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purplepadma (London)
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The Other Side of Silence: A Psychiatrist's Memoir of Depression
The Other Side of Silence: A Psychiatrist's Memoir of Depression
Price: £4.31

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brave, professional yet deeply personal, 10 Sept. 2015
It’s always tricky reviewing a book written by a friend, which is what I hope Linda would call me although we have only ever met online, so of course I come to this review admitting bias. If someone asks me to review a book I suspect will be bad I simply say no, as I would hate to have to tell someone that I think all their hard work has resulted in something that wasn’t very good. But I didn’t think twice in this case and reading The Other Side of Silence: a psychiatrist’s memoir of depression has been an honour and a pleasure.

Linda is a psychiatrist by training and spent years in the NHS, working her way up the ranks before moving into the academic world. She is now semi-retired, giving her more time to write (you can visit her blog here). The sub-title of her memoir explores what is so unusual about her situation – she has practiced psychiatry for most of her adult life despite suffering from severe depression. Research tells us that doctors have a high rate of depression and that many hide their suffering from colleagues, with staff in mental health teams particularly fearing the consequences of disclosure. It is clear that being a mental health service user and a psychiatrist has been a very tricky tightrope to have to walk on a daily basis.

The book weaves together Linda’s lived of depression, the ghosts from her past that have contributed to her condition, the treatments she has sought, her life as a clinician and the learning she has taken from patients. I hesitate to use the phrase “case studies” when referring to the patients described as that sounds too cold. Perhaps “stories” would be better, but in any event Linda has shared her experience with a number of patients, some of whom she saw decades ago, which are woven into her personal narrative. Patients with whom she felt out of her depth as a newly qualified doctor. Patients who taught her what it means to listen properly and carefully. Patients who took risks, opening up in the consulting room, sharing their stories of past abuse, inability to love, or unresolved grief. All reminders that doctors have as much to learn from patients as patients do from doctors. learning that Linda passes on to junior doctors bound for psychiatry or general practice.

I don’t really like it when people call my writing “brave”. I don’t know how Linda feels about the word but it is a brave piece of writing. Even in life writing many people consciously or unconsciously present a less flawed or less damaged version of themselves. To focus as much on therapy as Linda does in the book is to acknowledge being a work in progress, that no matter successful a person might appear they are very much human and very much fallible. Linda however goes further, turning over a some very heavy stones and examining what is underneath, things that were at the time (and perhaps still remain) a source of shame, difficult to admit even to a therapist. Linda continues to be very open online as @suzypuss) not only about her personal difficulties but about her use of antidepressants. quietly but firmly seeing off those who see psychotropic meds as a dangerous plot cooked up between Big Pharma and psychiatrists.

I won’t say too much more, because I would encourage you to head on over to my blog where I've put Linda on the spot by asking her about the aspects of the book I found most interesting. Hope to see you there. https://purplepersuasion.wordpress.com/2015/08/28/review-the-other-side-of-silence-by-linda-gask-plus-author-qa/


91cm (36") Jolly Molly Double Oven Glove. Unique Double Sided Pockets, Offering Top Of The Range High Quality Palm Protection - Comes With TCH Anti-Bacterial Pen!
91cm (36") Jolly Molly Double Oven Glove. Unique Double Sided Pockets, Offering Top Of The Range High Quality Palm Protection - Comes With TCH Anti-Bacterial Pen!
Offered by The Chemical Hut
Price: £7.99

1.0 out of 5 stars So disappointed in these supposedly heat proof gloves, 23 Nov. 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
So disappointed in these supposedly heat proof gloves, especially as they're not cheap. I'd only had them a couple of months when the upper portion of the glove briefly touched the element of my grill, and rather than protecting my hand, the material instantly burnt right through! There is now a gap where my fingertips are so I'm just about to chuck them out and go back to cheapo supermarket oven gloves.


