Saturday, 8 March 2014

We are all completely beside ourselves

We are all completely beside ourselves
We are all completely beside ourselves 
Karen Joy Fowler

   This book is a little difficult to talk about, you see there’s a reveal about a major character a little way into the book. I don’t think telling you the reveal would really count as a spoiler seeing as it happens just seventy-ish pages in and is in itself the whole point of the novel, that said I also don’t want to ruin it for those who want the book left unspoiled…
   I’ll give you a brief spoiler free review first, then, if you want to know more I’ll go into more detail in the second half of the review (I’ll only be talking about the initial reveal of the book and won’t be spoiling any of the actual plot points later on, so the review will still be spoiler free for the most part).

   Okay, now that that’s out of the way, we can begin…

   “We are all completely beside ourselves” tells the story of Rosemary, we see her through many points in her life, but mostly during her college years where she struggles to deal with the effects of her broken upbringing.
One day, when she is still a child, her sister disappears, setting off a chain of events that eventually leads to her brother running away from home.

   I enjoyed this book but I found myself unable to fully immerse in it. I found the story a little slight, and, even after pages and pages of psychological evaluations of Rosemary, I still felt she was somewhat underdeveloped as a character, over the course of the novel I never fully felt I had a grasp on her and it was frustrating.
   The writing style was good and I enjoyed the constant jumps through time to various points of Rose’s life, however towards the end I felt the subject matter got a little too preachy, it felt too much like the author’s opinions were being shoved down my throat rather than allowing me to make my own mind up.

   That said, I did enjoy this book and would probably recommend you pick it up, even if I was left wishing I’d enjoyed it more. It’s probably worth reading for the final chapter alone which contains one of the most emotional passages I’ve yet come across...

   Okay, so that’s my spoiler free wrap up, if you don’t want to know anything else about the book I’d suggest you leave now (after leaving your thoughts in the comments of course :D )…

   ….seriously, here be spoilers….

   …you’ve been warned…

   …okay…full review below the page break...

   …so Rose’s sister is a Chimpanzee…growing up, Rose is part of an experiment where she is raised simultaneously alongside a chimp named Fern to study and compare their development. Fern is like a sister to Rose and her (human) brother and a daughter to her Mother and Father.
    I thought a novel dealing with this subject was interesting however I’m not sure I liked how it was handled here.
   The problem with the book is that we’re led to believe that the main story of the novel will emerge during Rose’s college years, as so much emphasis and time is spent on them, however the actual story is the five years she and Fern spent together before Fern disappears spirited off to a mysterious farm somewhere.
   You’re constantly waiting for the return to the college years as, as Rose mentions at the start, her college years are “the middle” of her story. We’re told this several times yet, when we finally do return to college, there’s no time left for much more developments, the actual story of Rose and Fern, already having played out.
   This led to the plot feeling very slight and a little underdeveloped.

   As for the history of Rose and Fern, I found myself at times wishing I wasn’t reading this book and was instead just watching project Nim to see how this experiment played out in real life. It raises a lot of interesting questions but seems reluctant to answer any, at least until the closing chapters where the authors thoughts on these experiments and those like it, are unashamedly hammered in.

   The ending however, will make you cry, it’s a beautiful chapter, delicately written and packed with emotion, I meant what I said when I said it’s worth reading for this chapter alone. It’s a truly heartbreaking moment.

   Overall, it’s not a book I would actively recommend, but it is one I enjoyed in places. There were a few interesting ideas, but the whole book could probably have done with chopping out the college years entirely and focusing the readers attention on the parts of the novel that contained the actual story. 

Karen Joy Fowler

I received this book for review through GoodReads FirstReads

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