We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves
I think it's fair to say that I have read far less books this year then I would have normally by this time of year. But, it's also pretty fair to say that on the whole I've read very few books I didn't enjoy which is an improvement upon previous years.
'We Are All Completely Besides Ourselves' follows this years pattern. Shortlisted for this years Booker Prize, for my part I was completely seduced by the attention grabbing title, it was always pretty much a certainty I was going to give it a try. And I thought it was great.
Told from the point of view of Rosemary Cooke who begins her story in the middle before concluding it around present day, she once had two siblings : Fern and Lowell. Fern disappeared when she was 5, to be barely spoken of again. Lowell ran away in his teens, and she hasn't seen him since either.
There is so so much I'd like to say about this book, a lot of things I'd like to debate, mostly in reference to their parents and the nearly criminal level of psychological damage their choices inflicted on their children. Unfortunately, I'm loathe to do so. A twist comes roughly a third of the way in, which makes it near impossible to review without absolutely wrecking the beginning.
This is exactly what happened to me - An Amazon review gave this away, and so I already knew. The thing was, too, that as I read it I knew that far from guessing the twist I would have made (possibly from what life experiences I bring to the book as a reader) entirely different assumptions.
Because I can't really talk about the plot, what I will say is that I found Rosemary as a character incredibly believable, even with the uniqueness of her life and the circumstances, I felt like if I'd had her life I'd be like her too. If anything there is not enough of either Lowell, or the parents, possibly because it's being narrated from Rosemary's viewpoint. If the narrator had been omniscient or if each character had taken a turn this might have been better, but this would have really changed the feel of the book and consequentially made it a different book. It's just there's a lot more I wanted to know, and hoped the mothers' journal would reveal but it didn't.
I think I expected it to be a funny book, indeed it's described as comic, but I thought it was incredibly sad. There were parts of brilliantly observed and astute points about life and family, and being a human in general. In fact, I enjoyed the writing so much, I will certainly seek out her other novels. Though the chronology of the storytelling occasionally feels fractured it wasn't really to its detriment.
Also, in the general scheme of things, the originality in terms of plot here is inarguable and it is genuinely good as a reader to have a book that you can't even slightly accuse of being a tale you might have read something like before.