Yesterday I shared with you Clare Fisher’s guest post on self-acceptance and it was a piece I asked her to write considering that it was mentioned as a theme in her debut novel. Huge thanks to the publisher, and Josie, for finding my blog and sending me a copy of the book (Plus a nifty themed notebook). My review is not affected by this. I will share my honest opinion below.
I gave the book the somewhat arbitrary rating of 4.5 stars on Goodreads. I struggle with giving numbers but do it anyway?! I tend to not be a reviewer who rounds up half stars either and reserve my 5 stars for something Je Ne Sais Quois. Do you know what? I think I need to come up with my own qualitative rating scale. I really can’t stand numbers. But other people look at them and … anyway. Back to the book.
This is an accomplished debut. Clare has succeeded in creating a character in Beth that is so flawed, so complex, so bloody human that I have a million different thoughts about her. Good books change you, and I think reading books means different things to you at different points in time when you read them. When I read this again, which I hope to, who knows how my thoughts will change.
If you’ve read reviews of mine before you might be aware that I don’t always write about things like the use of language and other objective stuff. I write about how the book affects me. That’s because to me reading is about emotion. About ideas and stories and it is about how it connects with me. I can make objective statements about books but I prefer to make subjective ones. Because you know what. My opinion will never be the same as anyone else’s. I break one of the cardinal rules of reviewing but it’s my blog so *pokes tongue out.
Back to Beth. She is 21. She’s in prison. She refers to a bad thing that she has done. Her counsellor Erika asks her to write down all of the good things in her life.
I loved how the chapter titles were the summary of the good things, and especially that one is left blank. It was such a clever device and structured the book so well.
We hear from Beth’s point of view in first person narration. We are limited to her view but we can see outside it. Can read between the lines. So clever. I love how she talks. I love that she’s a reader. Booky people are just awesome.
But Beth thinks she isn’t awesome. Beth has done something bad and bad people don’t deserve to be happy. Except that there are rarely, if ever, truly truly bad people, we are a product of genetics and circumstance. And Beth doesn’t have the best lot in life.
Does that excuse the bad thing?
Does that make the bad thing understandable?
Does it mean she never deserves a moment of happiness? Never deserves good things?
Crime and punishment is such an interesting topic and as an Occupational Therapist who has studied Psychology, Sociology and of course Occupation I am so interested by this. Hate the act. Hate the outcome. Try to understand the person.
So. Why didn’t I give it 5 stars? Reading my review I don’t really know. I hope Clare won’t mind being tagged in this review because I’m going to be honest. It just didn’t. I did kind of guess the bad thing early on – not that it truly mattered really except in that I felt it was made up to be such a big thing that it felt slightly anticlimactic. And you know what. That was possibly the point.
I also felt it ended a little abruptly and with lots unanswered. Again this isn’t at all a bad thing and wanting more is the sign of a good book.
In summary, if you’ve actually read my waffle (well done if you have – please let me know somehow), if you are interested in humanity, in why good people do bad things or why bad people do good things, in how you define good and bad. Read this book. I hope you won’t regret it.
I think I’m going to use my branded notebook to write about All the Good Things in my life. Because there really is some shit at times. But even with the shit there is some good, and that’s what we need to find. The glimmer of hope.
Clare. Thank you for your glimmer.