But it comes to a boil when he finds full unused bottles of medicines hidden away by his dad - apparently he hasn't been giving her her medications.
The Isolation Door follows Neil as he navigates the complex web of negative human emotions around him. After his mother has been taken away, his father is utterly tormented by her absence and occasionally spends nights in the parking lot outside her ward. He isn't willing to pay Neil to study theater, nor does he seem to show any interest in his life. His mother's sister is convinced that his father is responsible for her plight and tries to gently nudge Neil towards issuing an official complaint against his dad.
Thanks to his aunt, he pays his way into theater school. Right from the first day, he gets in with three other students, each having his/her own personal issues. Tim is very dominant and abusive with his girlfriend Emily, but deep inside, he has his share of insecure feelings. Emily is a very timid submissive girl whose very personality screams frailty, but Neil likes her. Quince has some unrequited feelings for Tim, and is often a tough nut to crack, having made an almost impenetrable shell around herself.
The Isolation Door is a very dark read. Though it is a very fast-paced book, it is definitely not a book to read if you are looking for a quick read. There are several layers to this book, just as there is with human personalities. The cast of characters in this book suffer from some ailment or the other. The narration is laced with an undercurrent of mental issues - depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, among others.
Despite its well exploration of the dark sides of the human personality, The Isolation Door does not establish great portrayals of its characters. I couldn't care either way about any of the characters nor see any depth to their personalities. I thought some characters were a bit laughable or unreal. The characterizations did go well with the theme of the book however - there is a deep void within the book that strips out the characters to their bare minimums but I would have enjoyed some more depth to their actions.
Ultimately, I liked this book but couldn't get very invested into it. It being fast-paced helped keep the plot moving - there was enough of a suspense to keep me coming back. The prologue was by far my favorite part of the book - Neil's mom dangling herself out of the window to get her husband to do something her way, would forever leave an impressionable picture on little Neil's mind. There is so much that is wrong with that picture that it is horrifying sometimes, and seriously screams for help. But it is clear that things did get very wrong eventually.(less)