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Fantastic writing on a odd adolescent.....what next? ***1/2 stars
on 2 November 2008
'The spring I learned to drive, the cherry tree in front of our house in Bourne End flowered as never before'. It was 1968'.
From these opening lines I was expecting a David Mitchell ( in Black Swan Green mode) exploration of adolescence. Instead there is a slow moving, incredibly detailed account of firstly bed rest for rheumatic fever - absolutely the wrong treatment for the Still's disease that it turns out that John Cromer really has - and then life in the special hospital for children with Still's.
It's a strange rites of passage novel as John Cromer is a strange boy. The detail of the descriptions can be excruciating - his pain at the hands of the nurses rather than his mother's care, his first sexual encounters and the logistical and physical difficulty of them considering his handicaps and those of his partners.
The detail and the length give us some insight into a life which is so severely curtailed physically if not in thought and spirit...but I'm still left wondering what Adam Mars-Jones was telling us.
The writing is good and funny - but the book just ends - I've since read that this is the first book in a trilogy - in which case I don't think it works fully as a stand alone volume.