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We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves
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Group Reads - Fiction > We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler (December 2015 Group Fiction Read)

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Leslie | 15985 comments Our Group Fiction book for December is We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler.


Leslie | 15985 comments I found that my library had a copy available so picked it up today. I don't know anything about this book but saw on the shelf next to this The Jane Austen Book Club also by this author. I haven't read that either but did enjoy the movie.


message 3: by Pink (new)

Pink I picked this up on kindle last Christmas I think. On the face of it, this isn't the type of book I go for, but I've been told not to pre-judge as there's more to it. Quite looking forward to starting it at last!


Patricia | 304 comments I read this last week and my daughter is reading it now. I knew what is was about but I didn't tell her so she can have the "WHAT???" moment.


LauraT (laurata) | 13037 comments Mod
I think I'll be able of joining in; not for a week or two though ...


Shirley | 4177 comments I have this on my kindle ready, will be reading this in about a week...


Theresa I picked it up from my library last week and will start soon. I need to put down my other book first.


Tweedledum  (tweedledum) | 2016 comments First time for ages I've been able to join in a group read. I have this as an audiobook and started it a few days ago. I loved The Jane Austen Book Club. So far I am enjoying this too though I fancy I might have found it harder to get into if I was reading it rather than listening to it.


Evelyn | 1410 comments Started reading this week. I think I had that WHAT??? moment this morning that you mentioned Patricia. Felt like throwing the book across the room, wouldn't have picked the book up if I had known that before.....
I loved The Jane Austen Book Club too Tweedledum.


Patricia | 304 comments Evelyn wrote: "Started reading this week. I think I had that WHAT??? moment this morning that you mentioned Patricia. Felt like throwing the book across the room, wouldn't have picked the book up if I had known t..."

That's it. A definite book throwing moment!


Theresa I am now about halfway through it. I had the same WHAT??? moment, but was intrigued. Unfortunately, I was then predicting correctly what would happen next. I am now reading it to see if I am correct in my assumptions, rather than to enjoy the book. I'm having a hard time believing the narrator. (view spoiler)


Robin P I knew about the twist before I started the book, which meant I was looking for clues. I don't think it's totally unbelievable that a situation like that could occur. Totally different from The Jane Austen Book Club, I didn't even realize they were the same author.


Evelyn | 1410 comments I have just finished and I can honestly say I much preferred the before What??? part to the after What??? part. To me the second half felt very preachy, and with all the facts and data being spouted it was like reading non fiction for pages at a time. I feel manipulated into reading someone's personal agenda in the guise of fiction. Did not enjoy this read at all.


Evelyn | 1410 comments Robin, I do agree with you, this situation could definitely occur.


Theresa I agree with you completely Evelyn!


Tweedledum  (tweedledum) | 2016 comments At the "whoa" moment now!


message 17: by [deleted user] (new)

Me too, Tweedledum!


Leslie | 15985 comments I have just started (finished Chap. 4) -- so far it is easy reading though Rosemary's actions are not completely convincing to me...


LauraT (laurata) | 13037 comments Mod
Finished today. I had absolutely NO idea where it was going!


aPriL does feral sometimes  (cheshirescratch) Absolutely AWESOME novel! I read it some months ago, and I cannot stop recommending it.


Shirley | 4177 comments Page 56 and I'm not really engaged with this yet. It's easy to read, but a bit disjointed and rambling. Will persevere though.


Leslie | 15985 comments LauraT wrote: "I had absolutely NO idea where it was going!"

No, me either. The surprise is very well done (and I think that our members are to be congratulated for maintaining that by proper use of spoiler tags!). However I agree with Evelyn's comment in message #13, though I didn't dislike the book as much as she apparently did.

Shirley, I think the rambling nature continues but you learn more each time so by the end the rambling is less disjointed (if that makes any sense).


LauraT (laurata) | 13037 comments Mod
It doesmake sense Leslie... in the end!!!
And same here: I didn't dislike it so much, but it didn't convince me so much either


message 24: by Joy (new)

Joy Stephenson (joyfrankie) | 243 comments I read this a few months ago - liked it without feeling I'd ever want to re-read it. One thing I did like and which I think gave the book more depth than it would otherwise have had (view spoiler)


message 25: by Portia (last edited Dec 16, 2015 10:51AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Portia When this book was first published, I read/listened to the reviews and decided it was absolutely not for me. Time and age caused me to forget the story, so I began to read it. I was taken by Ms. Fowler's style. I enjoyed the narrator's sense of humor (cynicism, as it turns out). I thought, "Oh blank, now I remember why I refused to read this," at the exact moment Ms. Fowler wanted me to say, "WHAT!!!!".

This story is loosely based on a true story. I'm in love with animals. (One if my rescues, who needs a nail trim, is trying to add her comments to this post ;-))

And yet, Ms. Fowler's writing kept me reading through the second WHAT!!! (More like an "oh noooo! for me) until the tissue box-emptying, sob surrounded end.


