Customer Reviews


47 Reviews
5 star:
 (25)
4 star:
 (8)
3 star:
 (6)
2 star:
 (2)
1 star:
 (6)
 
 
 
 
 
Average Customer Review
Share your thoughts with other customers
Create your own review
 
 

The most helpful favourable review
The most helpful critical review


35 of 39 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Rare Novel
Poppy Shakespeare is that rare thing: a novel that fully lives up to its publisher's hype. It is engaging from the start, with energetic hyperbolic prose which immediately brings to life its narrator, N, and through her, Poppy and the other patients at the day centre. There is a fine border between sanity and madness and it shifts about a fair bit during the course of the...
Published on 3 April 2006 by D. Marson

versus
47 of 50 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A brilliant and worrying satire on Mental Health
Clare Allen's debut novel has been one of the best received debuts of the last year. Shortlisted for the Guardian First Book award, Longlisted for the Orange Prize for Fiction and favourite to win the Orange New Writers title, her novel about a Mental Health hospital in North London has struck a nerve with readers and critics alike.

It is told through the eyes...
Published on 2 May 2007 by Sam J. Ruddock


‹ Previous | 1 25 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

47 of 50 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A brilliant and worrying satire on Mental Health, 2 May 2007
By 
Sam J. Ruddock (Norwich, England) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Poppy Shakespeare (Paperback)
Clare Allen's debut novel has been one of the best received debuts of the last year. Shortlisted for the Guardian First Book award, Longlisted for the Orange Prize for Fiction and favourite to win the Orange New Writers title, her novel about a Mental Health hospital in North London has struck a nerve with readers and critics alike.

It is told through the eyes of N, a self-confessed `dribbler' whose only ambition is never to be discharged. But when Poppy Shakespeare arrives sporting snakeskin heals and insisting she is not crazy N's routine life is thrown into chaos. Together they must prove that Poppy really isn't mad, but they are in a Cactch-22 situation: to prove she is sane she must pretend to be mad. What follows is a journey to the very heart of the bureaucratic hypocrisy of modern mental health care and a wry and terrifying liturgy on the impossibility of being an individual faced with the power of the system.

Comparisons to `Catch-22' and `One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest' have inevitably gushed from the pens of critics. There is certainly something of the surreal absurdity of Catch-22 here, although it is not as laugh-out-loud funny. In its potential ramifications for the perception of mental health care in Britain its legacy could be as great as `One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest'. The story is perfect for film adaptation, the characters fresh and instantly likeable. The story is written in N's vernacular dialect which takes a little getting used to but is used consistently well and N grows to become a wonderful anti-hero.

Poppy Shakespeare owes something to Clare Allen's own biography. Her eye for irony and well honed observations were learned during her own ten year stint in a mental-health day centre. This experience, far from making this story overly emotional or self indulgent, gives `Poppy Shakespeare' a real air of authenticity. The portrayal of the claustrophobic world of the Dorothy Fish is so alive with insight that you come away from it with real and justifiable fears. It is a book which asks the most elemental of questions: who is mad? Who is sane? And most importantly, who decides?

Clare Allen has written a very good debut novel, it is technically astute and a moving story. Few books should be made required reading, but this in all its political incorrectness, is one of them.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


35 of 39 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Rare Novel, 3 April 2006
By 
D. Marson (St Albans, Herts United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Poppy Shakespeare (Hardcover)
Poppy Shakespeare is that rare thing: a novel that fully lives up to its publisher's hype. It is engaging from the start, with energetic hyperbolic prose which immediately brings to life its narrator, N, and through her, Poppy and the other patients at the day centre. There is a fine border between sanity and madness and it shifts about a fair bit during the course of the novel, causing a constant reassessment of the reader's own perceptions. The subject matter may perhaps not immediately appeal to some people, but the novel is so extravagantly funny, yet so movingly serious, that I would urge anyone to put aside any doubts and read it. You won't regret it. You'll be gripped from the first page. This is a novel which deserves to be read from an exciting new writer with a unique voice. Clare Allan is the real deal. Don't miss out on her debut.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars wonderfully entertaining, 22 Feb 2010
By 
This review is from: Poppy Shakespeare (Paperback)
This book haunts me. I love the characters, the plot, everything about it. The narration is exactly right. If the language had a higher register it would not work at all. The collocqualisms employed here contribute to a highly evocative read.
Although the tone is humourous, there is something very dark at the heart of this novel, and that is N's disorder. Also, the description of N's ordeal with a firework is chilling as well as funny.
I can't recommend this book enough.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Possibly a 'Marmite' book........I LOVED it!!, 10 April 2008
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Poppy Shakespeare (Paperback)
Floors 2 to 7 of the Abaddon mental health care facility house 'flops' in ascending order of madness; on the first floor , the Dorothy Fish caters for the day care 'dribblers'. The ambition of every flop is to move down to the floor below - & ultimately to the first floor Dorothy Fish. But the dribblers live in fear of being discharged & prepare for their asessments carefully. They need to appear mad enough to avoid being discharged but not so mad as to be sectioned on to one of the wards above.
And then Poppy Shakespeare arrives..........

