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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Powerfully compelling tale
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...
Published on 24 Mar 2009 by kehs

versus
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 to research the necessary imagination and respect as she could.
Published 14 months ago by Wendy Binsley


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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Powerfully compelling tale, 24 Mar 2009
By 
kehs (Hertfordshire, England) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Rowan the Strange (Hardcover)
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
5.0 out of 5 stars Should do for schizophrenia what the Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time did for Autism., 2 May 2009
By 
ELH Browning "Esther-Lou" (Kingston Bagpuize, Oxon) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: Rowan the Strange (Hardcover)
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
By 
Cloudfish (Berkshire, England) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Rowan the Strange (Hardcover)
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 review is from: Rowan the Strange (Hardcover)
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.
This is a truly heartfelt story that we feel deserves at least a nomination for a major award. Julie Hearn's skill as a historical author has reached new heights as this novel outshines many of its contemporaries.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Drawn in..., 20 Feb 2012
This review is from: Rowan the Strange (Paperback)
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! However, by the time I'd finished, I realised what a good book this is. Despite the difficult subject matter Julie has written a story that is uplifting and very satisfying to read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Compelling and memorable, 10 April 2011
By 
Michael Finn (Blackburn, Lancashire, United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Rowan the Strange (Paperback)
An emotional read. Rowan is 13 and it's 1939. The Second World War has just started. The country is gripped by paranoia and fear. Fears of German spies are running wild. Thoughts of threat of invisible killer gas attacks and wondering when the bombs will start to fall occupy the minds of the nation. This is a very bad time to be exhibiting the first signs of schizophrenia as young Rowan does. After an incident where he violently breaks three of his sister's fingers with a piano lid followed by another incident with a knife, the boy is admitted to a place which promises to put him to rights. Unbeknown to his family, he is soon used as an experimental test subject in the use of a new process being trialled in Italy. Electroconvulsive therapy.
The book is extremely well handled with some great characters. I loved Dorothea. But there are other fascinating characters to get to know like Doctor Von whose psychological journey is almost as traumatic as some of his test subjects. The passages where the Nazis' policy is revealed to Doctor Von for killing children who are institutionalized disabled or mentally ill by compulsory euthanasia are truly chilling.The story has some clever parallels with The Wizard of Oz, and the physical performance of Peter Pan as the Christmas pantomime has a profound affect on many of the troubled inhabitants of the psychiatric hospital. Very compelling and memorable. There are two other books by Julie Hearn that are about Rowan's mother and grandmother. I shall seek them out.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Unexpectedly enjoyable, 4 Sep 2010
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This review is from: Rowan the Strange (Paperback)
This is one of the best books I have read for a very long time. Even though aimed at older children, I (in my 40s) thoroughly enjoyed it. Beginning a bit like 'The Curious Incident...' it moved on to have an unexpectedly intriguing story line. Unlike many books I have read recently, the ending does not disappoint. You find yourself really caring what happens to Rowan and his friends.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Intriguing, 13 July 2014
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This review is from: Rowan the Strange (Kindle Edition)
A very blunt and open look at how people with mental disabilities were dealt with during the war. Eye opening and beautifully written it it made me laugh and cry.
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2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing, 24 Sep 2013
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This review is from: Rowan the Strange (Kindle Edition)
Started out well, but before some interesting story and characters ideas were fully created and explored it ended. Not only did it end abruptly but it ended with a clumsy splat of saccharine, and 'blessings'. From good beginnings to nausea, disappointing.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant book, 16 Sep 2013
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This review is from: Rowan the Strange (Paperback)
Not exactly an adult book but brilliant all the same.
Good from start to finish I couldn't put it down.
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Rowan the Strange
Rowan the Strange by Julie Hearn (Paperback - 1 April 2010)
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