Blonde Roots
Blonde Roots
by Bernardine Evaristo
Edition: Hardcover

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A promising idea, gripping in parts, but badly thought out, 14 Jun. 2011
This review is from: Blonde Roots (Hardcover)
Blonde Roots is set in a parallel universe, where African, not European, cultures use shipping and weapons technology to create colonies in the Americas and the Caribbean, and to kidnap millions of people and enslave them to work on sugar plantations. Residents of the Atlantic coastal fringes of Europa - the English, Irish, Spanish, Portuguese, and Scandinavians - are particularly at risk of being stolen away from their families, regardless of rank or priviledge, and crammed into slave ships bound for the New World. The reader knows from the outset that this is not alternate history of our own universe, because the author has included a map showing Aphrika in the North, Europa in the South, and the Carribean islands unchanged, but renamed the West Japanese Islands.

The idea is interesting, and has been explored by other authors (such as Mallory Blackman, in whose Noughts and Crosses series it is taken for granted that the dominant culture is that of black people, and white people are treated as inferior). Unfortunately, in White Roots the execution of the idea is rather muddled and extremely illogical. For a start, why is there any need to have altered geography? The slave/sugar trade triangle could just have easily worked with geography unchanged, but Africa as the pivotal point of power. Linguistically, the novel is very puzzling; the slaves speak a kind of Patois, but the author seems to assume that in the White Roots universe there would be little difference from real life Caribbean Patois. We are repeatedly told that the slaves are from a mixture of European countries, and logically therefore the Patois would be an blend of Abrossan combined with elements of grammar and vocabulary from Germanic and Hispanic European languages, but there is no evidence of this at all, and we get a phonetic representation of what sounds to me like contemporary Jamaican patois. Even when two slaves discover that they are from the same country, they do not speak their native language together - even when this is English.

Most puzzling of all is the question of when the novel is supposed to be set. Various pointers (not least the "what happened next" postscript) suggest the early twentieth century at the latest; the slave ships appear to be sailing boats, and there is no electricity, although there is a disused Londolo Underground. The turns of phrase used by high status Aphrikans echo 18th or early 19th century real life discourse on slavery, and the Europeans clearly operate a system of workers on land-owners' estates. Yet characters use skateboards; they "airpunch"; and the young male Whyte slaves call themselves names such as "Bad Bwoy" or "Totallee Kross." Evaristo appears to be trying to cram current issues of identity and social exclusion among black youth in modern day Britain or America into a analysis of 18th/19th century attitudes to race and colonialism, and it simply doesn't work.

It's a pity, because there are sections of the novel which are much more thought-provoking, but these are lost in the overall lack of logic. Book Two, in which Chief Kaga Konata Katamba gives us his memoirs of his first trip to the Heart of Darkness which is the Cabbage Coast, and describes his first encounters with the backwards-seeming natives of England, is well done. It reminded me somewhat of Body Ritual Among the Nacirema in its ability to dismantle our own cultural assumptions with the eye of the outside, and I couldn't help feeling that had the novel as a whole been writted in this vein, it would have been much harder-hitting.

Overall, however, if you want to read about the real horrors of slavery from the point of view of a slave woman, I'm afraid you are much better off grabbing a copy of Andrea Levy's The Long Song.


Pub Walks in Underhill Country
Pub Walks in Underhill Country
by Nat Segnit
Edition: Paperback

4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Dull and contrived, 17 April 2011
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I was very disappointed in this novel. I had read a promising review and was excited to be able to order a copy from Amazon Vine, but find it dull in the extreme. It could have worked had the narrator been crafted to seem truly naive, but in fact the authors voice was too apparent, causing the narrator to seem smug and arch. Annoying.


Great House
Great House
by Nicole Krauss
Edition: Hardcover

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful, but vague and dreamy, 17 April 2011
This review is from: Great House (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I found "Great House" entrancing and beautiful, yet somehow hard to hold onto. I finished it a couple of weeks ago and can clearly remember the novel's themes and, even more so, the feelings that it invoked; and yet I could not tell you how many sections there are, or any of the characters' names. Some reviewers have complained that this isn't really a novel, so much as a collection of overlapping short stories which follow a young Chilean poet and his overpowering desk across time and place. There is some truth to this, and I would also agree that the different sections are insufficiently different from one another to be easily distinguished two weeks on. But "Great House" is still an entrancing and touching read.


