Book Review: James Rice – Alice & the Fly

I read this book for the Waterstone’s book club. It was not a book that I would normally pick up, but I’m glad I did.

Overview:

“This is a book about phobias and obsessions, isolation and dark corners. It’s about families, friendships, and carefully preserved secrets. But above everything else it’s about love. Finding love – in any of its forms – and nurturing it.”

This is a book about a young man called Greg. He is afraid of them and has panic attacks whenever he seems them. He doesn’t fit in at school. On the outside his has the perfect suburban family. Dad is a plastic surgeon, mum does hairdressing on the side but mainly stays at home to look after the family and his sister is obsessed with dancing.

Greg is different to his family. He enjoys classic movies, he seals every crack in his room to prevent them from getting in. Greg falls in love with a girl at school. He wants to run away with her and look after her. Protect her. Unfortunately, love never works out that way.

I am now going to answer the discussion questions that were included at the end of the book.

  1. The Social disparity between Skipdale and The Pitts sets the scene for the novel. Why do you think this is important?

I think this is important because it shows how people on both ends of the spectrum live. I think it’s important to show the environment Greg was raised in comparison to Alice so that we can see just how different their lives are and how the only reason they met is because of school.

2.  What motivates Greg to tell his story?

I think Greg wanted everyone to understand how he felt about Alice and the fact that to him it was real. He did have feelings for Alice even though he didn’t display them in the conventional way.

3. Did this novel contribute to your understanding of phobias?

Yes definitely. It made me realise that my phobias are just the tip of the iceberg in comparison to what some people suffer with. It made me understand just how horrible a phobia can be and how awkward it can make your everyday life.

4. Greg’s parents are fixated on projecting a perfect image. How does this contrast to the reality of their situation?

Greg’s dad is a plastic surgeon and his mum spends her time perfecting each room of the house so that she can impress the right people. I think they do as a coping mechanism. They know Greg has a mental illness and that Sarah (Greg’s sister) has an eating disorder, but they want the outside world to think they have the perfect family life. In order to do this, they try and socialise with all the right people and create the appearance of a perfect family life.

5. Can we see Greg’s obsession with classic Hollywood films influencing his own outlook on life and on romance in particular?

Yes. I think Greg thinks that romance and being in love should be dramatic with a happy ending where the couple run off together. I think he expects relationships to be like those in the films and doesn’t realise that in the real world, relationships are a lot more complicated then that.

6. Do you feel sympathy for Greg’s mother?

Honestly? No. I feel like she hasn’t done enough to support Greg. I understand that she had to put Sarah first after the incident but I feel like Greg was just an inconvenience sometimes and she didn’t know what to do or how to help him. She was too busy trying to show everyone how perfect her life was that she forgot about her son.

7. How far do you think the author has used Greg’s social alienation to expose intricate truths about our modern lives?

I think James has shown how easy it is to become alienated and live in a fantasy world. It so easy for someone to go days or weeks without talking to another person. To build up a fantasy of how they would like things to be until eventually you start to believe more in the fantasy world then you do in reality.

8. Sarah accuses her mother of being repressed. What part does repression play in the novel as a whole and how does it manifest?

I think repression is an important feature of the novel. The Hall family repress their feelings, they brush things under the carpet and carry on acting like they have the perfect little family until eventually everything reaches boiling point. You see this when Greg’s mother orders the perfect settee for the living room so that when their friends came round for dinner they would be impressed and see how beautiful the house is. You see it when Sarah practises non stop for her dance show. She’s doing so that she doesn’t have to focus on the other issues within the family.

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Fact of the day: 30th July

On this day in 1818 Emily Brontë, English author and poet, was born.

Emily Brontë remains a mysterious figure and a challenge to biographers because information about her is sparse, due to her solitary and reclusive nature.

She does not seem to have made any friends outside her family.

download (3)

Her sister Charlotte remains the primary source of information about her, although as Emily’s elder sister, writing publicly about her shortly after her death, Charlotte is not a neutral witness.

Emily’s unsociability and extremely shy nature has subsequently been reported many times.

According to Norma Crandall, her “warm, human aspect” was “usually revealed only in her love of nature and of animals”.

In a similar description, Literary news (1883) states: “[Emily] loved the solemn moors, she loved all wild, free creatures and things”, and critics attest that her love of the moors is manifest in Wuthering Heights.

Over the years, Emily’s love of nature has been the subject of many anecdotes. A newspaper dated December 31, 1899, gives the folksy account that “with bird and beast [Emily] had the most intimate relations, and from her walks she often came with fledgling or young rabbit in hand, talking softly to it, quite sure, too, that it understood.”

Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights was first published in London in 1847, appearing as the first two volumes of a three-volume set that included Anne Brontë’s Agnes Grey.

The authors were printed as being Ellis and Acton Bell; Emily’s real name didn’t appear until 1850, when it was printed on the title page of an edited commercial edition. The novel’s innovative structure somewhat puzzled critics.

images (3)

Wuthering Heights’s violence and passion led the Victorian public and many early reviewers to think that it had been written by a man.

According to Juliet Gardiner, “the vivid sexual passion and power of its language and imagery impressed bewildered and appalled reviewers.”

Even though it received mixed reviews when it first came out, and was often condemned for its portrayal of amoral passion, the book subsequently became an English literary classic.

Fact of the day: 14th June

On this day in 1927 Jerome K. Jerome, English author, died.

Jerome Klapka Jerome (2 May 1859 – 14 June 1927) was an English writer and humorist, best known for the comic travelogue Three Men in a Boat (1889).

Other works include the essay collections Idle Thoughts of an Idle Fellow (1886) and Second Thoughts of an Idle Fellow; Three Men on the Bummel, a sequel to Three Men in a Boat; and several other novels.

Jerome sat down to write Three Men in a Boat as soon as he had returned from his honeymoon. In the novel, his wife was replaced by his longtime friends George Wingrave (George) and Carl Hentschel (Harris).

download (9)

This allowed him to create comic (and non-sentimental) situations which were nonetheless intertwined with the history of the Thames region. The book, published in 1889, became an instant success and is still in print.

Its popularity was such that the number of registered Thames boats went up fifty percent in the year following its publication, and it contributed significantly to the Thames becoming a tourist attraction.

In its first twenty years alone, the book sold over a million copies worldwide. It has been adapted to movies, TV and radio shows, stage plays, and even a musical. Its writing style influenced many humorists and satirists in England and elsewhere.

Fact of the day: 2nd June

On this day in 1840, Thomas Hardy, English author and poet, was born.

Thomas Hardy was an English novelist and poet. A Victorian realist in the tradition of George Eliot, he was influenced both in his novels and in his poetry by Romanticism, especially William Wordsworth.

Charles Dickens was another important influence.  Like Dickens, he was highly critical of much in Victorian society, though Hardy focused more on a declining rural society.

While Hardy wrote poetry throughout his life and regarded himself primarily as a poet, his first collection was not published until 1898.

download (9)

Initially, therefore, he gained fame as the author of novels, including Far from the Madding Crowd (1874), The Mayor of Casterbridge (1886), Tess of the d’Urbervilles (1891), and Jude the Obscure (1895).

However, beginning in the 1950s Hardy has been recognised as a major poet; he had a significant influence on the Movement poets of the 1950s and 1960s, including Philip Larkin.

Most of his fictional works – initially published as serials in magazines – were set in the semi-fictional region of Wessex. They explored tragic characters struggling against their passions and social circumstances.

Hardy’s Wessex is based on the medieval Anglo-Saxon kingdom and eventually came to include the counties of Dorset, Wiltshire, Somerset, Devon, Hampshire and much of Berkshire, in southwest and south central England.

R.I.P Lady Mary Soames

Mary Soames passed away yesterday at the age of 91. She was the last surviving child of Sir Winston Churchill and an inspiration to us all.

Like any famous family today, it is not unknown for the children of celebrities to lose their way. This was no different for the Churchill family. Randolph and Sarah both struggled in their personal lives. But Mary was different. She was of the youngest of five children born to Winston and his wife Clementine.

22om41soames

Just looking at photos of her, to me, show how wonderful and open she was. Her smile just warms you, you know? You can tell she his Winston’s daughter through and through.

Mary led an extraordinary life. she served in the auxiliary territorial service during World War Two, manning anti-aircraft batteries in London, Belgium and Germany.

She accompanied her father on several of his most important trips, including to the 1945 Potsdam Conference, where Churchill, Stalin and US President Harry Truman discussed the future of post-war Germany and Europe. Oh what I would have done to have been a fly on the wall at those meetings! It’s remarkable in a way that she was allowed to accompany him.

She enjoyed a lifetime of public service and through both birth and marriage, had life-long association with the Conservative Party.

For me though, I am forever going to be grateful for her writing. She wrote a biography about her mother and in recent years, one about being the daughter of Winston Churchill. Both great reads.

download (8)

The most saddening thing about her death is that it comes just before the 70th anniversary of the D Day landings. Talk about timing, eh? To think that 70 years ago we still had Sir Winston and his entire family and, now we have just lost his last surviving child.

Sleep well Lady Mary. May you be reunited with your family.