Leslie | 15985 comments Joy wrote: "I read this a few months ago - liked it without feeling I'd ever want to re-read it. One thing I did like and which I think gave the book more depth than it would otherwise have had [spoilers removed]"

Joy - I agree. In fact, that was one reason I didn't dislike the book!


Leslie | 15985 comments Portia wrote: "When this book was first published, I read/listened to the reviews and decided it was absolutely not for me. Time and age caused me to forget the story, so I began to read it. I was taken by Ms. Fo..."

I find it interesting that people have had such varied responses to this book. Everything from 5 stars down to 1!

Perhaps after Christmas is over & we all have a bit more time, we can discuss in more detail what it was we loved or hated about it.


Portia I hope so, too, Leslie. Madame DaFarge and Rosie's on again off again roommate are interesting topics.


Shirley | 4177 comments I'm still lukewarm about this, and I'm 36% of the way through now.


Tweedledum  (tweedledum) | 2016 comments Hello everyone, I'm 75% through..... While I take Evelyn's point about the story becoming "preachy" in the second half I feel this label is a tad unfair. The author gets right in under our defences and determination "not to look" "to choose not to know" and finds a way of telling us some very unpalatable information... I felt this is achieved actually WITHOUT being preachy. I have been married to a clergyman for 35 years so I feel qualified to comment on this!

What jumped out at me yesterday was the great description of "theory of mind" at higher levels and Rosemary's question to herself/ us ... How many mental states did she hope her brother would be able to infer on their first proper reunion before any words had been said..... ?

The discussion of psychology / theology / sociology etc etc embedded in the story really draws me in and gets my mind going....

Yes the book definitely is getting the thumbs up from me but is NOT an easy read and I would be very selective about who I recommended it to.

Would make a great film though..... But what an ethical minefield to negotiate to make a film of it....


Tweedledum  (tweedledum) | 2016 comments Well I have finished and very pleased I read it. You can find my review here: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show... but I hope I have avoided spoilers.


Leslie | 15985 comments Tweedledum wrote: "Hello everyone, I'm 75% through..... While I take Evelyn's point about the story becoming "preachy" in the second half I feel this label is a tad unfair. The author gets right in under our defences..."

I didn't think it was "preachy" so much as written with an agenda in the same way that moralistic "preachy" writing often is.

(view spoiler)


Patricia | 304 comments Leslie wrote: "Tweedledum wrote: "Hello everyone, I'm 75% through..... While I take Evelyn's point about the story becoming "preachy" in the second half I feel this label is a tad unfair. The author gets right in..."

(view spoiler)


Evelyn | 1410 comments Thank you Leslie for finding a way to describe what I meant by the word "preachy".
It's been almost two weeks since I finished this book and I am still annoyed over what I feel was a bait and switch. As I wrote in my review, I was so looking forward to reading the book that the blurb on the jacket described - and the first half did live up to the blurb.


message 35: by Portia (last edited Dec 20, 2015 09:54AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Portia (view spoiler)


message 36: by LauraT (last edited Dec 21, 2015 04:26AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

LauraT (laurata) | 13037 comments Mod
Leslie wrote: "Tweedledum wrote: "Hello everyone, I'm 75% through..... While I take Evelyn's point about the story becoming "preachy" in the second half I feel this label is a tad unfair. The author gets right in..."

I do agree, as a daughter of two doctors: for all medicine we use we have to thank animal testing. Which doesn't mean all things are done perfectly and without the risck of mistakes, but still that part of the process is for the moment unavoidable.
On the other hand the fact described in the book is, in my opinion, rather different: in here the researchers wanted to humanize what human was not. To what purpose is not even clear. This is something difficoult to accept ...


message 37: by Portia (last edited Dec 21, 2015 07:56AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Portia I'm married to a scientist and I've learned that "just wanting to see what happens" is the predominant drive. Not much different from the "what if" of a novelist or a playwright. Fortunately for me, he is a geophysicist and his work doesn't deal with living things, human or otherwise, though he has taught me to understand the concept of "living rock" , which I find fascinating.


Portia I hope this discussion opens up to talk about the characters soon. Why do people think Ms. Fowler added the marionette, Madame DaFarge?


aPriL does feral sometimes  (cheshirescratch) Portia wrote: "I hope this discussion opens up to talk about the characters soon. Why do people think Ms. Fowler added the marionette, Madame DaFarge?"

