Once again I’m trying to read my way through the MAN Booker longlist. I never quite get there because I always choose the ones that don’t make it to the shortlist, and then when the shortlist rolls around I have to start on those.
This year I started with one of the shortest books, and the cheapest. Two big plusses for MAN Booker reading. My initial choices aren’t even published yet, so getting a paperback at under a fiver is a great start.
We are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler has already won the 2014 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction so it has ticked some of the prize winning boxes. It leads with the tagline “What if you grew up to realise your father used your childhood as an experiment?” That’s an interesting notion, and one that drew me in.
Our heroine has just started college, she’s moving in new circles, meeting new people, and realising that everyone thinks their family is weird. Rosemary knows her family is different, and she doesn’t want to talk about it. She hasn’t seen her sister since she started school, we know there’s a big family secret lurking there.
The first family secret is revealed early on in the book, and boy is it a biggie! From there on in I was gripped. My family is a little odd and sometimes takes some explaining, I’m sure yours is too, but Rosemary’s family is unique.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book, it gave me plenty to think about around what it means to be human, what a family really is, and what lengths people will go to to keep their family safe. There’s more than a little of the unreliable memories and re-imaginings that won Julian Barnes the MAN Booker with The Sense of an Ending, and that works well, encouraging the reader to think through their own childhood memories – was it really like that?
Whilst the ending seemed to come around to quickly, perhaps that as because I was reading so fast, rather than because it really was too neat at the end I’ll leave you to decide.
I don’t think this book will win the MAN Booker, but I do think its worth a read.