I am generally pretty healthy. I have stayed in hospitals twice in my life, once when my daughter was born and once last summer when I had some fluke...moreI am generally pretty healthy. I have stayed in hospitals twice in my life, once when my daughter was born and once last summer when I had some fluke viral infection which unfortunately had some complications and required a 5 night sojourn in the day patient department of a local hospital. Well, that was THE least fun I have ever had and I didn't even have anything life threatening.
I'd like to tell you, I analysed the situation as a reasonable adult and faught my infection hard and appreaciated how lucky I was to never have been seriously ill before. But that would be a BIG FAT LIE. I was tired and scared and in pain and frustrated and emotional and faint because I hadn't eaten for like a week before I even got to the hospital and couldn't eat the whole time there because the massive amounts of antibiotics I was on were making me sick and the hospital smells made me gag and I couldn't sleep because of the fluorescent lighting from 8 am until 10 pm so you feel like a lab rat under observation and the constant activity with the other patients in the ward at night and I couldn't even get up to go to the toilet this one time, so the nurse had to help me to do it in a bed pan which was just the most humiliating thing ever and the needles they constantly kept poking into me (my veins are freakishly small, don't you know) and then there was this one time I went into the toilet at night with my IV and accidentally pulled the catheter out and the blood was everywhere... well you get the gist. I did crack some feeble joke about feeling like Alice tumbling down the rabbit whole and even having the costume to match (the gingham blue hospital robe + the white anti-varicose tights they make you wear) while being wheeled into my op but overall I felt miserable and sorry for myself and cried and when I was released (while still unable to stand straight or keep food down) the sunshine on my face was just the most heavenly feeling imaginable.
But generally, like I said, I am disgustingly healthy. And I have never even had to try. I don't exercise overly much, I eat a lot of crap, I smoke, I have taken drugs etc etc. More than that, none of my friends or relatives has ever suffered from any really serious illness. So there you go, I know nothing about being ill. Really ill. You know you are going to die kind of ill.
I could easily, therefore, come up with some platitude about how lucky this book made me feel about being alive and healthy (generally) and how it opened my eyes to what it's really like to live with a terminal illness. But, that would, again, be bullshit. Because I honestly think this is one of those things that you can't really know until you know. You know? It makes me sick to my stomach to even think that my child could become seriously ill (I am crossing fingers and touching wood and biting tongue here) but I don't believe any amount of imagining could really make me understand what it is like.
All that aside, I loved the book. I cried. I cared about Hazel and Augustus and Isaac and their parents. Even despite their unnatural dialogue and far above average intelligence, they felt real and fragile and beautiful. Except Van Houten. He was a douche. I'm not even sure I want to believe people like that exist.(less)
I needed something starting with A to read for the A to Z book challenge and this has been sitting on my shelf since I went through a frenzy of buying...moreI needed something starting with A to read for the A to Z book challenge and this has been sitting on my shelf since I went through a frenzy of buying booker shortlisted novels several years ago, back when I was still keen to impress myself and fellow commuters with my reading choices.
The books starts with a funeral of Molly Lane, a member of that happy breed of fabulous women who has a horde of ex and current lovers with all of whom she remains friends. We never learn much else about her but she is not important, since she is merely a plot device and the people who matter are the three ex-lovers who attend her funeral. Every single one of them is a self-absorbed, self-aggrandising selfish snob and they set on their course towards a resolution which is both hilarious and tragic.
I was surprised, because I enjoyed this quite a lot more than I thought I would. I settled on three stars but it's somewhere in between three and four. I didn't expect it to be funny yet it was. Not in an obvious laugh out loud kind of way but the more I think about it the funnier it is. It's a great example of an enjoyable read about despicable people and it's under 200 pages long. (less)
Despite having seen a number of good reviews for this book, I was fully prepared to hate it. This is clearly based on a number of recent widely public...moreDespite having seen a number of good reviews for this book, I was fully prepared to hate it. This is clearly based on a number of recent widely publicised cases of sexual enslavement such as those of Elizabeth Fritzl and Natascha Kampusch and I have always found the fascination people have with those sorts of crimes extremely distasteful. Yes, it is important that we know about them but the length that the media go to is borderline voyeuristic and you can't help but feel that the victim is being raped all over again through the public portrayal and endless replay of their ordeal for the titillation of the masses.
Yet, somehow, in this book, Ms Donoghue has managed to do the almost impossible and produce a very sensitive and heartbreaking account of the truly horrific. For which all respect to her, as it is not easy to walk that thin line between empathy and fascination with the macabre territory. It has taken some tremendous writing skill and a very unique narrative perspective.
The story is told through the eyes of a five year old boy who is the son of a woman kidnapped at nineteen and trapped in a reinforced garden shed for eight years. It is in this that the author's outstanding talent as a writer is most apparent because throughout the book the narrative voice was entirely convincing as the voice of a very young child. In the confined space of an 11x11" Room that is Jack's world, every object has a name and meaning to the point of being almost sentient. These things are real in a way that TV, mirror images and drawings are not and in a way that makes them very real and heart wrenching to the reader who can see and understand things that Jack cannot.
