August 26th, 2010

Forget Growing Up - enhancedminds

Book Review - The Wake, Dance With The Devil and Doreen

I've recently finished reading three books and I realise they all have the same theme: loss (whether temporary or permanent) of a child. But before I get into those, a quick word about KareKano.

I first encountered this series in 2001 in my first year at uni. I saw all the anime and then started collecting the manga. Every time I was in London, I would go to Blackwells on Charing Cross Road and buy another volume. Then they disappeared so I had to buy them off Amazon. I just finished reading the last volume. I'm so sad because it feels like the end of my adolescence. I can't believe it's finally over. I'm really happy that we found out what happened to all the characters, even though the story seemed to run out of steam once Arima's family problems were resolved. I honestly think the Arimas may give the Sohmas a run for their money as Manga's Most Dysfunctional Family. Not joking.

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Nine years and I've finally finished. No more Kare Kano. No more Fruits Basket. Anybody got a good manga series to recommend?

The Wake by Jeremy Page. "You remember the things you save. You cannot forget the things you lose." Guy lives on a Dutch houseboat. Every evening he writes his diary. But it is not a diary of his current life. It is a diary of his life as it should be: with his wife by his side and his child alive and well. The exotic journey he imagines for himself in the USA contrasts strongly with his cold, salty day-to-day existence as he sails beside East Anglia, but how long can this double life continue? Tantalised by the possibility of a future with Marta, haunted by his past (and maybe his daughter), Guy must find a way to come to terms with his grief. This book is beautifully written. It is excellent at how grief pervades all corners of life and how some people cling to grief because it is all they know.

Dance With The Devil by David Bagby. Non-fiction (oh, you'll wish it were fiction before the end). If you have seen the film A Letter To Zachary, this is essential reading. For those who have not yet seen this film, this book is about a truly mindboggling real life miscarriage of justice. It is about Andrew Bagby, a promising doctor and a decent man, who was shot in cold blood. The prime suspect, his ex-girlfriend Shirley Turner, fled the USA and returned to her home in Newfoundland. Andrew's parents, barely functioning through the shock and grief of losing their only son in this way, were then confronted with the news that Shirley was pregnant with Andrew's son. They packed up their entire lives and moved to Newfoundland in order to make sure the only remaining piece of Andrew left in the world was not left alone when (surely 'when') Shirley went to jail. But the process of extradition was agonisingly slow. Shirley was set free on bail and the Bagbys were then locked into a sickening process of having to share custody of their only grandchild with the woman who had, in all probability, murdered their son. The Canadian social services did not seem to see this as wrong or dangerous, despite the fact that Shirley was wanted in the USA for pre-mediated murder. For a while, this warped arrangement worked, as the Bagbys suppressed their revulsion for the sake of Zachary and cherished every moment they spent with him. And then the unthinkable happened: Shirley drowned Zachary and herself. Out of this horrible tragedy came the film and this book, which puts a clear and unarguable case for the change of law regarding bail of suspects accused of murder.

Doreen by Barbara Noble. 1941. London is being bombed every night by the Luftwaffe. It is becoming clear to Mrs Rawlings that she cannot in all good conscience let her daughter, Doreen, keep living with her. Forced to admit that the child would be safer in the countryside, she arranges a private evacuation with Helen Osborne, who works in the office that she cleans every morning. Doreen is sent to stay with Helen's brother and sister-in-law. Unable to have children of their own, Geoffrey and Frances are keen to help. Doreen's arrival in the household is a turning point in both her life and theirs. Accustomed to a dingy flat and the urban landscape of East London, Doreen blossoms in the countryside, becoming more and more attached to the Osbornes and their middle-class life, to her mother's dismay. But what is really best for Doreeen? Noble examines each character with clarity and sensitivity. Nobody is a villain or a hero and that there are no simple answers.