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Rowan the Strange [Paperback]

Julie Hearn
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
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Book Description

1 April 2010
How does a doctor examine a person's brain? They won't use any knives on me, will they?

Rowan knows he is strange.

But dangerous?

He didn't mean to scare his sister. In his right mind, he wouldn't hurt a fly. But there's a place he can go where they say they can fix his mind . . .

Beyond the bars on the window, England is at war.
Behind them, Rowan's own battle is only just beginning.

This amazing story gives a thought-provoking look at life in an asylum and the experimental treatments practised at the start of the Second World War. For Rowan, nobody could ever have predicted the effect these treatments would have . .

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Product details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: OUP Oxford (1 April 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0192729209
  • ISBN-13: 978-0192729200
  • Product Dimensions: 13.2 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 334,369 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Julie Hearn used to be a tabloid journalist. After her daughter, Tilly, was born she began a degree in Education but switched to English after suffering a panic attack while attempting to teach maths to year six.

Something she read in Oxford's Bodleian Library, about a young girl who was shown as a fairground "monster" in the 17th century, inspired Julie's first novel Follow Me Down (2003). Since then she has written about witchcraft (The Merrybegot, 2005); the beauty and perils of the Victorian art world (Ivy, 2006), and the legacy of the Slave Trade (Hazel, 2007).

Rowan the Strange, she says, is as much about the craziness of so-called "normal life" as it is about a young boy's state of mind . The more she wrote the harder it became to hold onto, or defend, conventional definitions of madness.

Wreckers, another of Julie's titles, draws on the well-known myth of Pandora's Box, and has been widely praised.

Julie lives in Oxfordshire where she writes full time (most mornings anyway) in a pink and green office in her garden.

Product Description


Hearn is skilled at conveying the place and the time, but it is in the detail of human interactions that her novel is particularly remarkable (Sunday Times)

An original story with an unusual and many-layered background (Guardian)

I couldn't put this book down . . . This is quite possibly the most amazing work of children's fiction I've read in the last two years . . . The characters are absolutely fantastic, stunningly realised and brought to the page with such gusto that I didn't want it to end (BookBag)

Book Description

A powerful and compelling story of life in a mental asylum at the start of the Second World War. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Powerfully compelling tale 24 Mar 2009
By kehs TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Julie Hearn has written a powerfully compelling story with her latest offering of Rowan the Strange. She has given the reader an insight into mental illness with her compassionate, intelligent tale of a young schizophrenic boy and the experimental treatment he receives at a psychiatric hospital for the insane. Her writing is so eloquent that when she describes Rowan's first treatment I found myself gasping in horror and had to pause to recollect my thoughts. She skilfully draws parallels between the outside world and the war with the chaos that is occurring in the minds of the patients in hospital. Her characters come to life on the pages and I came to care about every one of them. It was pure genius on her part to have cast the main doctor as a German - Doctor von Metzer - and to use him to express the shock and outrage that Germans felt over the euthanasia of the mentally ill that occurred in their country. The book is deep, dark and at times harrowing, but always told in a compassionate and perceptive style.

