Saturday, 10 September 2016

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves - Karen Joy Fowler

Credit: Getty Images
What if you grew up to realise that your father had used your childhood as an experiment?
Rosemary doesn't talk very much, and about certain things she's silent. She had a sister, Fern, her whirlwind other half, who banished from her life in circumstances she wishes she could forget. And it's been ten years since she last saw her beloved older brother Lowell.
Now at college, Rosemary starts to see that she can't go forward without going back, back to the time when, aged five, she was sent away from home to her grandparents and returned to find Fern gone.

I purchased We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves in the summer of last year. I was on my lunch break and in a rush to pick a second book that qualified for the deal WH Smith were running at the time. The bright cover art caught my attention (yes, I judged the book by its cover. Sinful) and the premise intrigued me, for I could not decipher what path the plot would lay out for me. Would it focus on the experiment element, the disappearance of Rosemary's two siblings, or the personal struggles of Rosemary as a result of both these things? Ultimately, it was clear that all these components were connected. However, the genre of each varied and it was impossible therefore to determine what style this novel would explore. 

Initially, I struggled with the book. It began with a college altercation, and of college age myself, I was instantaneously disinterested for teenage triviality is a daily experience. I didn't care for a book which examined this, for I read to escape reality in a sense. To allow my imagination to run wild. A blow-by-blow account of a fight involving students in a canteen simply made me switch off. I put the book to one side, and reasoned with myself that I would come back to it with a fresh view another time.

A year passed, and the months after ensued, before I picked it up again and promised to force myself into it and immerse myself within the words. This time was different, I was immediately captivated by the experiences of Rosemary and her thought process. It was clear from the out-set that Rosemary had a past that had contributed to her present personality. I was eager to establish what this was. 

The plot twist happens within the first several pages of the book and from that point onwards it is as if you are trapped within the eye of a storm, whirling around within the words. It is a clever book, which references psychology studies, many of which you'll naturally be familiar with and many that will be new to you. It feels similar to a lecture, but one that you are full of rapt attention for. 

Love is a predominant emotion throughout, with the mother-daugther bond and the sibling bond focussed upon. The twist in the plot allows you to see relationships within a new light, and subtly challenges you to delve into your own personal relationships. To draw parallels and enable yourself to understand and immerse yourself within the characters sufferings, sacrifices and joys.

Throughout, you can sense your intelligence and outlook on the affairs documented within the book become broader. An ability to examine an issue which you will already be aware of, and which is the main feature of the book, and implement it into your life. This will become clearer to you, once you have read the novel and the evident side-effects have taken place. You will be compelled.

I recommend We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler with ease. It is undeniably a powerful read, which challenges your understanding on issues which plague our world. Issues which we are all aware of, but choose to ignore, or choose to avoid. 

Buy it here on iTunes.
Or, here on Amazon.

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