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The Trick is to Keep Breathing Paperback – 7 Mar 1991


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Product details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; New Ed edition (7 Mar. 1991)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0749391731
  • ISBN-13: 978-0749391737
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 1.6 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,546 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Janice Galloway (b. 1955), author of fiction, non-fiction, poetry, short stories and "anti-memoirs" is one of Scotland's best-loved writers. Twice listed as a New York Times Book of the Year, she has won, among other accolades, the American Academy of Arts and Letters EM Forster Award, Scottish Book of the Year 2012, The MIND/Alan Lane award. Her newest book, JELLYFISH, is a long-awaited collection of short stories about love, not-love, sex and raising children - and the sometimes dramatically unexpected fallout of each in everyday life.

Access her new website at www.janicegalloway.net.

Product Description

Amazon Review

Janice Galloway's The Trick Is to Keep Breathing opens with a woman watching herself from the corner of a darkened room. Immediately, Janice Galloway sweeps us inside her heroine's confused psychology. Alone in her flat, the woman (ironically named "Joy") sits quietly in the dark, nervously checking the clock, jumping at the shrill ring of the telephone. We learn through a series of flashbacks that the twin deaths of her married lover and her mother have brought her to this state of intense neurosis: "I don't feel as if I'm really here at all". Fragmented sentences and an irregular typography help to capture her deepening sense of dislocation and bewilderment.

With such a depressing subject matter at hand, it would be easy for Galloway's prose to become irritatingly introverted. With her sharp wit, however, Galloway skilfully prevents her narrative from sliding into egotism and self-pity. There is a host of minor characters to provide comic relief--the overweight, awkward health visitor; the pompous, irascible doctor; the man from the bookies who is desperate to seduce her; and the ever-mad Ros, another patient on the psychiatric ward where Joy inevitably ends up.

Galloway is writing in a long-established tradition of confessional fiction with mentally disturbed women at its centre. Like Sylvia Plath in The Bell Jar and Susanna Kaysen in Girl, Interrupted, Galloway explores the complexities of the patient-doctor relationship. Where she differs is her sustained satire of the meagre attempts of doctors and psychiatrists to help their patients out of spiralling depressions. It is this sense of social critique that helped Galloway win two top awards--the American Academy EM Forster Award and the MIND/Allan Lane Book award--for this, her first novel. --Vanessa Cook

Review

"A real achievement; its dialogue sparks and its voice is true. For Janice Galloway the trick is simply to keep writing" (Scotsman)

"An account from the inside of a mind cracking up...its writing is as taut as a bowstring. From brilliant title to closing injunction, it hums with intelligence, clarity, wit; and, its heroine's struggle for order and meaning seduces our minds, exposes how close we all of us are to insanity. Joy, as Galloway's heroine reluctantly lets us know that she's called, is simply that dangerous step or two nearer the edge" (Listener)

"This remarkably original work has gained Janice Galloway an almost immediate reputation as one of Scotland's most interesting serious prose writers" (Glasgow Herald)

"Poignant and original...a wonderfully sensitive portrait of a woman who doesn't give up trying to find the "trick" to making life go on" (Ms ?)

"Claustrophobic but extraordinary" (Sunday Times)

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Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

