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1001 book reviews > Blindness by Henry Green

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message 1: by Liz M (new) - added it

Liz M | 194 comments Why it is included in the 1001 list: "...all of his novels are in some sense 'experimental'.... Green's first novel, Blindness, already reveals his fascination with language as a means of communication and his modernist desire to shape it anew."

Published when he was only 21, this slim novel as first seems disjointed and rough around the edges. But its unusual structure rather brilliantly reinforces the story. John Haye is a casually privileged and self-absorbed school boy when a freak accident robs him of his sight. His struggle to come to terms with his new life is depicted in several seemingly unconnected sections, narrated by several characters. But in each we see his sloe evolution from a surface presentation of himself as an aesthete into someone that truly appreciates beauty found in touches, scents, and sounds. The descriptions of despair and of nature are stunning.

message 2: by Kristel (last edited Jan 02, 2019 05:03PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Kristel (kristelh) | 3831 comments Mod
Read in 2015.
The story is of a young man, John Haye. The book is divided into sections called Caterpillar, Chrysalis and Butterfly so we know that there will be change and maturing. The story starts with John at Public School of Noat. John is a boy who loves art, writing and plays. He enjoys beauty such as daffodil blooming amongst the grass in the garden. In his senior year, John loses his eyesight in a freak accident. In Chrysalis, John is at home in the country with his stepmother and nanny. He is getting used to seeing a new way. He spends some time with the daughter of a defrocked parson and then his stepmother rushes John to the London, a new life. In the first part of the book, we are reading John’s diary. In the second part, we are learning the story of Joan (the parson’s daughter). John’s narration switches to his inner dialogue. The author was around 20 or 21 when he wrote this story and used several new techniques of modernism in writing his first novel.

The actual accident is perhaps a little unbelievable but the author did a great job of describing blindness and the way people behave around the handicapped person.

The chapter called Picture Postcardism-- focused a lot on the visual. What John could no longer see but what others (Joan) could see.

Social commentary: John’s mother’s treatment of servants (appalling). the defrocked Vicar feeling like he is entitled.

Jamie Barringer (Ravenmount) (ravenmount) | 424 comments Poor John is struck blind in a freak accident as a 15yr-old kid, and suddenly his life changes drastically, from active boarding school life to a world of 'nothing all the time'. He is the last in his line of minor aristocrats in the countryside near a small British town, and has no friends or social ties in town, so his life becomes completely defined by the sometimes stifling attentions of his step-mother and her ageing servants. Meanwhile Joan, a girl of about the same age, is starting to think about how her own life ought to go, after a childhood spent taking care of her alcoholic father. Her life is exhausting and difficult, and she has grown up resenting all people like John's family, but especially John's family. On the surface Joan seems like she could be a perfect wife for John, and maybe in another universe they would have made a great match, but John's family is too stuck up and Joan is too deeply ingrained with bitterness and hatred for wealthy people. Instead, Joan may get to spend the rest of her life tending her father and putting up with his abuse of her, while John gets to be just as isolated with his step-mother, now in London, where she can take care of him as if he is even more helpless and invalid than he really is.
There are of course other ways to read this book, and maybe it is just a story of the early hiccoughs in a pair of lives that will be quite nice by the end, but I read it as a story of how families weigh down their children with assumptions and expectations that severely curtail those children's hopes for a better life as adults.
I didn't love this book, but I did enjoy it. I liked the organization of the story, with the sections suggesting metamorphosis as a major theme throughout the book, and the emphasis on visual descriptions of scenes once John is blind, as if highlighting all he has lost. I gave this novel 4 stars on Goodreads.

message 4: by Diane (last edited Jul 20, 2019 07:50PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Diane | 1943 comments It is hard to believe that this is the first Green I've read this far into the list (he has quite a few list books). This one is Green's debut book, which most people criticize as being lacking in comparison to his other works. Green was also very young when he wrote this novel. I thought it was well-written and I look forward to reading his other list books. I thought he did a great job of describing what life would be like for a person who has lost their sight and the drastic changes that inevitably ensue in one's lifestyle.

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