This is the third in a series and is a sequel to Hazel and Ivy but works very well as a stand alone novel. Indeed, I haven't read the first two books and didn't feel this detracted in my enjoyment of it at all. I highly recommend this to anyone interested in mental health, WW11 and historical fiction.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
This powerful story of a teenager with schizophrenia at the outset of the Second First War and "Rowan The Strange" is a rich yet raw tale, shocking yet gripping that'll fill you with both sadness and hope, and encourage an understanding of mental illness.
Rowan has uncontrollable and unexplainable rages that exhaust and frighten his caring family and they don't know how to cope or what to do for the best. While his sister is evacuated in the normal way, Rowan is sent to a lunatic asylum and is accepted as a test-case for a new type of treatment - electroconvulsive therapy.
The path he charts, from his arrival at the hospital through to the end of the book contrasts considerably with the experience of his friend on the ward, a feisty girl Dorothea who sees saints on people's shoulders. Her own "daemon" is aptly Joan of Arc, and although curing her of these apparitions would be a medical success, what would be left of Dorothea without them?
Throughout, this heartfelt story is sensitively handled with a great eye for detail. Hearn also cleverly interweaves additional themes into this riveting read: the exclusion felt by the patients from mainstream society, the undercurrent of racism for the doctor who is German, and the doctor's own feelings about what is going on in the hospital and in his own country.
Despite the sad subject matter, and this book would be a great Xmas present, especially for teenage boys - a pantomime is a fairly key part of the plot and from his admittance to hospital Rowan's family wonder whether he might be home for Christmas, some moths later. It certainly makes the "normal" reader appreciate their sanity and their acceptance in a family and community.
Thank you, Julie Hearn. I'm very glad I've read this compelling and thought-provoking book and Rowan will stay with me for a considerable time to come.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Another star turn from Julie 23 Mar 2009
I've been a huge fan of Julie Hearn ever since picking up Ivy quite by chance (I liked the cover) in my local Waterstones. She has a magical way with words and can weave pictures in your mind like nobody else. I'd been waiting for this book for aaaaages, and was so glad when it was finally published. I read it in two days- nearly missing my stop on a train thanks to its engrossing powers- and loved it. The psychiatric hospital setting is described wonderfully, right down to the last detail, and I found myself gasping out loud when Rowan's first treatment was described. Rowan himself is not too strange to be alientating, and I simply adored all the supporting characters- the German doctor (a clever idea, since it is set during WW2), the quiet and earnest John Wallace and above all the eccentric Dorothea. I also love the generation jump- Rowan is the son of Hazel, star of Julie's previous novel, and Hazel in turn is the daughter of Ivy, the protagonist of the novel that originally entranced me. I love following her extended family, and will continue to read as long as Ms Hearn is continuing to write!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of this years best novels! 21 Aug 2009
This compelling tale is the story of a young teenager, Rowan, diagnosed with schizophrenia on the eve of the Second World War. His sudden and uncontrollable aggressive urges have forced his frightened family to send him to psychiatric hospital where he is subjected to the experimental treatment of electroconvulsive therapy. Julie Hearn's raw descriptions of the process and Rowan's illness chart his progress and contrast his experiences with those of companion and friend Dorothea, a feisty young girl who believes she sees fairies and whose time at the hospital is far from trouble free. The writer skilfully tells the story from Rowans perspective, giving you an insight into the emotions felt by the patients and the feelings of fear and confusion they deal with in a world where every small act of kindness is like a gift and highlights there terrible vulnerability. Small moments of pleasant normality such as tea and cake in the sun are blissful events and fill the reader with hope for the characters well being. But these isolated, everyday episodes act as short periods of calm that contrast starkly with the often shockingly sad and traumatic occurrences on the ward.

Additional themes are cleverly woven throughout the story, such as the exclusion felt by the inmates of the hospital caused by the feelings of fear, hatred and contempt directed at the patients by society and even the nurses and doctors. The overall sense of fear is increased by the approach of the war and grows to encompass the German doctor charged with the well being of the main characters who is constantly viewed with suspicion and dislike. It gives the story a tense and ugly undercurrent that runs throughout the plot and occasionally triggers some catastrophic event that will turn the story on its head once again.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing
Started out well, but before some interesting story and characters ideas were fully created and explored it ended. Read more
Published 7 months ago by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant book
Not exactly an adult book but brilliant all the same.
Good from start to finish I couldn't put it down.
Published 7 months ago by Lauren
5.0 out of 5 stars such a good read!!!
Really interesting book! Couldn't put it down!! Although its a book for young adults its still well worth a read.
Published 9 months ago by mrsgos
4.0 out of 5 stars Different from the usual
Choose this because its a subject that I know something about and it intrigued me that it dealt with the introduction and aims of ECT. Read more
Published 9 months ago by mumtoboris
5.0 out of 5 stars rowan thje strange
I got this as a free book on the kindle and found it strangely heart warming. give it a go.
Published 9 months ago by Garside
4.0 out of 5 stars Rowan the Strange
A very unusual story. I enjoyed it and loved the characters. Sad in parts and quite funny in others. Good value for money as I bought it for my kindle.
Published 9 months ago by Pauline Westbury
3.0 out of 5 stars Not my usual type of book to read.
The writer has given great care to express and show that the treatment of mentally ill patients, ws shown as considerate as possible, she must have given the material she managed... Read more
Published 10 months ago by Wendy Binsley
3.0 out of 5 stars Good for a wee read
The book had a good beginning, though took a while to take off, but for whatever reason went off a tangent on, as far as I could see, a different story. Read more
Published 11 months ago by Jennifer Millar
1.0 out of 5 stars Got Bored...
I took this book out from my local library along with many others. When I got round to reading it I struggled through the first chapter, became bored and ended up starting a new... Read more
Published 22 months ago by Abbz (Tracy's daughter)
4.0 out of 5 stars Drawn in...
I started reading Rowan the Strange because I wanted to check it out before my kids read it. At first I thought - I hope they don't want to read this it's so bleak and miserable! Read more
Published on 20 Feb 2012 by Winston Churchillock
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