I am back with another book review post. I read this book over the Christmas holidays but it is quite short so I read it once again just the other day and really wanted to share it here on the blog.
This book recounts snippets of the playwright Alan Bennett’s life from 1974 to 1989, during which time a homeless elderly woman named Miss Shepherd moved her bright yellow broken-down van into his driveway. Despite the fact that he wasn’t too keen on her staying for long, she ends up living there for 15 years.
In 2015, this book was adapted into a film of the same name starring Alex Jennings as Alan Bennett and Dame Maggie Smith as Miss Shepherd. Dame Maggie Smith was bloomin’ brilliant in the role and makes the peculiar Miss Shepherd likeable despite her sassiness. The real Alan Bennett even makes a cameo appearance in the film as himself, which is neat.
‘I ran into a snake this afternoon,’ Miss Shepherd said. ‘It was coming up Parkway. It was a long, grey snake – a boa constrictor, possibly. It looked poisonous. It was keeping close to the wall and seemed to know its way. I’ve a feeling it may have been heading for the van.’ I was relieved that on this occasion she didn’t demand that I ring the police, as she regularly did if anything out of the ordinary occurred. Perhaps this was too out of the ordinary (though it turned out the pet shop in Parkway had been broken into the previous night, so she may have seen a snake). She brought her mug over and I made her a drink, which she took back to the van. ‘I thought I’d better tell you,’ she said, ‘just to be on the safe side. I’ve had some close shaves with snakes.’
What I Loved Most
This is such a quirky and lovely story about how two people enter each other’s lives and become more important to one another than either thought possible, and Alan Bennett narrates it with such subtle, wry humourous observations.
What I Loved Least
I committed the bookworm no-no of seeing the movie before reading the book, but I absolutely loved the film, and was slightly disappointed that the book was not longer. Surely 15 years with Miss Shepherd living in the driveway resulted in more than 100 pages of stories.
One seldom was able to do her a good turn without some thoughts of strangulation.
Her grave in the Islington St Pancras Cemetary is scarcely less commodious than the narrow space she slept in the previous twenty years. It is unmarked, but I think as someone so reluctant to admit her name or divulge any information about herself, she would not have been displeased by that.
This is such a touching, delightful story, and one I would recommend to anyone and everyone. Plus, the film adaptation was amazing and worth seeing (and that says something given most bookworms are wary of adaptations).
Those of you who know me are very familiar with my less-than-favourable opinion of Valentine’s Day, but nevertheless I still wanted to do a love-themed book review post, and I thought this book was perfect.
This Modern Love is a crowd-sourced book published in 2016 by YouTuber and filmmaker Will Darbyshire that chronicles all of the feelings and experiences of love from beginning to middle to end. Having been in love before, all of the letters, tweets, words, and photos really resonated with me, and illustrated how love truly is a human universal. Most interestingly, this book also detailed the impact of technology on modern love, for better or worse.
In the summer of 2014, I experienced a break-up. It was my first. And I was devastated.
What I Loved Most
The book is sectioned into Beginning, Middle, and End, with submissions in each category spotlighting the euphoric rush of a crush or a new love, the deep affection of a relationship, and the bitter heartache that comes with the end of a relationship. I love that the submissions were categorized to paint such a vivid picture of what each stage of love is like. I also love that these was no particular order within each section so the entries could be read at random or in the order of appearance in the book.
What I Loved Least
This might be a bit of a cop out since I loved the book so much, but I wish it had been longer. The project received over 15000 submissions and, while I know they all could not be included, I think having them published on a blog would have been nice so they could all be read in one format or another.
You are like that one piece of artwork in an art gallery that people spend a little longer admiring (p. 31).
Finally, a massive thank you to my friends and my viewers for sticking with me. Your constant positive reinforcement keeps me going. I love you all terribly and I hope you like the book as much as I liked putting it together.
Final Thoughts This is such a sweet book and is a lovely reminder of how thrilling and magical and painful and disappointing love can be.
Good afternoon all, and welcome to my first book review post of 2017!!!
I actually got this book free back in November using my accrued Plum Points at Chapters, which was very exciting. It took me until the end of term and after Christmas and such to read it, but then it took only a few days to read.
First off, I just have to gush about how gorgeous the cover is. I love the design, the colour palette, and the cursive writing. Everything I would want my book cover to be.
