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.

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

It’s complicated…Only it isn’t.

Last weekend one of my best friend’s got married and it was beautiful. It was funny and, sweet, and just so her.

My partner didn’t come, which was noticed by everyone. I literally walked into the Church and straight away the groom asked me where he was. I told him it was complicated and not a wedding day story. I then proceeded to tell everyone this throughout the day.

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It was only on reflection, that I realised it wasn’t actually that complicated. My partner wasn’t there because he didn’t want to be. And that is pretty awful of him, but that’s his choice. I’ve had a few people try and give me their view on it. My best friend told me what an arse he is and so on. Another friend made the point that maybe Dale didn’t want to go because, he didn’t want to put pressure on me – we’ve been engaged for a while but not really getting anywhere.

I think their both right. It was a crappy thing to not go and he is an arse for it, but my other friend does have a point.

Now looking at that, what’s complicated about it? Nothing really.

Which got me to thinking. Nowadays, we tell everyone things are complicated. Even when their not. I do it because I don’t want to talk about it. Like in the above situation – plus I didn’t want to ruin the day.

But I do it at other times as well. I don’t like my job. And tell people it’s complicated, but it’s not. It’s actually quite simple. I don’t like what I do, but I can’t afford to quit and be unemployed for six weeks until my new job starts. See? Pretty simple. Pretty crappy too, but you get the jist.

And we all do it, all the time. We do it because we don’t want to talk to people. Or because we think it’s actually really complicated and we can’t get our heads around it. You know what I say to that? Take a step back and look at things from an outsider’s point of view. It’ll make all the difference.

I’ve not been very well recently and I’ve been letting things get to me, more so than normal. I’ve basically been questioning my entire life. I know I haven’t felt so low. Ever. And, to be honest, it’s not going to get better over night.

I’m hoping that once I start my new job, I might start to feel a bit better. But I’m also worried that I’ll start my new job and find out that the way I’m feeling goes deeper than that, you know?

But I have to try. We all do.

At least my friends can try and make me happy though.

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