Guestpost: We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves Review by Nam H Nguyen

About Nam H Nguyen

Nam H Nguyen is a Melbourne based freelancer. His publications can be found online at The Australia Times magazine and on his personal blog, Scratches and Scribbles. An Australian by birth, Nam is a major in Creative Writing and English literature. He can be found perusing Melbourne’s many laneways blanching at the prices of tea.

Do visit his blog to read more write-ups: www.scratchesandscribbles.com


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 We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves By Karen Joy Fowler

Published 30th May, 2015, by G.P. Putnam’s Sons

ISBN 0399162097 (ISBN13: 9780399162091)

310 pages

Man Booker Prize Nominee (2014)Nebula Award Nominee for Best Novel (2013)PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction (2014),California Book Award Gold Medal for Fiction (2013)John W. Campbell Memorial Award Nominee (2014)

Specsavers National Book Award for International Author of the Year (2014)

“In the phrase ‘ human being,’ the word ‘being’ is much more important than the word ‘human.’ ”

Imagine if your father operated your childhood as a social experiment. That is the life of the younger Rosemary Cooke, a life of the apathetic notes and scientific assertions. Now older, her twin sister, Fern has disappeared and her older brother, Lowell, has run away – leaving her with only her mother and father. Weeks after having finished the novel, I still stare at its cover and her voice still echoes with her grief.

Awkward and lonely, Rosemary hides from many things in life, but she doesn’t shy away from everything – and it’s with this determination, that she won’t lose her parents, or herself too.

Author of the 2004 critically acclaimed Jane Austen Book Club, now a film, Karen Fowler has again brought to us a modern work of art.Interspersed with her natural charm, Rosemary Cooke makes for an endearing protagonist. With such talent that couldn’t be done otherwise, she comes too readers as isolated, and then ordinary – and suddenly she leaves you unique and profound. Now older, her voice she echoes with youthful jubilance, and her intelligence and wit leaves you with observations that you can take with you for life.

It’s this complexity –Rosemary’s voice and Fowler’s skill that reshapes your typical family drama into something more relevant today. Readers would forgive the authorsdiscourse, only because it integrates so seamlessly into the structure of the narrative.

What happens when you remove the word human from human being? That’s what half the people I knoware today. Humans or beings, both aspects are important to the modern representation of humanity. Fowler’s greatest achievement is not her innovation on family drama itself – but rather how she sets about asking questions which otherwise are so heavy handed.

Ultimately, the narrative asks us to accept the reality of the world which we live, but leaves us with emotionally charged knowledge to decide our own.

 “I didn’t want a world in which I had to choose between blind human babies and tortured monkey ones… that’s the sort of choice I expect science to protect me from, not give me.”

It’s through novels like these, where we can ponder a little bit, and put the word ‘human’ back where it belongs – right beside the word ‘being’.

 

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