Sunday, August 30, 2009

Book Review #1: Writing Therapy by Tim Atkinson

WARNING: THIS POSTS DISCUSSES LITERATURE AND CONTAINS NO PERCEIVABLE ATTEMPTS AT HUMOUR

Tim Atkinson is one of our number, a blogger who goes by the name of The Dotterel and also writes Bringing up Charlie. He has written a book, which is quite excellent, and which I promised to review here. Now, I don’t have too much time or previous experience, so staff members on the Times Literary Supplement can breathe a sigh of relief, but here goes:

The story centres on a teenage girl who drops out of school and spends all her time reading in the local library. A good idea on many levels: hockey is not an important skill in the job market, (neither are history or geography but I’ll let that pass...) Atkinson somehow manages to understand this girl’s way of thinking – jealousy of her classmates, the failure of communication with her mother, her crush on a male teacher – very well indeed. He’s been a teacher himself and is clearly observant. She then gets admitted to a teenager unit of the local psychiatric hospital, where she meet other kids: self-harmers, bulimic, sex-addicts, fantasists… She has a lesbian relationship with another girl there, described in a direct and non-cringe-worthy manner. There ensues a battle between the “old guard” members of staff and a trainee who encourages her to write as a form of therapy. This fulfils what I take to be the theme of the book, and somehow she manages to avoid the traps of escapism and work her way to a clearer view of her place in the world. The conclusion is sufficiently heart-warming and, most importantly, convincing.

Its book that you keep on wanting to read and read. The subject matter is in and of itself engaging. (From a personal perspective, I had a close family member who also sought to escape the world through the medium of literature, though I don’t think this ever led him to having a lesbian affair.) In addition, the author manages to write it as the teenage girl, a feat he pulls off remarkably well. And it has coded literary references, which one hopes will give young readers inspiration to read further and maybe even write books of their own :-) I hope that it reaches a wider audience - it deserves one.

16 comments:

The Dotterel said...

What a generous (not to say perceptive) review, Gadjo. On this evidence, I think a parallel career writing for the TLS might well be an option. Thank you - very much!

Gorilla Bananas said...

Bravo to him. Quite a feat to get into the mind of a troubled teenage girl. And very sensible to have a bit of lesbian action as well.

Alice Scradcza said...

A course of Arc Welding would have straightened this girl out. Fewer lesbians too.

Scarlet-Blue said...

I think I've read this review on Amazon?
It's on my wish list Mr Dotts, I will be buying it in my next batch.
Sx

Lulu LaBonne said...

Sounds like a great book - congatulations to Mr A.

Gadjo Dilo said...

Dot, no worries, it was a pleasure to read so no thanks are due :-)

Bananas, I mentioned the lesbian action to keep you happy - it's not essential to the plot, but, you know.....

Alice, dear, have you never heard of Rosie the Riveter??

Scarlet, no, I made this up on my own, no cutting and pasting I'll have you know.

Lulu, yeah, here's hoping he can write a second one now he's on a roll.

Mary Ellen said...

I love reading good young adult fiction. One I strongly recommend to you is BEFORE I DIE - By Jenny Downham. Vivid - heartbreaking - beautifully written - a first novel about a young woman with a terminal illness who has to pack a whole lot of growing and living into a few short months.

Kevin Musgrove said...

Nice review Gadjo, and plaudits to Tim, too.


(BTW - I've memed you on the Helminthdale blog)

Gadjo Dilo said...

Mary Ellen, hmm, sounds interesting. I really must read more modern stuff, and Tim's book has inspired me, so I may try the one you suggest.

Thanks, Kevin, I'll try to do the meme, when I understand what a meme is.

Mrs Boyo said...

A word of advice, Gadjo.

Letting No Good Boyo read any sentence that combines the phrases "teenage girl" and "pulls off remarkably well" is liable to cause considerable damage to my soft furnishings.

Gadjo Dilo said...

Mrs Boyo, the morning grows yet lovelier! I wouldn't worry, I don't think Mr Boyo is really in the target audience for this book.

Alice Scradcza said...

Well of course I know Rosie the Riveter - and Wendy the Welder, but neither were lesbians, and nor is my all-time heroine Julie Dean.

Madame DeFarge said...

I am duly instructed as part of my intellectual self-improvement. No more picture books for me.

Gadjo Dilo said...

Alice: Wendy, like Rosie, is a Feminist icon, I'll grant you, but one could do worse, I'm told, if one was also looking for a lesbian icon. Well done indeed to Julie Dean, and how about that (ahem) Jennifer Beals off of Flashdance!

Madame, do you need intellectual self-improvement?? And picture books are a quicker way to knowledge when we get to our age.

martine frampton said...

Thanks for this, it is definitely being added to my 52 books reading list.
best wishes
Martine

Gadjo Dilo said...

Martine, you're welcome, and thanks for your visit - happy reading!