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

People.

I remember when I was in primary school, I think I was eight or nine and it was nearly my birthday, my mum said I could have friends round for tea. I was so excited.

The next day I went to school and I asked about half a dozen people if they wanted to come. By the end of the week, I think nearly all of them had an excuse not to attend. I don’t know if the excuses were genuine or not, but I remember the feeling of having to go home and tell my mum. I was devastated.

Over the years, I have tried to arrange get together’s and parties and day’s out, but the same thing seems to keep happening.

It happened on my 21st. My best friends weren’t there. It was me, my ex and some of his friends. Admittedly that was the night I met Jordan and fast forward four years and we’re now living together, but still. I felt so alone.

Somehow over the years, I have just found it easier to keep everyone at arm’s length. That way I can’t be disappointed. I don’t like getting close to people, because they will just find someone better eventually.

I say that I just don’t like people. I like to do my own thing. Which is true, I do like my own space and to just get on with things. I don’t want to be relying on other people.

That doesn’t mean that I don’t get jealous of all the fun other people have. I feel like sometimes I’m just watching from the sidelines and I never get the chance to be part of the fun. I just want to fit in. To be part of the group.

Every time that I think this is finally about to happen, that I’m going to have what I want, it all comes crashing down around me. Maybe I put too much pressure on it, maybe I expect too much and because of that I’m always going to be disappointed.

I just can’t help but feel like I’m always second best.

I remember when I was at College, I had a big argument with my boyfriend and I was in tears walking through town. I text my best friend asking if she was still in town, she text back saying she was already on her way home. Five minutes later I saw her sat on a bench with some friends. She didn’t see me, but I just remember feeling so lonely. I had no one to speak to and I blamed myself. I wasn’t important enough.

I know that as we get older, our priorities change and work, relationships and so on, just get in the way but it doesn’t change the way I feel. When it’s someone’s birthday, I always remember and go to the party. When someone gets married, I buy them a present. I guess I just don’t understand what I’m doing wrong.

I think social media makes it even worse though. You can get all the likes on Facebook or Instagram but it’s not the same as someone actually making the effort to spend some time with you. I don’t understand the people that have hundreds of friends on Facebook. How can you honestly say you are friends with all those people?

Maybe it is my fault. I was painfully shy in primary school and didn’t really improve until College. By that point though, I had a barrier up and I didn’t let many people through it.

Right now I feel that a lot of people only put up with me because of Jordan. Everybody loves Jordan. I love Jordan. Sometimes I feel that I only get invited because of him though and that his friends don’t really want me there. I feel like I finally have the opportunity to have the group of friends that throw parties and go out places, but that I don’t fit in.

Right now, I just want to stay away from everyone. This is what always happens. I get excited, plan something and then it all goes wrong and that barrier goes back up. I push those people away and then I have to warm up to them again.

I have missed out on so much because I didn’t do all the teenage things others did. I didn’t go out drinking at University, I didn’t make the friendships that other people did. And now I feel like I’m trying to catch up. I don’t know what I’m suppose to do.

Some people I work with keep trying to reach out to me. I’m currently stuck between wanting to get to know them better and wanting to run and bury my head in the sand so that I can’t be hurt again.

Maybe I’m overthinking it. Maybe I’m just not good enough. I don’t know.

It’s my birthday next month. Generally speaking I don’t enjoy birthdays. From the age of 17 until I was 23, my birthdays were not great. It was a mixture of my parents splitting up, a rubbish boyfriend and constantly just feeling alone. I’m not very good at explaining to Jordan what’s wrong. I don’t think I’ve ever told him why each birthday was bad. I don’t like opening old wounds.

I can’t complain though, when it comes to birthday’s Jordan is pretty good. I’m lucky I have him.

 

Dear Mum

On Saturday night, you rang me drunk and told me you never wanted to see me again. That I was not welcome in your house and that you would hit me, if you saw me in the house.

This is not the first time you’ve phoned me when you’re drunk to have a go at me. And I know it won’t be the last.

For as long as I can remember you’ve always drank. True, you only do it at night and most of the time, it doesn’t affect your day to day life. You go to work, come home and clean the house, prepare meals, you raised two kids. But every night, you drink.

You can’t handle your drink either. I use to tiptoe around you at night, scared of what mood the alcohol would put you in that night. I will admit you have gotten a lot better with this. It still happens every Christmas, but admittedly Christmas is an emotional time.

I’ve tried to help you for as long as I can remember. I give you money, I buy you things, I moved home after University when all I wanted to do was stay in Chester.

Even now when I live in my own house with Jordan, I keep trying to please you. I pay for your car every month. I give you money knowing I will not see it again. Do you know how many arguments you cause? I’ve had so many people tell me to stop it, but I won’t. I can’t. You’re my mum.

You hold a grudge for a very long time and I wish you could realise that it’s not worth it and use that energy for something good instead.

I know things won’t change. I’ve accepted that but it doesn’t make it any easier. Sometimes I feel like I’m walking on eggshells around you. Like you’re Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde.

I’ve accepted that we are never going to have the perfect mother daughter relationship. We will never be Lorelai and Rory. I will never confide in you the way a daughter should be able to confide in their mum. I’m scared that I will turn into you and it does put me off having kids. I don’t want them to feel the way I did growing up.

Despite everything you say and do to me, all I want to do is please you. Which is why it hurts so much when you criticise me and nit pick and make me feel like I’m still a child.

I’m not a child and I know what I’m doing.

 

We’re okay again now. Until the next time.