Full Dark, No Stars
Full Dark, No Stars
by Stephen King
Edition: Hardcover

5.0 out of 5 stars Gripping, uncomfortable stories - King at his best, 2 Mar. 2011
This review is from: Full Dark, No Stars (Hardcover)
I recently read Stephen King's sprawling "Under the Dome" and was quite disappointed - this wasn't the tense stuff I remembered from his earlier work. A friend tipped me off that King's recent short stories were much more worthy of attention, and he couldn't have been more right. "Full Dark, No Stars" is not an easy read, but it is incredibly powerful. The stories are something in the way of thought experiments, as King explains in his afterword; he puts his characters in extreme situations and imagines how they might behave. This is not reading for the fainthearted, as extreme violence is meted out in three of the four stories, but it's the build-up and the motivation which is of interest, not the violence itself. The first story, 1922, in which a man plots to murder his wife and pressures his teenaged son into helping him, had me the closest to a book-induced panic attack that I think I've ever been and is testament to the fact that King really still can create genuine scares after all these years.


Mennonite in a Little Black Dress: A Memoir of Going Home
Mennonite in a Little Black Dress: A Memoir of Going Home
by Rhoda Janzen
Edition: Paperback

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Amusing, but uncomfortable. Although I learned a lot about Mennonites., 12 Feb. 2011
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I started out really enjoying the opening chapter of Mennonite in a Little Black Dress. The author is droll and self-deprecating, describing her recovery from botched surgery and her need to use a catheter bag, and her abandonment by her husband for a man met on gay.com, with a light, wry tone which made me laugh aloud several times. Sadly, the remainder didn't live up to the promise of the opening. Confused and wondering where to turn, Rhoda Janzen returns home to her Mennonite parents, whose lifestyle she has long since abandoned. But don't expect any revelations, or even any sense of narrative. What follows is a mixture of Janzen's memories of her relationship with her bipolar, bisexual husband, interspersed with her almost anthropological observations of her extended family. I was unable to read the memoir without wondering, increasingly uncomfortably, what her family felt about their exposure to public scrutiny, and why Janzen would want to do the same for her own incredibly destructive marital relationship. The urge to do so would have made more sense had she drawn any significant insights from her return to her Mennonite roots, but a tentative discussion with her sister about whether a very religious upbringing has made it difficult for her to assert herself is about as far as it gets. Her marriage is shocking to read about, full of frankly abusive behaviour from her husband which is continually excused on grounds of his bipolarity and brilliant personality, but almost as shocking that even when the marriage ends due to his infidelity, Janzen herself still doesn't seem to see him as abusive.


A Tiny Bit Marvellous
A Tiny Bit Marvellous
by Dawn French
Edition: Hardcover

3.0 out of 5 stars A Tiny Bit Meh, 29 Dec. 2010
This review is from: A Tiny Bit Marvellous (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Let me say first of all that I have always been a fan of Dawn French's TV work (leaving the Dibley thing aside). She can be very, very funny, so I was curious to see how she would approach novel writing. There were moments of intense amusement to be had, but overall this was rather disappointing. The novel switches between the voices of middle-aged Mo and her teenaged children, the foppish, Oscar Wilde-channelling Peter and the self-centred, newly adult Dora. Peter's chapters were especially well-written and enjoyable, but Dora's voice really jarred, coming across as a much, much younger teenager and having the significant cringe effect of a 50-something trying to write youth slang. Most disappointing for me (SPOILER) was the rather imaginative dénouement in which Dora is forced to admit that her mother was right - the Internet *is* dangerous, and you can't trust anyone you meet on it. As a 30 something active on the Internet for more years than I care to remember, who has forged excellent friendships and personal relationship with people I have met online, this also felt like a very dated, middle-aged view which was rather tiresome. With a more solid climax, and some better editing of Dora's sections, this could have been a much, much better novel.