18 of 18 people found the following review helpful By M BRINSLEY on 14 Aug. 2008
Format: Paperback
The tense, fractured, unorthodox, brilliant prose takes us into a mind that is slowly cracking apart, despite the narrator's heroic, nail-shredding efforts to maintain a grip on reality. Throughout the book, she teeters on the edge of madness, fit neither for life, nor for the strait-jacket, going in and out of an asylum, in a troubling, disorienting, see-saw journey. I found myself feeling for with the tortured soul, and I often rooted desperately for her recovery. The taut, frenetic, often foreshortened, sentences (which sometimes abruptly cut into white space) make for a challenging, unorthodox, sometimes telegraphic, read. We get the sense of the narrator's life cracking, melting, and breaking apart, in a series of crafty, disturbing, surreal images. Appropriately, there is no sense of a 'whole' life, only of its fragments and remnants - often strewn across a whole swathe of days, like the maimed pieces of a jig-saw puzzle. The book is disturbing, sometimes funny and Galloway has created a language of her own. It is the book that the author of 'Prozac Nation' might wish that she had written.
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33 of 34 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 13 Jun. 1999
Format: Paperback
This is a truly amazing book. I'd like to be more literate in review, but this book puts me in awe. The book is about a 27 year old woman named Joy Stone. Her illicit lover has just recently died and it sends her into a spiral of depression. Janice Galloway is one of the best authors around right now, and captures the human mind wonderfully. She has the ability to switch around perspectives, and making the reader (willing or not) venture into the character's mind. Her ability to mix dry wit with such a sad story make for a great read.
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37 of 39 people found the following review helpful By CJANI on 21 July 2003
Format: Paperback
An excellent book that shows how fragile the human mind is, and how little it can take to push someone over the edge. If you take a little time to read it, it's easy to see a bit of oneself - those slightly "irrational" things you do for your own reasons that no-one else knows of or understands. The writing style - fluid, personal, yet coherent enough to make a good book - is a pleasure to read and a welcome break from traditional novels. The only complaint I would have is that the ending is a little twee, but luckily this doesn't detract from the main content of the book.
Whilst this book isn't hard to read, for me it is a more significant read than the lighter "Girl, Interrupted". I found "Girl, Interrupted" a little too disjointed in its storytelling, and somehow doesn't get across the feeling of personal distress that is apparent in The Trick is to Keep Breathing.
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22 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Flamingjetmouse on 9 Jan. 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
'The Trick is to Keep Breathing' is one of my favorite books. It is beautifully constructed: a gripping story, powerfully told. The prose is deceptively simple, using a variety of forms (including the typesetting itself) with elegance and poignancy. Although the subject is bereavement and loss, it is ultimately about forgiveness and recovery. And quite a journey. Very moving. Highly recommended. BTW: has also been adapted for stage and radio.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Jo Bennie VINE VOICE on 5 Dec. 2009
Format: Paperback
How can you heart keep beating when the man you love is dead, a man who you're not even permitted to grieve for because although he had left his wife it is she who claims his body and is named at the funeral. This is the story of the ironically named Joy 'lasting' this ordeal after her lover drowns, her complete breakdown in the face of the shattering of her world consigning her to a psychiatric ward, and the men and women who love her and despite her continue to reach her. Reveals the true horror of grief and the dangers of wrapping a life around a single person. Deeply moving, Galloway traces a narrative through a blasted emotional landscape with skill and feeling.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By shiney on 25 Sept. 2011
Format: Paperback
I first read this book back in the 90's and immediately passed it on to a friend with my recommendation. After reading Janice's book, "This is not about me" I bought "The trick is to keep breathing" a second time and enjoyed it even more.
For me it was a story of survival, of clinging on, of waiting for time to heal. Janice Galloway uses words like an artist uses a brush, painting pictures of emotions. The characters were all believable and her descriptions and dialogue evoked so many emotions in me - sympathy, empathy, anger, sorrow. I read this book quickly and felt I really was in the flow with the story. Janice Galloway deserves her place as one of the most talented contemporary British writers.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Shane on 14 Sept. 2010
Format: Paperback
I bought this book on impulse for just 20p when I was at college and it's turned out to be one of the best books I've ever read. What we've got here is a solid psychological character study of a young woman cracking up. She guides us through her fractured mind and world in a really effective atmospheric way, through descriptions, encounters with others, thoughts, and - at times - even humour. If you like 'The Bell Jar' by Sylvia Plath, (another great book), then you'll probably like this as well.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Lady Fancifull TOP 500 REVIEWER on 17 Jan. 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The front of my paperback edition carries the following strapline from a NYT book review :

'Resembles Tristram Shandy as rewritten by Sylvia Plath'

That is it, in a nutshell. Both TS and Plath's The Bell Jar (50th Anniversary Edition) are, above all, wonderful and creative pieces of writerly craft. As is this. Janice Galloway combines the plangent, melancholy, mordantly funny, sharp-eyed anarchic WEIRDNESS of Tristram Shandy with the excruciatingly painful, honest, revelatory expose of a mind (very like yours and mine) cracking and giving way under the pressures of holding it together in a world which seems set-up precisely to force shattering in the first place - like The Bell Jar

A beautifully constructed book, which like Tristram Shandy uses the visual aspect of what a printed book looks like to express something of what the book is about - without giving too much away here, as i don't want to spoil the reader in their surprised response. This book, in non-linear fashion is the story of one woman and how she holds (and does not hold) together. Galloway, as I realise from having previously read two volumes of her later published autobiography This is Not About Me and All Made Up, has distilled some of her own life into this imaginative fiction.

The prizes and awards this first novel garnered are deserved and unsurprising. And, most searingly, the MIND/Allan Lane award. Aspects of mental health care are scorchingly shown.

Be warned, this book will have you laughing at the black humour of our protagonist at the very moment that the fierceness of her pain feels like a knife in the gut
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