Book Review: We Are Completely Beside Ourselves – Karen Joy Fowler

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‘In most families, there is a favourite child…I was our mother’s favourite child’

The story follows Rosemary throughout her life, although on her father’s advice it’s best to start with the middle of the story, and so she does. In the middle of the story it’s 1996 and Rosemary is in college, it’s been years since her sister Fern disappeared completely and she’s done her best to make sure no one even finds out she existed. Fern is not spoken about at home, no pictures hang on the wall, but Rosemary is haunted by the sister she just can’t forget and after being given her mother’s journals she is reminded that she can never really escape her past.

I was looking forward to reading this one because it had a lot of hype surrounding it. The quotes on the front were saying how ‘irresistible’ it was and that the twist was the ‘best in years’. Now I’m a sucker for a good twist and I won’t say that it’s a bad one,it’s just not great. The twist takes over the whole novel, meaning that not only is it hard to review but it’s also kind of boring. There is also the issue of how the novel weaves in and out of different times, at points it’s hard to remember what point of the story it is and where the characters are at this point.

There does seem to be an underlying ethical issue which kind of takes over the entire book, it’s an interesting argument and I definitely think twice about my shopping habits as a result of reading it, but it gets a little boring after a while. While I agree with the idea that is being put across, I also got bored of this ethical issue being shoved in my face constantly while I was trying to read and get involved with the characters.

I don’t know if it’s intentional but Fowler has made a lot of the characters distant and unloveable. From the beginning there was something I didn’t like about the family dynamic and something I really didn’t trust about Rosemary. The descriptions of her father went from one extreme to the other at one point he is a kind and caring man, the other he’s very strange and easy to hate. I felt like I couldn’t relate to any of the characters that much, which is upsetting because they were well written.

I’ve given this three stars ***, although it wasn’t badly written the ‘twists and turns’ were all just very underwhelming. At times it felt like the novel was building to something fantastic only to be let down, it seemed to me that by the end of the novel Fowler has just run out of steam and come up with a safe ending, which was quite boring to me. I don’t think this was a book for me but I know other people who I think would enjoy it, it’s possibly because when I read the word ‘twist’ I think it’s going to be earth shattering, which unfortunately this twist was not.

Chloe’s Book Haul – June 20th

If there’s one thing I cannot resist it’s offers on books, wherever I can get my hands on them bookshops, car boot sales, charity shops, online, Kindle books, you name it. While I like libraries and they were certainly important when I was younger, I love having my own books. I had two books to exchange and a £10 voucher for Waterstones, so of course I had a little buying spree today. I got six books in today’s haul, mostly on buy one get one half price and another book from Amazon that I ordered a few days ago.
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All the Light We Cannot See – Anthony Doerr

This novel was recommended to me by a bookseller a while ago, he had just finished reading it and said it was incredible. The novel is set in World War Two (one of my favourite settings) and it’s protagonists are a young Hitler Youth and a Blind Girl on the run with her father, I’m intrigued. I’m interested to see how Doerr presents a blind persons perspective, it’s exciting and is probably part of what sold the book to me!
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The Bone Clocks – David Mitchell 

The Bone Clocks has a stunning cover, which it what initially caught my eye. There wasn’t much information about the novel on the back but after a quick search it sounded worth picking up. If this isn’t interesting enough, I don’t know what is ‘Holly is no typical teenage runaway: a sensitive child once contacted by voices she knew only as “the radio people,” Holly is a lightning rod for psychic phenomena.’ I’m taking a total risk with this novel, I’ve never heard anything about it but I’m really hoping it’s something great.

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The Following Girls – Louise Levene 

I picked this up because it sounded fun but seemed to have a heart. Set in the 1970s with a 16 year old protagonist who seems like a normal teenager and possibly a little lost. According to the front cover the Sunday Telegraph called it ‘acidic social satire’, sounds good to me!

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We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves – Karen Joy Fowler 

I have hear a lot about this novel. It’s been everywhere, recommended by everyone and involves one of my favourite things in literature, complex relationships. I hate the ‘normal family’ because frankly it doesn’t exist so knowing that this novel is about a whole family (although only narrated by one of them) drew me in as well as it’s raving reviews. I hope it lives up to the hype.

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Bonjour Tristesse – Françoise Sagan

Another ‘wildcard’ I had to pick another on buy one get one half price, it was at the till point and all I was told was that it was good and ‘very French’. So let’s see…

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Funny Girl – Nick Hornby 

Another recommended read. Again I’ve heard a lot of good things and haven’t read much of Hornby and I might be going to a reading of his this week so I thought I might as well pick it up. I was also surprised to learn he studied at Kingston University, so hopefully I’ll enjoy it.

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How To Be a Woman – Caitlin Moran

Now I read this when I was a young teenager and hated it, but now I think I didn’t really understand it, not properly at least. Now I’m going to be studying it or partly at least and I’ve watched some of her youtube videos, so let’s try again.