Sunday 27 April 2014

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler

Rosemary's young, just at college, and she's decided not to tell anyone a thing about her family. So we're not going to tell you too much either: you'll have to find out for yourselves what it is that makes her unhappy family unlike any other. 
Rosemary is now an only child, but she used to have a sister the same age as her, and an older brother. Both are now gone - vanished from her life. 
There's something unique about Rosemary's sister, Fern. So now she's telling her story; a looping narrative that begins towards the end, and then goes back to the beginning. Twice. 
It's funny, clever, intimate, honest, analytical and swirling with ideas that will come back to bite you. We hope you enjoy it, and if, when you're telling a friend about it, you do decide to spill the beans about Fern, don't feel bad. It's pretty hard to resist.

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler was published by Serpent's Tail in hardback on 6 March 2014.

There is no doubt that Karen Joy Fowler is an accomplished author, with some very clever ideas for her plots.  However, I had real difficulty engaging with both the character of Rosemary who narrates We Are All Completely BesideOurselves, and at times struggled to sustain an interest in her story.

The Cooke family are strange, quirky, more than a little eccentric.  Rosemary was brought up with her sister Fern and her brother Lowell; neither of whom are still around.  Her relationship with her scientist parents is stained to say the least, and Rosemary relates the story of the family’s disintegration to the reader.

This is not a straightforward story of arguments and disconnection, and it is not told in a straightforward way.  There is a shocking reveal that will startle the reader and completely change the way that the family is viewed. I struggled with Rosemary’s style of remembrance; starting in the middle, shooting back and forth; it’s both unsettling and difficult to follow.

The story raises questions for the reader. How could scientists involve their children so much in their experiments and not think about the long-term consequences?

The themes of grief and loss are strong throughout this novel, and are expressed very well, but for me, the story was too disjointed and at times a little stiff for me to fully immerse myself into.

My review copy came via the Lovereading Reviewer Panel - to find out more about Lovereading, visit their website

Karen Joy Fowler is the author of six novels and three short story collections. The Jane Austen Book Club spent thirteen weeks on the New York Times bestsellers list and was a New York Times Notable Book. Fowler’s previous novel, Sister Noon, was a finalist for the 2001 PEN/Faulkner Award for fiction. Her debut novel, Sarah Canary, was a New York Times Notable Book, as was her second novel, The Sweetheart Season. In addition, Sarah Canary won the Commonwealth medal for best first novel by a Californian, and was listed for the Irish Times International Fiction Prize as well as the Bay Area Book Reviewers Prize. Fowler’s short story collection Black Glass won the World Fantasy Award in 1999, and her collection What I Didn’t See won the World Fantasy Award in 2011. Fowler and her husband, who have two grown children and five grandchildren, live in Santa Cruz, California.

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