A lady of a revolution which history has declared went too far...


message 40: by Portia (last edited Dec 21, 2015 09:20AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Portia Hi, April! So do you think she represents (view spoiler)


Portia PS. Has everyone finished reading or shall we continue with the spoiler alerts?


message 42: by Portia (last edited Dec 21, 2015 09:30AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Portia Leslie, I just read your review if this book in which you write that you don't find Rosemary's responses to Harlow, the peripatetic roommate, realistic. Hope I got that right. Would you like to expand on that?


message 43: by aPriL does feral sometimes (last edited Dec 21, 2015 01:47PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

aPriL does feral sometimes  (cheshirescratch) Animal rights groups/scientists can be fringe crazy and dogmatic.

Monkey and ape researchers actually tried real-life experiments like the one by the fictional Rosemary's parents. These family-raised animals feel like baby people, no longer with the abilities of a wild animal, yet they are given away to research facilities and zoos once they become too big and dangerous to be around people, ripping them away from the humans they grew to love and who they thought loved them back. They don't fit in anywhere safely.

Tamed wild animals raised in cages and zoos all of their lives or some small-refuge animals that have been maimed who cannot be released in the wild, as well as some captured wild animals who have been caged for decades, or 'trained' to do tricks - have ended up in very bad situations when released back into the wild by some animal rights militants. Militants have freed animals without understanding how local packs may feel about a strange-acting ex-pet, or how either a very foreign cold or wet or hot or dry unfamiliar environment might quickly kill a newly freed tamed wild animal. Tame, caged minks that have no idea of how to feed themselves have been released by militants. Dead minks end up everywhere within two weeks. Circus animals have been released only to be shot by police. Other released tame animals have been hunted down and killed easily because they are used to people and friendly, so they walk up to hunters looking for a handout.

These militants are so intent on freeing animals they actually do not care to take precautions to safely release the animal beyond opening cage doors and destroying buildings, not giving a thought to how a tamed or injured or sick animal will function outside of their cages, other than a romanticized image of 'born free'.

The French revolution could not stop chopping off heads - first they came for the king, then they came for the other aristocrats, then they started chopping off the heads of fellow revolutionaries, then they came for ordinary people and neighbors who annoyed them. I am old enough to remember the Watts riots - these poor neighborhood residents had genuine grievances, but when they began their riot to express their outrage at real injustices, they burned down their own houses and businesses, not those of their oppressors, much like what happened to the French Revolution. Madame DeFarge is a pure symbol of excessive self-emolating outrage in righting social wrongs.


Leslie | 15985 comments Portia wrote: "Leslie, I just read your review if this book in which you write that you don't find Rosemary's responses to Harlow, the peripatetic roommate, realistic. Hope I got that right. Would you like to exp..."

Yes, that is what I said. I just thought it didn't seem right - Harlow (view spoiler)

I could go on but I have returned the book to the library so I can't check details.


Tweedledum  (tweedledum) | 2016 comments Hi everyone, I think aPril's suggestions about Madame Defarge are insightful. Is it significant that it is Harlow who operates the puppet,,,mocking Rosemary's moralising? Perhaps Harlow "represents" in some way the voice of Fern.... And remember Madame Defarge was 'discovered locked in an unknown suitcase purely by a random mistake... The wrong suitcase sent to the flat. Rosemary herself would not have investigated... Harlow's uninhibited curiosity overrides her "respect for other's property" .

Similarly though Rosemary has known that Fern is "missing" she has made no attempt to find her...blocks out the fact even. Only the stimulus of her brother's visit and his disturbing information finally prompt her to take some action...

Once Rosemary discovers where Fern is she seeks to steer a middle way.... Not setting her free in unthinking rage but finding a way to reconnect... To befriend. For sentinent beings thrust in a cage friendship is often the only lifeline.


Tweedledum  (tweedledum) | 2016 comments Laura asks why didn't Rosemary take some action? ....that's the point isn't it? Rosemary can't act for herself... She is paralysed.... Caught between two possible roads of action. It feels like a subconscious thing. In the narrative she is looking back on this not judging herself, just showing us ..... Giving us a window....


LauraT (laurata) | 13037 comments Mod
Tweedledum wrote: "Laura asks why didn't Rosemary take some action? ....that's the point isn't it? Rosemary can't act for herself... She is paralysed.... Caught between two possible roads of action. It feels like a s..."

Good idea ...


Portia Does the fact that Roesemary doesn't "take some action" have anything to do with her lower position in the family to Fern? Fern, as the focus of the experiments, gets all the attention. Is there a place deep inside Rosemary that wants Fern not to exist anymore. There is (view spoiler)


Shirley | 4177 comments Ive finished this now and I wasn't very keen on it. In fact, I only finished it because it was a group read. Too disjointed for me, I didn't like the writing style at all. I've given it two stars, which is a shame as I really wanted to like it.


message 50: by [deleted user] (new)

I'm a little bit behind but I finished this today. I'm really unsure how I feel about it. I found the story quite gripping but as other have said it seemed a little disjointed and I don't think the writing style was particularly good

I didn't it too preachy as I think it is a really interesting area to think about ethically

I also agree I think it would make a great film!


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