Rosemary's started college, and she's decided not to tell anyone about her family. 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 was something unique about Rosemary's sister, Fern. You'll have to find out for yourself what it is that makes her unhappy family unlike any other.
©2014 Karen Joy Fowler (P)2014 W F Howes Ltd
"A dark cautionary tale hanging out, incognito-style, in what at first seems a traditional family narrative. It is anything but." (Alice Sebold)
Nothing could have surprised me more than the experience of listening to this story. Highly suspicious of being bludgeoned into supporting any cause unwittingly, it was nonetheless extraordinarily fine to be pushed into uncomfortable places by the writer on numerous occasions.
Crafting together family dysfunction with wry humour and the inescapable tragedy it engenders in yet another way is a real accomplishment. Being human. What a gift, too often squandered.
The actor 's voice often threatened to make the tone far, far too sombre but on reflection, it seems appropriate.
This is an extraordinary book that deserved to win the Booker - it will stay with you long after its finished - told with humour and wit, and giving insight into how we might be, if we'd been raised only a little differently. A reflection on our place in the world.
"Ignore idea of a 'twist' for more satisfying read"
I would; I think Fowler is a very talented writer, but this subject possibly obliges her to write in great slabs of 'reported' events, which tend to nullify some moving writing.
I think the ending goes some way to recovering the previous two-thirds of book. It justifies Fowler's approach, but it doesn't quite rescue it.
I wouldn't seek her out. The marriage of her somewhat stoner monotone with the psychologically distant and unreliable narrative made for quite a dreary listen. There were quite a lot of mispronunciations too, which may indicate the product was rushed a little.
It inspired me to look into how far companies were go in securing the safety and effectiveness of their products. A vexed and emotive area indeed.
This book has largely been promoted on its 'twist' on page 77; I strongly recommend you don't see this as a twist, but as a necessity in getting the reader to look at the subject in a particular way, i.e. by dropping their prejudices. That's not a twist, and the book doesn't benefit from looking at it as one.
"Worth sticking with"
Second half of the book much more engaging than the first. Tearjerker for me and certain paragraphs I had to skip for tears.
"Thought provoking and gripping"
I adored this book. It encapsulated me in so many ways. I was sad to finish it! A must read.
"Terrible delivery, but reasonably worthwhile book"
I was initially deeply dismayed by the narrator's voice and style. It's the worst flat nasal American, almost entirely devoid of inflection. She's reading, rather than bringing it to life. As a result, some of the writing - particularly where a story or characterisation nuance turns on an inflected word - gets flattened and lost. There's also no attempt to differentiate voices, occasionally leading to some confusion on my part over who was speaking.
But once you get past this (and you do tune it out after a while; maybe it's in keeping with the narrator's age) the book is worthwhile. Not hugely, though... I still don't get why it was Booker-longlisted - it's a sort of B-minus piece, rather than the A* I expect from the Booker longlist. It's inventive, reasonably imaginative, and it has a kind of American college-kid angst bordering on depression that calls to mind Douglas Coupland and J. D. Salinger. And the title is clever - I liked the way it changed its meaning as the story progressed. It begins with a reference to an early episode with the children playing in the snow, 'beside themselves' with delight, but later comes to indicate the way that they are all 'beside themselves' with more negative emotions - rage, in Lowell's case, numbness in Rosemary's.
It's an engaging idea - and for all my criticism, my heart bled for Rosemary, Lowell and Fern, the three central characters - but as a piece of writing, it could have been more thoughtfully delivered. Having Rosemary narrate it from a single temporal point of view - her college career - bypasses the opportunity to narrate earlier memories from an earlier point of view, making her more complex as a character and aligning her more with her 'sister', Fern. This is not a first novel, but it has a lot of first-novel feel about it. For instance, there's too much 'putting in a bit of past history' just immediately before she needs to refer to it in the present, making it seem as if she's not in control of her material - although it's not a complex plot.
"Fab story beautifully told"
Very thought provoking story I was sad to finish it as I enjoyed it so much I wanted to learn more! Highly recommend!
"Utopia is not utopia for everyone."
I will not discuss the plot or the theme just the merits of this book.
it is as beautiful as it is sad; it is not as funny as it is real which can be funny at time. it is brutally honest, I would say painfully so; perhaps the most honest book about us the contemporary us, humanity us, western science, money driven society and yet it is a book about a family a nuclear family is all the senses you can get out of that word.
It explores language and communication and question their very essence. But mostly it is about regret and love and the power they have in our lives.
I loved the reader in this book, she was natural and created believable voice characters.
really enjoyed this book would definitrly revommend it. Perhaps initoally hard to get into but well worth hanging on. Good discussion at our book club about the like ability of characters, memory & early development in formative years effects later relationships. Split opionion aboit the ending amongst the group.
"A beautifully told , touching story."
I loved it. I could feel the pain of the story teller. My tears flowed and my heart was heavy.
"Amazing, moving and a must read"
It was a completely raw tale told straight from the heart with no hiding behind fancy lines
The twist in the story that makes it so memorable
The last where Fern & Rosie are re-united
Yes, the tale was so compelling, I just wanted to go on
I struggle to say how much I enjoyed this book. I gained huge inside into myself and other animals
"Avoid avoid avoid!"
I'm not sure which was more dull, the story or the narration. This book should come with a warning hazard: might cause drowsiness! Save your credit and give it a miss. The central character is so boring, endlessly navel gazing about her lost "sister". But the brutal truth is the loss has no impact on the reader. In fact, once you've discovered the sister's secret the story becomes vaguely laughable, ridiculous even. I wanted to shake "Rosie" and shout "grow up! You're bleating about NOTHING." Ok, rant over, save to say that Katherine Mangold's narration is ear bleedingly awful.
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