Book #43

Poppy Shakespeare by Clare Allan

Who is mad? Who is sane? Who decides? Welcome to the Dorothy Fish, a day hospital in North London! N has been a patient here for thirteen years. Day after day she sits smoking in the common room, swapping medication and comparing MAD money rates. Like all the patients at the Dorothy Fish, N's chief ambition is never to get discharged. Each year when her annual assessment comes round, she is relieved to learn that she hasn't got any better. Then in walks Poppy Shakespeare in her six-inch skirt and twelve-inch heels. She is certain she isn't mentally ill and desperate to return to her life outside. Though baffled by Poppy's attitude, N agrees to help. Together they plot to gain Poppy's freedom. But in a world where everything's upside-down, are they crazy enough to upset the system?

There really wasn't much in this novel that I could say I enjoyed.

It's narrated by a day-patient of the Dorothy Fish, a mental institution in London. She writes in exactly the same way you'd imagine her to speak, and this took a lot of getting used to, particularly her constant use of the phrase "would of/could of" instead of the proper "would have/could have". This is blatant nit-picking, of course, since it's not Allan's language, but the narrator's. Still, I was really annoyed, and the voice I hear inside my head when I read couldn't quite come to grips with the accent.

There was some good humour in the book, the narrator, 'N', was such a character and I particularly enjoyed it when she insulted people by "showing them the back of my head." I do feel that the constant repetitions, although they managed to convey N's apparent madness, got tiring in places. I found my eyes to be glazing over more than once as I was trying to wade through the drivel.

The ending was very, very disappointing and didn't make much sense to me. In fact, the entire novel didn't much a great deal of sense to me, and was a small step away from nonsense the entire time.

In all, this was a confusing book that I'm still trying to get my head around. It was a lovely idea in theory, but I really think it's been very badly executed. There is, however, a television adaptation available on 4od which I haven't seen as of yet, but which I've heard quite good things about. I just wouldn't recommend the book.

43 / 66 books. 65% done!