This book, Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney’s fiction debut, is set in New York and spotlights the lives of four siblings and their financial situations. The title refers to the nest egg left to them by their late father that is to be turned over when the youngest sibling, Melody, turns 40. However, things begin to spiral out of control when the family learns that their mother has given away the vast majority of the money to deal with a “family emergency,” leaving them in fiscal turmoil and uncertainty.
As the rest of the guests wandered the deck of the beach club under an early-evening midsummer sky, taking pinched, appraising sips of their cocktails to gauge if the bartenders were using the top-shelf stuff and balancing tiny crab cakes on paper napkins while saying appropriate things about how they’d really lucked out with the weather because the humidity would be back tomorrow, or murmuring inappropriate things about the bride’s snug satin dress, wondering if the spilling cleavage was due to bad tailoring or poor taste (a look as their own daughters might say) or an unexpected weight gain, winking and making tired jokes about exchanging toasters for diapers, Leo Plumb left his cousin’s wedding with one of the waitresses.
What I Loved Most
I was skeptical about how the story would unfold when I realized the chapters were divided according to which sibling was narrating, but I found this offered greater insight into the past lives and choices of the siblings than would have been offered by a third person narration.
What I loved Least
No spoilers or anything, but I was slightly disappointed at the ending. I know it is far more realistic than any ending I would have been happy to read, but it almost seemed like the author wanted to get right to the end and skipped over a huge chunk of time in the process.
So the first time she and Leo combusted, she’d practically been poised for the breakup. In some inexplicable way, she’d been looking forward to it and all its attendant drama, because wasn’t there something nearly lovely–when you were young enough–about guts churning and tear ducts being put to glorious overuse? She recognized the undeniable satisfaction of the first emotional fissure because an unraveling was still something grown-up and, therefore, life affirming. See? The broken heart signalled. I loved enough to lose; I felt enough to weep. Because when you were young enough, the stakes of love were so very small, nearly insignificant. How tragic could a breakup be when it was part of the fabric of expectation from the beginning? The hackneyed fights, the late-night phone calls, the indignant recounting for friends over multiple drinks and in earshot of an appropriately flirtatious bartender–it was theatre for a certain type of person . . . Until it wasn’t (p. 274).
Closing Line [The last sentence, really, to avoid spoilers]
‘Up!’ She said again, as her family rushed towards her all at once, each of them hoping to get to her first.
This was such a great story, and I can see why it won so many awards, including Goodreads’ 2016 Choice Award for Fiction, and was named a Best Book of 2016 by a number of publications such as People, the Washington Post, and the San Fransisco Chronicle. I would recommend this book to anyone looking to curl up in front of the fireplace to avoid the dreary rainy weather with a good book.
Have you read The Nest??? What did you think of it???
[So as not to have a super long post title, I only used the main portion of the title of this novel; the complete title is A Life Discarded: 148 Diaries Found in a Skip.]
I saw this book perched on a shelf in a local bookstore shortly before I left for Seattle. The cover intrigued me immediately and, after reading what the book was about, I knew I had to buy it and take it on my trip because it would be a real page-turner. And it was. I finished the book on the first day of my fourth year of university before my statistics class and then sat through the entire lecture in a dazed state of contemplation. And now, here I am with a week left to go in the school term, and I am just publishing my review. Better late than never though.
The title is fairly self-explanatory, but allow me to expand on it a little. This book tells the behind-the-scenes story of how biographer Alexander Masters came to possess 148 diaries that were tossed out into a skip on a building site in Cambridge, and how he spent five years reading and studying them, piecing together the diarist’s life, culminating in an incredible discovery.
Beginning in 1952 and ending over 50 years later, a few weeks before the diaries were thrown away, tens of thousands of pages of handwriting tell part of an intimate and anonymous life story that Masters seeks to understand. I had never read a book like this before, but I loved Masters’ writing style of alternating between his personal life during which a dear friend is dying of cancer, and his time spent analyzing the diaries and attempting to fill in the gaps of the diarist’s history. Plus, the book includes all kinds of excerpts from the diaries, from handwriting samples, to drawings, to transcribed passages, all of which offer further insight into the diarist. The reader makes new and exciting discoveries about the diarist along with Masters, such as the gender, age, mental state, sexuality, and life status of the diarist, and also backtracks when new evidence found in later diaries prove previous assumptions wrong.
