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Monday, 31 July 2017

REVIEW: One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey

I am a firm believer that you should always read the book before seeing the film. Which is a conundrum for me, as there is an extensive backlog of film classics that I desperately want to watch, but don't have enough time to read the book beforehand. One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest caused me a huge conundrum, as I was impatient to watch the critically-acclaimed film starring Jack Nicholson, but I knew I had to stick to my own rules.

So, staying true to myself, I began to read Ken Kesey's iconic novel. Due to the success of the film (it is commonly ranked as one of the best films of all time) I had high expectations for the book, which is also ranked extremely highly. And so, sitting down to the first chapter, I felt like I was about to embark upon a journey.

The first page is a powerful introduction that sets the tone for the novel. It's cautious, fearful narrator provides an insight into the mindset of the characters. Before you have even finished the opening paragraph, you understand that the book is going to be dominated by an obscure view, a view belonging to a patient in a mental institute.

My copy of the book features hand drawn sketches by Ken Kesey himself, which help to illustrate the quirky and confusing vibe. By the end of the first chapter, you begin to question whether you, yourself have a problem that needs assessing. It is all consuming.

The introduction of McMurphy changes the dynamics instantaneously. It is evident that upon his arrival, nothing will remain the same. But, this is welcomed, for this is where the story truly begins.

Kesey writes in a way that invites you in to invest in each individual character. His descriptive journey with each one makes you feel as if you know them personally. You find yourself pitying them, which is exactly what Kesey intended. He wants you to feel connected with them, for when the haunting drama unfolds, you feel personally attacked by everything. 

The book is a mind game. It tricks you into perceiving characters in a certain way, before tearing them apart in front of you, making you realise that they are not remotely who you thought they were. The fact that the novel is set in a mental hospital, only heightens your unease and confusion. 

Without divulging all the details of the book (the less you know when you begin reading, the better), I will say that it's ending will haunt you for weeks after you have stacked the the book away on your bookshelf. Which is why I am so glad that I read it before seeing the film, as the book would have had an entirely different reaction from me had I been aware of the fate of the characters.

You will be hard pushed to find a book that can reverberate inside of you so wildly. You will be challenged to read something that can make you question your own sanity so frantically.

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