Sybil … a review

Written by Flora Rheta Schreiber, this book has been on my TBR for years. In fact, it has been on that list since I read Sidney Sheldon’s Tell Me Your Dreams, which is fiction, based on similar fact. Sybil is the story of a young woman, who has Dissociative Identity Disorder, and has 16 separate identities.

The book is her account as told by Schreiber, who was an academic consult on the case, in association with her therapist. What is notable about this case is that it was a milestone moment for research and further study of DID as a significant mental illness. Before Sybil’s case apparently, it was disproved by some as not a real illness and more of an excuse for criminals to get out of confessions!

Even though this book is non-fiction, the events and episodes described in it are so bizarre that it reads like a fast paced thriller. Understandably, the book is also controversial, with many accusing the therapist of wrongfully diagnosing Sybil’s mother (who was not a patient) and also of the author making millions at the expense of Sybil.

However, all things considered, I’d like to think that highly specialised cases such as this deserve a retelling, to rally public support to fund more research and perhaps help more victims. If it has achieved that, then at least there is some good. I am really glad I finally got around to reading it, and I wasn’t disappointed in the least!

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Under the Harrow … a review

This book by Flynn Berry was a quick read. I picked it up because it was on a list with Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train. The novel is about a girl who is about to go visit her sister, but when she gets there, finds her sister and her dog both brutally murdered. I enjoyed how the author had described the crime scene very graphically, I do like that in crime novels, it sets a strong scene.

Turns out, the sister Rachel had also been brutally attacked in the past (and nearly died) but the perpetrator was never caught. The book is then the protagonist’s attempts to find her sister’s killer. And in true, crime fiction style, there are cops with personal issues of their own. Rachel’s past begins to surface, and we find that not a lot of people knew many things about her and many suspects with strong motives begin to emerge.

Overall, the book did not impress me. I found the revelations from the past rather predictable (perhaps I have been reading too much in the genre)! I also found the ending rather bland. The initial excitement of the plot did not carry through and the repeat crime sub-plot quickly lost steam. So I’d give this one a miss if I were you, but it isn’t a very long read either way, so it was okay.

The Girl who Takes an Eye for an Eye … a review

This book is the latest in the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Millennium) series. Of course, since the original author died suddenly, the farnchise has been picked up by David Lagercrantz. And I have to say, I am impressed by how well the new author has retained the ferocity and charm of the main protagonists Blomkvist and Lisbeth Salander. The storyline continues on from the previous book, and picks up with Salander’s latest circumstances in a women’s high security prison in Sweden.

Readers will come to love the old familiarity of well known characters. As Blomkvist continues to get involved, sometimes willingly, in Salander’s troubles, the plot thickens. This time, it is complete with the involvement of two other storylines, that eventually merge as Salander uncovers more horrific truths about her past.

The series is so well-written, I have always said, that when I finally visit Sweden, I will be sure to look over my shoulder nervously, as if crime awaits at every step. For now though, I have to content myself with nordic noir. I must add that now, I also see Lisbeth as Rooney Mara in my head, although Blomkvist isn’t quite Daniel Craig. Have you watched the movie? Have you read this series? I do recommend both, if you are a fan of fast-paced thrillers.

The Memory Keeper’s Daughter … a review

I had heard a lot about this book so when I chanced upon it, I picked it up. It was meant to be a travel read, and it is a good size and weight for that. So if you are going away on holiday this summer and want something interesting, I would recommend this book.

The plot hinges on Dr. David Henry, who lies to his wife and tell her that one of their twins, a daughter, was stillborn. In reality, she had Down’s and he gave her away to the nurse to put in a home. The nurse Caroline, couldn’t bear it however, and decides to raise the child herself. The plot is a bit too iffy. There are too many coincidences and the fact that Mrs Henry is totally obsessed in her grief but manages to mother her son and have a life anyway (however grudgingly) is a bit strange. She also questions her husband surprisingly less in the initial year after her daughter’s death, even though she cannot get past it.

But, but, once you get past all that, and assume the plot is a given, the portrayal of the fragility of relationships is actually brilliant. The slow decay of the Henry marriage, the dysfunctional family unit for Paul – the surviving child, the evolving relationship of Mrs Henry and her sister, the secret between Caroline and Dr Henry, and the struggles of Caroline with her ‘dauhter’ Phoebe are all excellently handled. Life can sometimes be stranger than fiction and the various people in their individual journeys are well-bound by this strange secret – a disabled child.

The treatment of peoples’ past as well is nicely written and you can see how each character’s past shapes their thoughts and behaviour. This is generally always true for good books, but this one is particular was standout. Down’s children as well are very precocious  in some ways and through Phoebe, those sentiments are nicelyconveyed. Overall, I really enjoyed this book and I can see why there was a hype about it.

Eyes Like Lighthouses When the Boats Come Home … a review

I’ve taken a long time to write this one up. But it is a book of poems, so my excuse is that I read it in fits and bursts, on my commute as well as in bed, savouring it slowly. When Dane Cobain, the poet, asked me to review it, I expected something, I don’t know what the word for it is, traditional. But this book has been a pleasant surprise on that front. Allow me to elaborate by using some examples.

There’s no such thing as a gentleman

anymore;

just men and women

stumbling through life

in the same way they always have.

Welcome to society,

our capitalistic, gender-neutral

society;

we are all equal

in our misery.

I thought these lines were beautiful, but sad, accepting, but rebellious. It is the harsh reality of our times, put quite in a brutally honest way. I haven’t read something like this for a while. Read this

Then the web hit its terrible teens

and we signed up en masse

to Facebook, Twitter, YouTube,

Pinterest, LinkedIn, Instagram, Snapchat

and WhatsApp,

and now our fragmented entities

are just stressful lives

lived out in public;

mass hallucinations and delirium

pulling us together and

pushing us apart.

Another set of lines that struck a chord for me. But it is not just the online world that Cobain rips apart. It is everything from religion to region, with a good measure of myth and mystery. Some of it is also very personal, very intimate, like having a drink with the poet and the things he might let spill over it.

I’ll leave you with a small set of lines which could be quite controversial, but are especially relevant with so many upcoming referendums and elections.

If Britain

is only for the British,

then I’m no longer

British.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I have a soft corner for poetry and Cobain weaves his frustrations with the modern world deftly into stanzas which come across as masterfully crafted.

 

A Thousand Acres … a review

I read this book by Jane Smiley for three reasons. It came recommended by my friend Liz, who knows my style well. I also had to read something for the April Motif Challenge, which was Read a book that has won recognition or a literary award’, which this book has. It won the 1992 Putlizer. And the final reason was that I hadn’t read anything set in America for a while. And I was thoroughly impressed!

This books spans the lives of three sisters of the Cook family. Their father, Larry Cook, is an ageing farmer who decides to incorporate his farm, handing complete and joint ownership to his three daughters, Ginny, Rose, and Caroline. When the youngest daughter objects, she is removed from the agreement. I loved this part of the novel, where this event sets off a chain of long lost dark truths and forgotten lies. As a family, their true dysfunctionality comes to light. There is some very dark bits to be unearthed as well, which I wont speak of here because that would spoil it for you if you wanted to read it. There is also a subplot around the eldest daughter Ginny and her troubled marriage and difficulties in bearing a child.

What I was interested to know was that this is a modern day retelling of Shakespeare’s King Lear. Now, to be honest, I think I read that play over ten years ago and I cannot remember anything. But this book has meant that I will have to go an reread that again, now. So while I go and do that, you be sure to pick this one up.