And now for the overview:
One breezy afternoon, my friend Richard Grove was mooching around Cambridge with his shirt hanging out, when he came across this skip.
What I Loved Most: Definitely Masters’ writing style.
What I Loved Least: The story was a little tough to follow at times, but I can only imagine the trouble Masters had reading through all the diaries and trying to piece together a timeline of the diarist’s life and trying to keep it as accurate as possible.
But you have to be careful. Most people sound unbalanced in their diaries (if those diaries are honest) because that’s one of their purposes: to let out unspeakable things for a little runaround.
It is all, she says, ‘jolly swerbles.’
Final Thoughts: This is an amazing book. I have already recommended it to a friend and he is about a quarter of the way through and loving it. It kept me guessing and second-guessing after each chapter, and I am looking forward to going to the library to check out more books by Alexander Masters.
Please let me know in the comments below if any of you have read this book before and what you thought of it. If you haven’t read it, I implore you to because it is an incredible novel with an astounding conclusion.
I blogged about this book in my September book haul and had planned to read it during school but surprise, surprise (not surprising at all), I didn’t read it during little study breaks between classes and on the bus ride to and from university. I mean, I read a few of the essays that way, but definitely not the whole book. I’m not sure why I was so ambitious with the amount of pleasure reading I thought I would do during the school term, but I think it was largely due to the fact that I needed to justify the book shopping I did after my August book buying ban last summer was lifted.
If you haven’t heard of Mindy Kaling, she is a hilarious comedian, writer, and actor. She wrote for the remake of the classic BBC show The Office, and then began her own tv show The Mindy Project, along with voicing characters like Disgust in the adorable movie Inside Out, Taffyta Muttonfudge in Wreck-It Ralph, and the Tourist Mom in Despicable Me.
Also, Mindy Kaling predicted the future in this book. In her essay, “Franchises I Would Like To Reboot” she mentions how awesome it would be if the next Ghostbusters film had four female leads, but notes the unlikelihood of this given the demographic is teenage boys. Well lo and behold that the recently released ghostbusters stars Melissa McCarthy, Kate McKinnon, Leslie Jones, and Kristen Wiig. Mind you, Kaling did share an office with Kristen Wiig during her time as a guest writer for Saturday Night Live, so maybe the idea got tossed around.
This book is sectioned into different parts of her life, covering her childhood as the daughter of immigrant professionals, her time in New York in an off-Broadway play with one of her best friends about Ben Affleck and Matt Damon, her time in Hollywood as a writer and actor, her love life, her appearance, and her legacy in which she lays out her funeral plans and proposed eulogy.
A few of my favourite essays include Don’t Peak in High School, Best Friend Rights and Responsibilities, Types of Women in Romantic Comedies Who Are Not Real, Someone Explain One-Night Stands To Me, “Hooking Up” Is Confusing, I Love Irish Exits, and Revenge Fantasies While Jogging.
I love Kaling’s unique and witty narrative voice, and how relatable she is as a character in her essays and as a person. Plus it helps that we seem to share the same sense of humour and opinions concerning what makes a guy great, a best friend great, or what is just not a cool thing to say to someone about their appearance.
This little tour through Kaling’s life is riddled with funny, slightly inappropriate, and oh-so-true observations about people and life, and is such a light and easy read, making it the perfect book to take down to the beach or on a plane ride. The essays do not have to be read in the order they appear in the book, so readers have much more freedom regarding the topic of their reading.
On a final note, in response to the title of this book, who wouldn’t want to hang out with Mindy Kaling??? I definitely would.
Do you like Mindy Kaling, either as a comedy writer for The Office, an author, or as an actor???
I picked up this book last year at Chapters during one of their summer book sales, and it marked the end of my book buying sprees until I actually read some of the books in my TBR piles that were precariously stacked in front of my bookshelf and wobbled every time I walked by.
After reading The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand, which I reviewed here, I wanted a book that was lighter in both writing style and plot, and this book was perfect.
Mosquitoland is a novel written from the perspective of Mim Malone, a 16-year-old girl who, upon learning that her mother is sick, hops on a greyhound bus in Mississippi and heads to Ohio to be with her, leaving behind her father and new step-mother. Along the way, Mim meets a host of quirky characters, such as Bus Driver Carl, Arlene, Poncho Man, Walt, Caleb, and Beck, to name a few.
