Jennifer's Reviews > Pilcrow

Pilcrow by Adam Mars-Jones
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May 07, 2012

liked it
bookshelves: library-loan, fiction, read-2012
Recommended to Jennifer by: Dorothy
Read from April 28 to May 07, 2012

This is a very sweet engaging pseudo-memoir of a boy growing up disabled in 50s and 60s England and What John Cromer Did Next is something I am probably not going to want to resist. Mars-Jones has shored up that curiosity by not bothering overmuch over the ending of this fat volume. Novel sequences can and should stand alone as individual elements.

As a passionate devotee of the brilliant BBC Ouch! disability podcasts and Liz Carr in particular, this was perhaps not such startlingly original territory for me and conveyed much of the same nitty-gritty, with an emphasis on the gritty, detail of disabled life and the same curiously uplifting effect - although rather surprisingly, without as much humour as Ouch! For all that I cannot help smiling at every mention of 'taily' - his relationship with this part of the anatomy (his own and the mythic 'tailies' of other males) forms quite a substantial part of the narrative. John Cromer's take on adult relationships - his mother and her manipulative mother, his parents, his mother and The Rest of the World - is wonderful as is his analysis of all the various types of professional carer he encounters.

I particularly enjoyed the measured reflections on the impact of having been misdiagnosed for many years - his treatment causing irreparable damage but meaning that he avoids other, perhaps more fundamental, damage from the usual treatment for his actual condition.

I'd love to know more about his inspirations for the novel and how he researched it - although I have no idea why he says that Sidcot School is in 'North Somerset' in the 60s. As a signatory to the Save Avon campaign, I can assure him that whilst it was in North Somerset by the time he was writing his book, it had a couple of county names still to 'travel through' before that.

Other reviewers have described the book as Proustian and it is indeed something of a Proust for England in the mid-20th century. Unfortunately that can imply long and not actually read.
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