The Silver Linings Playbook – Matthew Quick **

When Pat is finally released from ‘the bad place’ he is relieved but also knows that despite his belief in silver linings some things don’t quite add up. Quickly we are introduced to a host of characters, his loving mother, hostile father, a new therapist and mysterious Tiffany. None of this matters to Pat, however, as all he wants is to get his wife Nikki back.

The novel covers Pats recovery and attempts to follow his hope of being reunited with his ‘love’ Nikki but he can’t understand why nobody speaks about her any more and why his therapist won’t let him speak about her and instead steers the conversation to Tiffany. Despite this Pat will not give up and continues his rigorous technique in the hope of finally ending ‘apart time’ and seeing Nikki again.

I felt very uncomfortable with the way people with mental illness were portrayed in the novel. At points they were portrayed as violent, manipulative and selfish. I didn’t feel like this was fair or appropriate. It also showed the characters as ‘broken’ and a clear misunderstanding from all those around them. It would have been nice for someone who is not suffering from mental illness to have understood Pat. I feel that this just adds to the myth that everyone with a mental illness is unstable.

I only give this book two stars. I didn’t feel it was realisitic and frankly it upset me on a personal level. The story seemed to be focused on the erratic thought process of Pat and although this was interesting the character of Tiffany really annoyed me. I wouldn’t recommend this book to any of my friends, it’s not that bad but it doesn’t particularly stand out in my mind.

Looking for Alaska – John Green

One of the things John Green is incredibly good at is making me cry. Not in a personal way, although if I was to meet the incredible man himself I may cry tears of joy. After reading The Fault in our Stars (see the review here, now knows as TFIOS) I ended up discussing it with friends, one of which said to me ‘You have to read Looking for Alaska, you have to’ luckily he had a copy and lent it to me. I was hooked, as will you be.

The novel opens with Miles , a character which I could connect with at first. I wasn’t sure of his quirks, remembering last words? What’s that about? It’s all part of Greens brilliance and something that I can’t reveal to you.  I was slightly sceptical at first, Miles appeared to be a nerdy loner being shipped off to boarding school but for some reason I kept on reading. Before long we are introduced to Colonel and Alaska, a beautiful and complicated girl which often leaves Miles (now nicknamed ‘Pudge’) scratching his head.

Once the other characters had been introduced I couldn’t put it down for my life. I was obsessed with the characters, Alaska in particular. I’d been forewarned that I was going to cry at some point in the book and so I thought I was safe, surely I wouldn’t cry like I did at TFIOS? A note to the girls reading, don’t read and wear make up because you feel like you’re at school with Pudge, Colonel and Alaska. The chapters are a count down which aids your curiosity but I mistakenly thought I knew what would happen. I was far from wrong.

There are reasons why this novel is much more than just Young Adult fiction. Green has created another master piece which isn’t afraid to ask questions bigger than what you would believe. Themes of love, heartbreak, confusion, religion are all explored in a non conventional way and you know what, Green doesn’t treat teenagers as idiots.  The ideas that come alive both ‘before’ and ‘after’ will make you think for days, which as my readers will know in my eyes means its a fantastic book.

It’s hard to believe that this was in fact Greens debut novel, with the great heights he is reaching with TFIOS, this is almost as good. I will give this book 4 and a half stars as it’s definitely going to be read read and will stay on my shelf for a long time.

Philomena – Martin Sixsmith

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A mother and son torn apart and his incredible journey.

 

There has been a fair bit of media attention surrounding the film release of Philomena in the past few months with Judi Dench playing the woman in question. I always like to read the book before I see a film if possible (I’ll be picking up The Railway Man at some point before seeing the film) and so Philomena fit the bill. The book describes the impending story as one of how a mother finds her son who was cruelly taken away. I was more than disappointed when I got into the book after a quite explosive start.

The novel starts with Phillomena’s violent labour, through the eyes of a young nun. The novel then follows her and her young son, Anthony through their time at the nunnery. The novel outlines her horrific conditions young women in Ireland in the 1950s faced, the worst being forced to sign a legal document stating that they will never contact their children again, despite bonding with them for three years. The savage beatings from horrific nuns and at times not being told as your child is simply taken away from you. The scandal of children being sold to Americans could have also been handled better. The novel does have a few unclear perspective changes I warn you, I got terribly confused at points.

I felt quite uncomfortable reading from what was supposed to be Michaels perspective, because it really isn’t.  I don’t feel like we really get either perspective, Michaels or Philomena’s, the book is mostly guesswork from the authors idea of what happened and the memories of others. We will never know what was really felt by Michael and I wonder if we can really appreciate his story in this manner. We will never know how he felt in his relationships with his adopted family, nor will we really know how he felt being a secretive gay man in the republican party at the height of the AIDS scare in the United States.

I desperately wanted to know more about what Philomena does after she leaves the nunnery. As fascinating as Michael’s story was I wanted to know more about the woman who had her heart broken, we are simply left to wonder and don’t meet her again for years. Apparently the book is also called The Lost child of Philomena Lee a much more fitting title than the one currently given because the book only really focuses on Michael’s life. I couldn’t help but notice throughout the novel the awful impression that religion leaves on both mother and son and the lasting effects on both of them.

I give this 2 and a half stars simply because I got very bored with it. It wasn’t really a page turner and I could quite easily put it down and walk away from it. I felt like it was largely based on stereotypes and not always on fact. The ending was also a little disappointing and I’m hoping that the film version could possibly bring the story to life.