The witty narration is on-point, and really resonated with me. I don’t know if David Arnold and I just have the same sense of humour or what but I actually laughed out loud several times hole reading this book, and most of these instances were on a public transit bus and received their fair share of stranger glances berating me for displaying any kind of joviality in the presence of strangers. I feel like David Arnold would be a really cool friend, and apparently he likes pesto, Middle-Earth, Christmastime, Arcade Fire, and indie bookstores so, really, what’s not to like about him???
I really liked how the chapters were grouped into different sections according to the location they took place in, with a page noting the location and the number of miles to go starting from Jackson, Mississippi (947 miles to go), to Yalobusha County, Mississippi (818 miles to go), to Nashville, Tennessee (526 miles to go), to Independence, Kentucky (278 miles to go), to Cincinnati, Ohio (249 miles to go), to Ashland, Ohio (61 miles to go), and ending in Cleveland, Ohio (947 miles from Mosquitoland).
At the beginning of every few chapters, there is a letter written by Mim to someone named Isabel. As the reader learns early on in the novel, Isabel is the name of her father’s sister, an aunt who displayed similar mental health symptoms in her childhood as Mim exhibits, which alarms her father into booking appointments with doctors and seeking out medical help for Mim early on. However, it is not until the closing chapters that the reader learns to whom Mim is actually writing, and this was a welcome and heartwarming plot twist.
I am loving this surge of YA novels that incorporate mental health, particularly this novel that shows that, while one might be quick to judge strange or “irrational behaviours” as symptoms of a mental illness that needs to be helped through therapy sessions or medication, such behaviours can simply be personality quirks and that medication may do more harm than good if it is prescribed to treat a mental illness that is not present in the patient.
Also, the cover illustration is adorable and perfectly encapsulates Mim in a drawing. I know it’s not good to judge a book by its cover but, between the cover and the description of the book on the inside of the jacket, there is no way I was leaving the bookstore without this in my bag. There is also a really cool map on the endpaper at the beginning and end of the book that shows Mim’s journey through a series of drawings of people or items that are particularly significant for each part of the story.
The one negative aspect I do want to address is the backlash that David Arnold received for referencing Mim’s application of her mother’s lipstick to her face as ‘war paint.’ Apparently this plays into Native American stereotypes of being on the warpath. I respect the views of others and, as someone who is no part Native American, I cannot fully appreciate the implications that Mim using lipstick war paint as a means to face adversity may have. However, Mim is described as 1/16 Cherokee,and I did not see her use of the lipstick as any reflection of how a Cherokee or any other Native American individual would use lipstick, and certainly not as war paint. Mim is indeed ignorant about her Cherokee heritage and uses the “war paint” as a way to feel close to her mother and to feel empowered when her life feels out of control. In one of the last chapters of the book, Mim learns that her life is ok and the lipstick does not mean what she thought it did, choosing to leave it behind with her mother.
Among his previous jobs, David Arnold was a freelance musician and producer, and actually created an original soundtrack for this debut YA novel while writing it, which you can listen to here. There were even rumours floating around that this book was going to be adapted into a movie, but I can’t seem to find the trailer online anywhere. I love a good movie soundtrack and I find it so cool that the author actually created a companion soundtrack for the novel. The soundtrack, available on BandCamp under David Arnold’s music moniker Cinema Cycle, consists of 9 songs that have incredible music, and insertions of lyrics here and there. My favourite thus far is the first song, Say It Out Loud, which I have been listening to on repeat for the last week or so. I am no music blogger so I don’t know the right technical things to say, but I love how all the songs have such great beats to them, making them perfect for listening to while taking a stroll through the city during the day or at night.
David Arnold’s second novel, Kids of Appetite, is scheduled to have a fall 2016 release, and I am extremely excited for it to be published so I can have it in my hot little hands and read it in one sitting. I am debating re-reading Mosquitoland and doing so in one sitting because I love Arnold’s way of writing a tragicomedy, and his characters are unique, complex, and lovable.
And now for the bookish tidbits:
I am Mary Iris Malone, and I am not okay.
What I Loved Most:Definitely Mim’s sense of humour and witty observations.
