2015 · Book Club · Book Reviews · Fiction · Grief

We are All Completely Beside Ourselves, Karen Joy Fowler

22817474Published:  2014 by Serpent’s Tail | Pages: 336 | RAD Book Club Book #1

Meet the Cooke family. Our narrator is Rosemary Cooke. As a child, she never stopped talking; as a young woman, she has wrapped herself in silence: the silence of intentional forgetting, of protective cover. Something happened, something so awful she has buried it in the recesses of her mind.

Now her adored older brother is a fugitive, wanted by the FBI for domestic terrorism. And her once lively mother is a shell of her former self, her clever and imperious father now a distant, brooding man.

And Fern, Rosemary’s beloved sister, her accomplice in all their childhood mischief? Fern’s is a fate the family, in all their innocence, could never have imagined.

Excitingly, this is the first book we decided to read in book club at work! We chose this thanks to a very fair (sort of) poll on doodle sent out to those staff members who wanted to join. I had heard a lot about this book and had ‘almost’ bought it on a number of occasions as I browsed the shelves in Covent Garden’s Waterstones. (Seriously, don’t go in there after you’ve just been paid, you go somewhat hysterical with all the choice…well I do!)

So after all the hype I was ready to be blown away by this book and its content. I was aware that there was a key event pretty early on in this book that effects the readers’ opinion on the narrator and the story. Because of this, my review might seem somewhat generalised as I don’t want to ruin it for other people.

Overall, I thought the character’s were like-able and easy to relate to. However, certain characters could be viewed as simple plot devices; one of these being Harlow. I loved the fact that Fowler employs this full-on, exciting character to act as an extreme against our protagonist Rosemary. Fowler successfully uses Rosemary and Harlow as a somewhat comedic but mostly daring double act. It helps to aid the sense of pace throughout the novel. Rosemary’s brother, Lowell, is a difficult character to really connect with throughout the book, as he’s not a permanent feature in the narrative and tends to pop up, cause chaos, and then disappear. For me, he is a slight enigma, but without ruining the story, I understand why he needs to be in the novel, and his importance in Rosemary’s path to understanding her past.

The most interesting character is, of course, Fern. Again, I can’t say too much on this subject, but I love how she is used as a central force throughout the book. The relationship between her and Rosemary is extremely interesting, and I could just imagine all the amazing parallels you could draw between this sisterly relationship and some literature theories. Seriously, it would be great!

Although I didn’t absolutely adore this book, I am really glad that we got to read it in book group. To be honest, I think discussing this book actually makes it ten times better as you work through any questions you have with other people and their points of view – very interesting! So, I would give this book a 3-4 star rating and definitely recommend as a one off read!

If you would like to see the official review on the RAD Library page, click here!


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