Competitiveness

For as long as I can remember, I’ve always hated competitions.

When I say I hate competitions, I don’t just mean I hated sports day at school (I did though). I have always found that there is always someone better than me. Or someone who knows exactly how to play on my insecurities in order to beat me.

I remember being in primary school and it was sports day. Neither of my parents were there due to work (sadly something that happened a lot). I was doing the bean bag race and I wasn’t very good. The headteacher gave me a card for effort though. I gave this to my team lead and went and hid at the back. My team didn’t win and it stayed that way all through secondary school as well.

The only thing I ever did seem to get is merits for doing well in certain subjects, but as I wasn’t the only one who got these and other people got more than me.  You needed to get six good slips per merit. At one point, I was so embarrassed I wouldn’t even hand my good slips in just to avoid that conversation in front of my entire form. I think this must have cost me a half a dozen merits or so at school.

I was badly bullied at school and as I got older, this bullying just turned into girls bitching about me behind my back. I’m not going to say I haven’t done this myself, but I’m the kind of person you either love or you hate and most people tend to dislike me.

You’re probably wondering what this has to do with competitiveness. Well, people always want to be better than you and want to make feel you small. This is something I feel a lot.

I don’t like it when people try and make competitions out of things, because I’m never good enough and people like to gloat. Even if I try, I know it won’t be enough so what’s the point? All that happens, is that I get left feeling deflated.

Competition comes in different forms. People compete over who have the best car, most money, holidays etc. Some people want to show off what they have got to make you feel worse. This is the kind of competitiveness that really stings for me.

Growing up, we didn’t always have a lot. I’m not saying that I went without, because I didn’t. Between my parents and grandparents I was pretty spoilt. But there was a limit to this. We didn’t have fancy holidays abroad and I couldn’t have all the merchandise for all the books, films etc that I was obsessed with.

This made it really hard when you see other people with this stuff. I would have done anything to be able to go to all the concerts I wanted and collect all the merchandise I could.

This still stands today. I can afford to buy a lot more, but bills and stuff still come first. It kills me when I see things on Facebook sometimes. Especially when you feel like they are doing it deliberately to show off.

It makes me want to withdraw and not tell anyone anything. It makes me feel like I’m not good enough.

 

 

Rainy Days.

I don’t know about the rest of you, but Derbyshire has been very wet today. I woke up this morning to a huge downpour of rain. It did stop for a little while and the sun did come out, but as my mother would say, the sky is full of it. In fact, whilst I write this, it is starting to rain again.

Personally, I love it when it rains like this. You know the really heavy rain that just soaks you through straight away? I love it. Maybe I’ve watched The Notebook too much, but all romantic things seem to happen when it rains like this.

Not only that. When it rains like this, you have an excuse to not do anything. I’m not going to lie to you – I didn’t even get dressed today. What’s the point? I can’t go out. I most definitely cannot take the dog for a walk. So I may as well stay in my Pajamas all day.

preview-for-a-lifetime-of-love-and-beautiful-memoriesThe other reason I love this weather is because it reminds me of when I was younger. It would be raining and as a family, we couldn’t do anything. I’d walk downstairs and my Dad would be sat in the armchair reading, my Mum would probably be ironing and, my brother would be playing with his toys or asking me to play board games with him.

I love those memories. The memories of me snuggling up on the sofa and reading and, then every so often looking up and seeing my Dad do the same thing.

I don’t know about your families, but our weekends were like a ritual to us. We all had our places and we all knew what to do.

Nowadays, it is just me by myself, snuggling up on the sofa and reading. My Mum still does the ironing. My brother will be in his room playing Xbox games. And my Dad, will be in his house probably reading. images (7)

Well whatever you’re doing today. Enjoy it! And be safe. This type can cause all sorts of problems.

But remember, you can’t have a rainbow without a little rain.

x

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.

Fact of the day: 15th May

On this day in 1536 Anne Boleyn, Queen of England, stood trial in London on charges of treason, adultery and incest. She was condemned to death by a specially-selected jury.

Henry and Anne married on 25 January 1533. On 23 May 1533, Thomas Cranmer declared Henry and Catherine’s marriage null and void; five days later, he declared Henry and Anne’s marriage to be good and valid.

letter2_1295852c

Shortly afterwards, the Pope decreed sentences of excommunication against Henry and Cranmer. As a result of this marriage and these excommunications, the first break between the Church of England and Rome took place and the Church of England was brought under the King’s control.

Anne was crowned Queen of England on 1 June 1533. On 7 September, she gave birth to the future Queen Elizabeth I, whose gender disappointed Henry. He was not entirely discouraged, for he said that a son would surely follow and professed to love Elizabeth. Three miscarriages followed, and by March 1536, Henry was courting Jane Seymour.

Henry had Anne investigated for high treason in April 1536. On 2 May she was arrested and sent to the Tower of London, where she was tried before a jury of peers – which included Henry Percy, her former betrothed, and her own uncle, Thomas Howard – and found guilty on 15 May.

download (35)

She was beheaded four days later. Modern historians view the charges against her, which included adultery, incest, and witchcraft, as unconvincing.

Following the coronation of her daughter, Elizabeth, as queen, Anne was venerated as a martyr and heroine of the English Reformation, particularly through the works of John Foxe.

Over the centuries, she has inspired or been mentioned in numerous artistic and cultural works. As a result, she has retained her hold on the popular imagination. Anne has been called “the most influential and important queen consort England has ever had”,  since she provided the occasion for Henry VIII to annul his marriage to Catherine of Aragon, and declare his independence from Rome.