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.