Sunday, January 3, 2010

BOOK: Poppy Shakespeare by Clare Allan

Poppy Shakespeare by Clare Allan, 341 pages

TBR Lite; Orange January (shortlist, new author 2007)

I first heard of Poppy Shakespeare in Shakespeare Wrote for Money, one of Nick Hornby's essay books, and I made note. Several years later, it's my first complete book of 2010, to kick off Orange January.

It's a look into the mental illness world in England. I think it makes lots of statements about who belongs in institutions, what exactly makes someone crazy, the decisions made within the mental illness infrastructure. The story is narrated by N, a product of the system she proudly proclaims, starting when Poppy Shakespeare enters their Institution, the Dorothy Fish day center. N and Poppy are Dribblers, not as serious as the Flops, who are inpatient, while the Dribblers live on their own and spend time in the center. There is always a hierarchy.

N is a lifer, who never wants to leave, and has trouble understanding why Poppy doesn't want to stay, but N is chosen to help Poppy get around the place. By having N narrate, all the facts that are presented must be examined carefully, and really, the reader must read between the lines. The dialogue is rough, and slang, but I had no problem following it. It is ultimately very sad amidst the humor, and makes you wonder who is crazy and who isn't.

Weren't nobody else in the world, he said, not Astrid Arsewipe - couldn't argue with that - not Middle-Class Michael, not no one at all, alive or dead or both or neither, known as much about dribbling as I did. page 2


  1. I read this a few years back and enjoyed it, British TV (possibly Channel 4) did a good adaptation which is worth checking out

  2. I want this! I love books about England & I love books about mental hospitals. I always like to see how different authors portray mental illness.

  3. katrina - a show? cool. I liked how all the dribblers were alphabetical.

    jenny - I bet you'd like it, mental and British. And it was funny and cute and sad.

  4. I've never read that book, but I love the cover. I'm always seduced by a good cover.

    Thanks for the review.

  5. I've always wondered about this one - the title makes it hard to forget! I might have to put it back on the TBR list.

  6. I kind of want to read read this, too. This is the first review I have ever seen of it, though.


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