What I Loved Least:No spoilers, but I found the ending to be quite anti-climactic. The reader follows Mim for 324 pages from Mississippi to Ohio, during which she meets a host of quirky but mostly loveable characters, but when Ashe finally arrives to see her mother, the plot just sort of peters out like a soft sigh. There was so much build up that I felt let down when we finally arrived in Ohio.
It’s impossible to wonder when your heart will stop beating without wondering if that time is now (148).
All my life, I’ve been searching for my people, and all my life, I’ve come up empty. At some point and I don’t know when, I accepted isolation. I curled into a ball and settled for a life of observations and theories, which really isn’t a life at all (249).
What if . . . what if . . . what if . . . I play the What If? game all the time. But it’s rigged, is the thing. Impossible to win. Asking What If? Can only lead to Maybe Things Could Have Been Different, via Was It My Fault? (259).
Life, it seems, delivers the best punch lines only after we’ve forgotten we were part of a joke (276).
Because sometimes a thing’s not a thing until you say it out loud.
Final Thoughts: This is definitely a great summer read. It is funny and whimsical while also being profound and heartbreaking. It is a real page turner and I would recommend it to anyone looking for an incredible YA novel.
Have you read this book before??? What did you think of it???
I first heard about this book last summer when my then-boyfriend was complaining about how bookstores never had it in stock, but always had her other well-known book Atlas Shrugged. Because of this, I was so happy when I found it tucked away in a little used bookstore for $2.50. I had planned to give it to him, but kept forgetting it at home, and then things fell apart between us. I saw it on my shelf a few months ago and got reminiscing about all he meant to me, and I tucked the book into my purse for an hour-long bus ride. Since then, I have been reading a chapter or two every day before going to work and when I get home, and the other week I finally finished it, so I wanted to share my thoughts on this remarkable book.
I find this novel so difficult to review because, while I can discuss the philosophy behind it, any mention of the plot makes me feel like I have to preface each sentence with *SPOILERS*. However, this is one of the few novels that can be reviewed with minimal discussion of the characters, as each serves as an extreme personality crafted to support the overall theme of her writing.
Rand came from an upper-middle-class family in Russia and, after the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917, her family’s fortune was considerably reduced as a result of nationalism. This sparked Rand’s objections to communism, socialism, and collectivism. However, she did not want her beliefs to be confused with either the libertarian or conservative political movements in the United States, so she started her own movement titled Objectivism. In its simplest terms, objectivism advocates rational selfishness and condemns selflessness, i.e. altruism.
Along the spectrum of good and evil, each character represents a different level. At one end is Howard Roark as the ideal man whose talent and courage we are to admire throughout his struggle to act independently from society and its imposing traditions and norms. At the other end of the spectrum is Ellsworth M. Toohey as the overall antagonist, who promotes altruism as the ultimate virtue of mankind. It is important to note that Rand’s characters are deliberately extreme and one-dimensional, one of the many critiques of her writing.
My favourite line of this novel explains the title, as Roark argues that individual creators are the fountainhead of civilization, while second-handers promote altruism and selflessness, which is just that, a lack of self in the face of society’s herd mentality. To this end, Rand explains that people must act selfishly to be free.
This novel advocates that all things worth thinking or feeling should be the result of objective logic and reason, not subjective emotion or sentimentality. Sentimentality and other illogical beliefs confuse the mind and compromise individualism in society by advocating selflessness.
Most importantly, the fountainhead sees love as something worth fighting for and protecting, despite the argument that the emotion of love is a direct contradiction to the novel’s commitment to logic and reason. Rand believes that personal relationships can exist within the virtue of logic as long as they help the individual maximize their potential.
Rand is one of those “love-them-or-hate-them” authors, and I fall on the left of that binary because I absolutely love her writing. While I can’t see myself becoming a devoted follower of Objectivism, I believe it is a worthwhile philosophy to understand, particularly in the context of when it was formed.
And now for the usual bookish facts:
Howard Roark laughed. He stood naked at the edge of a cliff. The lake lay far below him. A frozen explosion of granite burst in flight to the sky over motionless water. The water seemed immovable, the stone–flowing. The stone had the stillness of one brief moment in battle when thrust meets thrust and the currents are held in a pause more dynamic than motion. The stone glowed, wet with sunrays.