Simple Knitting
Simple Knitting
by Erika Knight
Edition: Paperback
Price: £14.88

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Well ... I still can't knit!, 29 Dec. 2010
This review is from: Simple Knitting (Paperback)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I ordered this book as a complete novice knitter, hoping to learn how and undertake a simple project. Sadly, I am still no further forward in my knitting skills; the basic instructions were not step-by-step enough, so all the pictures and descriptions of the lovely items to be made were simply frustratingly tantalising! May be a good buy for someone with at least basic skills, but doesn't deliver for the beginner.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 3, 2011 10:06 PM GMT


Nourishment
Nourishment
by Gerard Woodward
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £14.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Peculiar, and not entirely cohesive, 9 Nov. 2010
This review is from: Nourishment (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
It's early on in the London Blitz. Tory Pace is managing at home alone - her husband Donald is missing and probably dead, and her children have been evacuated - and is conscripted to work in a local gelatine factory. Her mother, referred to even by her own daughter as Mrs Head, makes a rather unwelcome return from her country retirement to live with Tory, and takes over the domestic arrangements, scouring the local shops each day to see what she can obtain with their ration coupons. Mrs Head's antagonistic relationship with Mr Dando the butcher is drawn to a close when his shop is bombed out and she salvages (not loots! Mrs Head is not a looter!) a joint of pork embedded in a wall on the opposite side of the street. Or perhaps, as Tory points out once it has been roasted, it isn't pork at all; perhaps it Mr Dando's leg. The meat is eaten anyway, despite any moral qualms.

Soon after, Tory receives a letter from a German Prisoner of War camp - Donald is alive after all, having been captured in North Africa. Her relief is quickly replaced by dismay, when she finds that the bulk of the letter contains a request for her to write a sexually explicit letter by return of post. Tory replies that he can expect her to do no such thing, but the written requests keep coming and become more and more insistent. Although Tory begins to feel that she should grant his request to alleviate his suffering, she lacks the erotic vocabulary to do so until she falls into a sexual relationship with Mr Farraway, the owner of the gelatine factory, who has a penchant for describing aloud the sexual acts they carry out.

This is novel in which sex, death, and food are all irrevocably intertwined. Wasting away on the permitted meat rations, Mrs Head feels it would be a sin to let the roast meat go to waste, even if it is a human leg. The source of Tory's new erotic life (and accidental conception of her illegitimate son) is a boxer who retired after killing someone in the ring, and now makes a living rendering down animal corpses into protein pills and gelatine powders destined for the jellies and blancmanges of children's birthday parties. Tory's "filthy" letters to Donald are not fully presented to the reader, but we are informed that she has gone into "minute details" in describing both her own and Donald's genitals and how they might be made use of. This is world where intellectual lives are crushed, where dreams of writing novels or going to university come to nothing, where intimacy is destroyed by being traded as a commodity.

It's difficult to know what to make of this novel, as the mood and tone are not consistent throughout. Part one reads like a particularly grim black comedy, and appears to be poking fun at Mrs Head and her view of the world, and indeed at our own idealisation of the "Blitz spirit." As we move into part two, when Donald returns to London, all comic dimensions vanish, and the novel becomes an exploration of how families cope when they are first forcibly separated, then forced to reunite and try to carry on as before. Donald's experiences as a POW have transformed him into a tyrant, whilst Tory must try to protect Farraway's illegitimate son who she attempts to pass off to Donald as a foundling from a bomb site. There is a curious lack of feeling in the novel, events are described, but not really felt, as if we are watching the characters from far away (as is the case in much pornographic writing). This makes the characters difficult to empathise with, and at times it seems as if they behave in contradictory or unbelievable ways, perhaps because we don't have a real sense of their inner workings. An interesting take, therefore, on well-known era of British history, but not an entirely satisfactory reading experience.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 9, 2013 9:16 AM BST


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