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House Mother Normal
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1001 book reviews > House Mother Normal by B.S. Johnson

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message 1: by Diane (last edited Dec 16, 2018 07:30AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Diane  | 2042 comments Rating: 4+ stars

This is a very creative book and highly deserving of its place on the list. It is set in a nursing home during a lunch activity period. It takes place during a relatively short time. Each participant narrates their thoughts during the event, starting with the most highly functional resident to the most impaired, and ending with the narrative of the house mother. There are even pauses and blank spaces inserted, as needed. We are informed up front about the specific impairments of each individual before their narrative.

It was a bit of work to layer the individual narratives together to create a cohesive story about what took place, but well worth it. Each story becomes more degenerative and disjointed by design making it very important to pay close attention to the first few narratives. Overall, a nicely layered and innovative story.


Book Wormy | 1985 comments Mod
When I started reading this book I was really enjoying it for the first few chapters we were heading towards 4 star territory and then it went downhill. I know books are supposed to challenge us and that reading outside your comfort zone can sometimes be good for you but sometimes I feel authors take things too far unnecessarily and this was one of those times. I believe you can write a powerful book about the treatment of the elderly without going to the lengths that Johnson did.

My personal feelings aside I can see why this book made it onto the 1001 list. The narrative structure is certainly unique each chapter is 21 pages told from the point of view of one patient about what has happened that evening in the care home the same events are seen from multiple viewpoints and while the reader gets a very basic idea of what is happening as we go along it is the final chapter from House Mother that brings it all together.

Each chapter starts with a brief biography of the patient you are about to hear from including age, marital status and an outline of why they are in the home, the book then uses spacing to show where the characters thoughts have been interrupted. The further into the book you get the less words there are as the patients fall asleep or have limited thought processes to start with. It was interesting to see what a "typical" social evening in the home consisted of and I can well believe that the enterprises House Mother engages in could well take place in real life (apart from that one incident). It was also interesting to see how House Mother justified her actions as being in the best interests of the patients by giving them something other than themselves to be disgusted by.


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