Tuesday, 30 December 2014

The Shock Of The Fall

Most of the people who attend the book club had finished the book but some found it a very confusing read, others felt that it was a bit boring and didn't hold their attention. This may have been because they felt that the characters weren't very well developed, this may have been as a consequence of the narrator and his mental health issues. Having said that everyone loved the character of Nanny Noo, we felt that she was very accepting of Matt's mental health issues and how he choses to act things out. She doesn't seem to judge him which we felt that a lot of the other characters seem to do.

As we are a hospital based book club some of the members work with people in mental health departments which allowed us some insight into how the drugs that Matt would have to take would affect him. This gave us an added depth of understanding of why he might chose not to take the drugs as they make people feel sick, and foggy. This is compared to how they might feel when they aren't taking the drugs, which may mean that they do things they don't mean to but at least they feel well while doing them.

We discussed why we thought he may have developed schizophrenia, maybe it was due to the shock of the fall, or perhaps it was a genetic influence. During the course of the book we see that Matt's mother has definite problems with regards depression, possible Munchausen syndrome by proxy when she takes Matt repeatedly to the doctor for trivial or even no reason.

As we have already read a book recently about a fictional mental health department in the US for children who harm themselves and others which treated each child individually and with great care we found it depressing to read about Matts experience. He seemed to be left to his own devices a great deal of the time and merely spent it smoking and sleeping. We weren't sure if this was simply his remembrances of this situation which are tainted by his issues or whether the department was trying to give him as little stimulation as possible to stop him having any adverse reactions. This wasn't made clear.

The ending felt very optimistic, we think that Matt may have gained some control over his issues by accepting them and accepting the fact that he needs to take medication and be watched over for his own safety. We also felt that he had accepted his brothers death and now knows that he wasn't entirely responsible for the things that happened. This means that he will have to let go of his schizophrenic connection to his dead brother, but he seems to be able to do this at the end of the book. As with a lot of mental health issues this may not be the case permenantly.

Overall we gave this book 5 out of 10.

The Shock of the Fall - Questions

Hello everyone,

Please don’t forget that it’s book club tomorrow, and also don’t forget to bring along your allotted pot-luck item. If you weren’t given an item to bring and will be coming along tomorrow let me know what you would like to bring along.
Here are some questions for you to have a think about:

•    Why does Matthew need to tell his story? Is the act of writing a cathartic process?
•    How does Matthew portray life in the psychiatric ward? Were you shocked by any of the descriptions?
•    In Matthew’s invitation to Aaron and Jenny, he writes ‘I’m really sorry if I’ve got your name wrong. Part of me thinks it’s Gemma. Please forgive me if I got it wrong. Not making excuses, but I am a schizophrenic.’ Is this an indication that Matthew hascome to terms with his illness? Why does he joke about it?

See you all tomorrow!

The Book Thief

Most of the people at this meeting had finished the book but some were struggling with it. Interestingly two people at the meeting had also watched the film so were able to add this viewpoint to the discussion.

We discussed the fact that Death narrates the book, we felt that this gave it an interesting angle rather than seeing things through say Rudy or Leisels viewpoint. It was interesting that Death gave large hints about when people might be dying, often quite far in advance of the event. Some people liked this as it meant they could focus on the rest of the book rather than just the deaths. Other people didn't enjoy this as they liked the element of not knowing and having surprises through the book. Interestingly some people took a while to realise that Death was narrating rather than any of the other characters.

There is a lot of imagery in the book, especially from Death regards the colours he sees when collecting souls. Some of the book club really enjoyed this and felt it really added to the book. Others felt that while some of the imagery was interesting it did have a tendency to become a little too much at some points, causing confusion as to what Death meant.

We had a quick discussion as to how we saw Death managing to collect all the hundreds and thousands of souls during this particularly death ridden time. Some saw him as growing slowly larger and carrying more and more souls, others felt that he must move incredibly fast collecting one or two at a time. Interestingly we never find out where the souls eventually end up, just that Death pulls them from the dead bodies and collects them.

Some of the characters in this book really spoke to some of the book group, especially Mama and Papa. We felt that Mama, despite her gruff exterior, really loved both Papa and Leisel with all her heart, she just happened to have built a wall around her heart to protect it a little. We liked that this book showed the quieter ways that the German people tried to help the Jewish people rather than the big brash heroic ways that other books try to show. This felt more realistic to us. We also talked about how the people in the book felt different kinds of guilt, mostly to do with surviving when others had died, often in order to save them. They all reacted differently to their feelings of guilt, either trying to do good things because that must be the reason they survived, or wanting to do bad things to the people who caused their guilt, or simply trying to live a normal life.

One thing that we felt was missing was more information about the books mentioned in this story. Given that this is called The Book Thief we felt that it would have been nice to be given more background on the significance of the books, or even references at the end so the reader could also share the books that Leisel stole.

Overall we gave this book 8 out of 10.