Thursday, 17 September 2009

[Strategy #12: Change your blog layout so that you can blog about that, rather than trying to think. If Blogger refuses to make the changes you want, curl up and die or find another strategy.]

[Strategy #17.5: If you can't or won't write a proper blog post, copy your LiveJournal entry from two days ago.]

I've just finished reading I Know This Much is True by Wally Lamb. I wasn't planning on reading it, but a friend of a friend mine said it was unbelievably boring, despite being an Oprah Book Club book that, according to The Times has 'terrific readability'. That struck me as a little paradoxical and I (very self-sacrificially, you may be sure) offered to relieve her of the burden.

I didn't find issues like schizophrenia, broken hearts, abuse and the search for God boring. I nearly stopped reading after a hundred pages because the main characters were more radical than I was comfortable with, but I'm glad I didn't. Lamb resolves the story masterfully, sifting the truth in Dominick Birdsey's life from the lies. The story is unconventional, but far from unbelievable.

The first part of the book shows us how other people have changed Dominick's life: particularly, it shows us the impact of his responsibility for his schizophrenic twin brother. Reading about what Dominick goes through is eye-opening, especially when an acquaintance of his casually uses the term 'schizo'. I've dome that before, but after reading I Know This Much is True, I don't intend to do so again.

Later in the book, Dominick visits his brother's psychologist for his own counselling sessions. A lot of anger and guilt come out. When Dominick admitted that his stepfather had abused him as a child, I expected the result to be retribution. I was surprised when his psychologist rather guided him to releasing his anger. There are definitely times when abuse does need to be reported - like when it's happening now, rather than in the past - but I think Lamb does well to challenge one of society's most ingrained stereotypes. Ray Birdsey messed up, but he's not evil, and by the end of the novel he and Dominick are reconciled.

I Know This Much is True challenged many of my preconceptions. It made me think. Sometimes I decided that I didn't agree with Lamb's take on life; sometimes I did. By the time I'd raced through nine hundred suspenseful pages, I knew myself a little better. That makes for a good book. It comes highly recommended, although with fair warning that it makes at least 'M' (maybe 'MA') using the Fiction Ratings guide.

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