Last year my friends and I decided to start a book club (I even posted about it here). But like most grand plans made over far too many glasses of wine our poor little book club never really got off the ground. Most of us did actually go out and buy the books but never all at the same time so when we finally met up one evening in early May we couldn't even discuss one book unanimously so all efforts were abandoned in favour of some more of that pesky vino.
So from here on out I am going to use C'est la Vie Style as my Book Club outlet and hopefully get some friends to join in along the way.
We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler
First up is We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler which was shortlisted for The Man Booker Prize last year and received shed loads of praise by much more authoritative people than me. My friend Claire actually chose this particular book for our failed book club; as a massivebook worm herself she had previously read Fowler's The Jane Austin Book Club and loved her style of writing. After only a few pages into We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves I could see what appealed to Claire and no doubt so many of Fowler's loyal fans. Her quick wit and razor sharp lines come flying at you in such an inimitable way that you can't but be impressed, not to mention jealous, I would give my right arm to write like her (although this would slow down the writing process; good thing speed isn't my main problem...).
The book itself is actually not the easiest to review because of quite a big reveal almost a third of the way through which a bit like Santa and the Tooth Fairy I feel it only fair for you to find out for yourselves. But a bit like the latter the quicker kids will get the twist before Fowler spells it out. Now as one of the slower kids I didn't 'get' it before this and the shock and 'how did I not realise??' feelings left me fairly elated to a point at which I would never reach again whilst reading We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves.
The story is full of near elation but never quite hits the mark, a devious ploy by Fowler no doubt as a reminder that life is pretty dull and mediocre at the best of times. This story, although of interesting subject matter, is no grand love story, murder mystery or page turning thriller. It does have small elements of all these things, all told in such a way that pages do get turned very quickly, but the book has no master plan of grandeur; those things are for dreamers like the mother in the book who "wanted to have an extraordinary life". She did, but like most people, she didn't think she did.
The main story of the book revolves around protagonist Rosemary and her strained relationship with her parents, her long lost sister and brother who both abandoned her to a life of being an only child and her new college friends. We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves begins as Rosemary heads off to college to seemingly escape her past and start off where no one knows her, her family or their unconventional past. Her path quickly crosses with drama major and embodiment Harlow who after only knowing for five minutes has Rosemary locked up with her in county jail.
Further scenes of debauchery ensue with ecstasy fuelled nights on the town with a Madame Defarge puppet and blasts from the past Rosemary wished Harlow would keep her hands off. But in between all the action we are continuously brought back to Rosemary's past, each flash back and strewn memory bringing us closer to the truth, or what she believes to be the truth. Like all of us Rosemary questions her memories, their validity and how she has shaped them to her liking. As her parents and brother Lowell's viewpoints come in and out of the story it is impossible not to question the reliability of Rosemary's narrative.
The one thing this book gives you, if not total admiration for Fowlers amazing writing style, imagination and humour, is a real sense of closure. I can't recall another book I have read recently which ties up all loose ends and spans a few decades of time so effortlessly. It really is a very fulfilling read, one you will find hard not to fly through, even if it's just to get to the big reveal but once you're there, you'll be hooked.
Next book club read: The Rosie Effect by Graeme Simsion