This was a very worthwhile and challenging read. The subject matter does mean that this would never be my favourite to read and come back to again and again (hence the four stars) but that in no way detracts from the merit of the book, one that is very welcome among the media frenzy and shock factor hype that typically surround these stories.(less)
- there are vicious killer rabbits out there, so watch out;
- you can make a bomb out of pretty much anything, even a f...moreThings I learned from this book:
- there are vicious killer rabbits out there, so watch out;
- you can make a bomb out of pretty much anything, even a five year old can do it;
- if you let a psychotic hippy with a penchant for psychological experiments bring up kids on an isolated island, the kids will invariably turn out to be looneys (well, duh).
This was good overall. I enjoy Banks' writing style and the characterisation was superb. The demented world of a teenage psychopath is delightfully realistic and logical and the book is full of black humour, the telephone conversations with the brother who is on the run from a mental institution were particularly hilarious.
"Porteneil 531." Pips sounded.
"Fuck it, Frank, I've got luna maria callouses on me feet. How the hell are ye, me young bucko?"
I looked at the handset, then up at my father, who was leaning over the rail from the floor above, tucking his pyjama top into his trousers. I spoke into the phone: "Hello there, Jamie, what are you doing calling me this late?"
"Wha-? Oh, the old man's there, is he?" Eric said. "T-ell him he's a bag of effervescent pus, from me."
"Jamie sends his regards," I called up to my father..."
"And how are you keeping?" I said quickly. "I mean, you must be sleeping rough. Aren't you catching cold or something?"
"I'm not sleeping."
"You're not sleeping?"
"Of course not. You don't have to sleep. That's just something they tell you to keep control over you. Nobody has to sleep; you're taught to sleep when you're a kid. If you're really determined, you can get over it. I've got over the need to sleep. I never sleep now. That way it's a lot easier to keep watch and make sure they don't creep up on you, and you can keep going as well. Nothing like keeping going. You become like a ship."
"Yeah? What did you forget?"
"Forget? I didn't forget anything! I remember everything! Everything!" screamed a familiar voice at the other end of the line.
I froze, then gulped, said: "Er-"
"Why are you accusing me of forgetting things? What are you accusing me of forgetting? What? I haven't forgotten anything!" Eric gasped and spluttered.
"Eric, I'm sorry! I thought you were somebody else!"
"I'm me!" he yelled. "I'm not anybody else! I'm me! Me!"
"I thought you were Jamie!" I wailed, closing my eyes.
"That dwarf? You bastard!"
"I'm sorry, I-" Then I broke off and thought. "What do you mean, 'that dwarf', in that tone? He's my friend. It isn't his fault he's small," I told him.
"Oh, yeah?" came the reply. "How do you know?"
"What do you mean how do I know? It wasn't his fault he was born like that!" I said, getting quite angry.
"You only have his word for that."
"I only have his word for what?" I said.
"That he's a dwarf!" Eric spat.
"What?" I shouted, scarcely able to believe my ears. "I can see he's a dwarf, you idiot!"
"That's what he wants you to think! Maybe he's really an alien! Maybe the rest of them are even smaller than he is! How do you know he isn't really a giant alien from a very small race of aliens? Eh?"
"Don't be stupid!" I screamed into the phone, gripping it sorely with my burned hand.
"Well, don't say I didn't warn you!" Eric shouted.
"Don't worry!" I shouted back.
"Anyway," Eric said in a suddenly calm voice, so that for a second or two I thought somebody else had come on the line, and I was left somewhat nonplussed as he went on in level, ordinary speech: "How are you?"
The ending was really disappointing though, and not the big reveal either, but the protagonists' musings afterwards. I was kind of enjoying the fact that Frank is a sociopath, misogynist and generally bat-shit crazy, so to have all of that rationalised, wiped clean and brushed under the carpet at the end (a) was a complete betrayal of the rest of the book and (b) just didn't make any logical, metaphysical or any other kind of sense. Oh yeah, I killed all those kids because I believed the ability to procreate had been taken away from me by cruel fate and they represented that very promise which I was forever denied. What? Frank was 5 at the time of the first kill, supposedly. I'm sorry but a 5 year old feeling seriously bereaved by the fact that he cannot have sex or kids to the point of homicide is ridiculous.
P.S. When I was very young (maybe 4 or 5 but the memory is very vague so I cannot be sure) and visiting my grandparents for the summer, one of my cousins (there were three of us in attendance) suggested we play concentration camp with catepillars. None of us thought this was in any way objectionable and we got as far as collecting a load of them in a jar, which we then put in the fridge for safekeeping. The story ended rather badly for us as we didn't bother putting a lid on the jar and the caterpillars went literally everywhere. Let's just say our grandmother was not best pleased. I'm not sure what my point is here, really. Both my cousins and I grew up to be reasonably well-adjusted adults despite our early sadistic tendencies so, maybe, it is that there is a little bit of a psycho in all of us and, given the right set of circumstances, it is totallly possible that I could now be checking sacrifice poles, fighting killer rabbits and collecting belly button fluff for ritual use. (less)