What I Loved Most: I honestly don’t know if I can pick just one thing about this book that I loved above anything else. I went into this book knowing nothing of Ayn Rand or her philosophy, knowing only that my former boyfriend had loved the book and was irked that bookstores did not often carry it with its sequel Atlas Shrugged. What I found as I read this book is that I couldn’t put it down. I would almost make myself miss the bus or be late for work because I wanted to finish a chapter. I think perhaps what I love most is that Rand did not write this book expecting to garner fame and fortune from it; rather, she wrote it because it was a book that ought to live, and it did, and continued to be published 25 years later when my edition was published.
What I Loved Least: I can definitely understand why 12 publishers rejected this book, citing it was “too intellectual” because it is just that. This is not a book that you can sit down and read with a cup of tea. Each sentence commands the reader’s full attention, each word needing to be read at least once for the entirety of the book’s message to be understood. But once committed to reading this book, it is incredible.
Memorable Line: For me, the most memorable lines of this novel are in Howard Roark’s testimony in his second trial. For 8 pages in the 18th chapter, Roark’s testimony perfectly encapsulates Rand’s philosophy of Objectivism. While I was very tempted to type out all 8 pages and quote them as my memorable line, economy of time and space in this blog post motivated me to select to main excerpts from these pages that I loved.
The creators were not selfless. It is the whole secret of their power–that it was self-sufficient, self-motivated, self-generated. A first cause, a fount of energy, a life force, a Prime Mover. The creator served nothing and no one. He lived for himself. And only by living for himself was he able to achieve the things which are the glory of mankind. Such is the nature of achievement. Man cannot survive except through his mind. He comes on earth unarmed. His brain is his only weapon… From [the] simplest necessity to the highest religious abstraction, from the wheel to the skyscraper, everything we are and everything we have comes from a single attribute of man–the function of his reasoning mind. But the mind is an attribute of the individual. There is no such thing as a collective brain. There is no such thing as a collective thought. An agreement reached by a group of men is only a compromise or an average drawn upon many individual thoughts. It is a secondary consequence. The primary act–the process of reason–must be performed by each man alone. We can divide a meal among many men. We cannot digest it in a collective stomach. No man can use his lungs to breathe for another man. No man can use his brain to think for another. All the functions of body and spirit are private. They cannot be shared or transferred. We inherit the products of the thought of other men (680).
Altruism is the doctrine which demands that man live for others and place others above self. No man can live for another. He cannot share his spirit just as he cannot share his body. But the second-hander has used altruism as a weapon of exploitation and reversed the base of mankind’s moral principles. Men have been taught every precept that destroys the creator. Men have been taught dependence as a virtue…Men have been taught that the highest virtue is not to achieve, but to give. Yet one cannot give that which has not been created. Creation comes before distribution–or there will be nothing to distribute. The need of the creator comes before the need of any possible beneficiary. Yet we are taught to admire the second-hander who dispenses gifts he has not produced above the man who made the gifts possible. We praise an act of charity. We shrug at an act of achievement (682).
Then there was only the ocean and the sky and the figure of Howard Roark.
Final Thoughts: This book is far more than a published story; it is the manifesto of Rand’s philosophy of Objectivism, by which
Have you read this book before??? What did you think of it, or its sequel Atlas Shrugged???
I picked up this book from Chapters way back in spring, and even mentioned it in a book haul post, but it got stuck near the bottom of my TBR pile, and it wasn’t unearthed until about a week ago when I did a major overhaul of my bookshelf organization system.
I started reading the poems in this book yesterday afternoon, and had them finished by the end of the day they were so good. I didn’t want to put the book down, so I ended up toting it to all of my classes and reading during lectures (oops . . . ) But then this morning I picked the book up again and started re-reading them all, knowing something new would be revealed the second time.
The poems are part of what Tyler Knott Gregson calls the typewriter series, which shows his ongoing love of crafting poetry using whatever paper is at hand, and the permanence of typewriter ink. The best way I can describe these poems is that they are recordings of the poet’s stream of consciousness, yet at the same time sound as though they were crafted with such care and attention that they must have been written over long expanses of time.
A neat feature about this book is that it is as much a book of photography as it is a book of poetry. As you can see in the photo on the right, the poems are written on anything, such as a library book slip, or the last page of a book. The way these poems are typed on such paper fragments and photographed in this book makes them seem haphazardly, but their words ring so true and are so thought-provoking that they must have been written with gentle finger strokes on keys, and pauses in between every few words to ensure they said everything Gregson wanted them to, and hid even more in the spaces between.
Just to give you a little hint of what these poems are about, I’ve included a larger scale of the picture above so you can read two of these incredible poems. The one on the right is one of my favourites 🙂 🙂
Have you read this book before??? What did you think???
More and more, mental illness is becoming a hot topic of conversation in television, in film, and in literature. Stereotypical images of straitjackets and unethical electroshock therapy procedures are being replaced by very real portrayals and personal accounts of mental illness. That’s why tv shows like Dexter, movies like The Silver Linings Playbook, and novels like The Perks of Being a Wallflower have such a large fan base. People can relate to the characters and the circumstances surrounding them, whether or not they are diagnosed with a mental illness.
Craig Gilner, the 15-year-old narrator, like most teenagers, wants to succeed in life. For him, this means that he needs to get good grades to get into a good high school, to get accepted to a good college, to get a good job, to have a good lifestyle.Craig throws himself into studying to get accepted into Manhattan’s prestigious Executive Pre-Professional high school. Once accepted, however, the schoolwork generates too much pressure. Craig begins to stop eating, and then to stop sleeping, until one night Craig nearly kills himself. Instead, he checks himself into a mental hospital, and the book chronicles his time there, where he learns to deal with his anxiety, and what life is all about.
What I loved most about this book is how, through Craig, the reader gets an insider’s view of a psychiatric hospital, all stereotypes aside, along with insight into the mind of someone recognizing that they have a mental illness, and the ways in which they go about coping with it. This quality comes from the fact that the novel was based on the author’s time spent in an adult psychiatric hospital. A week after being released from an adult psychiatric hospital in Park Slope, Brooklyn, Vizzini began writing this novel, capturing the raw essence of his experiences. Vizzini suffered from severe clinical depression, and struggled with it for years until he committed suicide on December 19, 2013.
The richness of this story comes from the reader’s ability to relate to Craig. Whether or not you have a mental illness, everyone can relate to the inability to cope with peer pressure, and the journey of finding out who you are. Largely, this novel emphasizes the importance of accepting that mental illness is about being yourself and accepting who you are.
One passage that I love is:
“I didn’t want to wake up. I was having a much better time asleep. And that’s really sad. It was almost like a reverse nightmare, like when you wake up from a nightmare you’re so relieved. I woke up into a nightmare.”
For many people who suffer from a mental illness, this is a perfect description of how it can feel sometimes.
In 2010, this novel was adapted to film. I actually watched the movie first, a taboo activity that I try to avoid at all costs, but I saw it at my then-boyfriend’s house and learned in the credits that it was a movie adaptation of a book. After reading the book, I admit that the movie took a few cinematic liberties, but what movie doesn’t??? Point is, they don’t change the raw honesty or rye humour of the novel, or the powerful message it tells.
Check out the movie trailer here!!!
Now for the fun stuff!!!
“Its so hard to talk when you want to kill yourself. That’s above and beyond everything else, and it’s not a mental complaint-it’s a physical thing, like it’s physically hard to open your mouth and make the words come out. They don’t come out smooth and in conjunction with your brain the way normal people’s words do; they come out in chunks as if from a crushed-ice dispenser; you stumble on them as they gather behind your lower lip. So you just keep quiet.”
What I Loved Most: The wry honesty of the narrator is so relatable for any teenager, or any person really, who has been overwhelmed by life. I find that everyone, to a degree, is a Craig Gilner. We all want to succeed at something, and all fear buckling under the pressure of the expectations we set for ourselves and believe others set for us.
What I Loved Least: Nothing. That’s how much I loved this novel.
“I’m done with those; regrets are an excuse for people who have failed.”
Closing Paragraph: “Ski. Sled. Play basketball. Jog. Run. Run. Run. Run home. Run home and enjoy. Enjoy. Take these verbs and enjoy them. They’re yours, Craig. You deserve them because you chose them. You could have left them all behind but you chose to stay here. So now live for real, Craig. Live. Live. Live. Live. Live.”
Final Thoughts: Incredible novel. Just incredible. Whether you suffer from a mental illness, know someone who does, or are simply looking to better understand how it can affect someone, this novel is a prime learning tool.
Next up is Me and Earl and the Dying Girl for a novel set in another country!!!