Unlike the other day care dribblers, who attend on a voluntary basis, Poppy has been told if she doesn't attend every day she will be sectioned to one of the wards and her daughter taken into care. She looks & sounds perfectly sane - and is adamant that she is - so why is she there??

I found this one of the funniest, saddest, scariest books I have ever read. It's NOT for the politically correct, or those who are offended by bad language -but they'll be missing a treasure.

Style is really important to me - I generally read only literary novels - yet this is one of my all-time favourite books. The barely articulate musings of long-term dribbler N become,in Clare Allan's hands, an eloquent vehicle for the biting satire that is 'Poppy Shakespeare'. It's an incredibly moving book & brilliantly satirises the attitude of 'sniffs' to mental illness; the vagaries of the benefits system; care in the community and target-led healthcare.

A really special book that I devoured in a single sitting but is still with me, it contains lots of truths within the satirical hyperbole.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


22 of 26 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars wry and witty, 13 April 2007
By 
Leyla Sanai "leyla" (glasgow) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Poppy Shakespeare (Paperback)
Poppy Shakespeare, Clare Allan's Orange shortlisted novel, takes a terrifying, wry and witty look at the current state of mental health care. Related in the semi-literate vernacular of N, one of the patients on the Dorothy ish day ward of the Abaddon mental hospital, it follows events when a new patient, Poppy Shakespeare, is admitted as a new day patient. Poppy insists she has not got any mental health problems, but this is nothing new in psychiatry - denial and lack of insight are well recognised traits in psychiatric patients. But it soon becomes apparent that Poppy really shouldn't be there - and N embarks on a long course of action to help her get free. Thus a Catch 22-type chain of events is set in motion - Poppy can only prove she is not mentally ill by pretending to be mentally ill. Meanwhile, the system drags her to rock bottom and she develops - you've guessed it - symptoms of psychiatric illness.

Clare Allan has a sharp and perceptive insight into what goes on in psychiatric hospitals, and when related deadpan, it DOES sound risible. Yes, patients DO sit about chain-smoking all day, yes, in an under-resourced and over-burdened system, interaction with nurses and doctors really CAN be as rare as Allan conveys, yes, some older anti-psychotics drugs really DO induce vile side effects that reduce patients to twitching zombies, and so lack of compliance and abuse of drug regimes IS common. And Allan captures spot-on the paradoxes and sheer idiocies of a political system that puts targets before patients and sells off health care to the highest bidder. Although events and constructions are clearly fictional, they are not THAT far-fetched - a Mad Tzar, after all, is only one step away from our current plethora of Drug and other touchy-feely but ultimately useless Tzars, while discharging patients before they are ready in order to save resources is a well-established necessity in our cash-strapped NHS. Although the days of chaining up people with psychiatric problems are long gone, psychiatric care is far from the soothing and therapeutic panacea it should be.

Full of dry humour and shockingly astute observations , Allan's debut is a stonkingly good read. My initial slight enniue at a text written entirely in slang dialect (a trick that has become commonplace since its devastatingly effective first few uses by the likes of Irvine Welsh and James Kelman) soon evaporated and I thoroughly enjoyed this clever and well-written novel.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great read, 13 Jun 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Poppy Shakespeare (Paperback)
I saw the TV film version on channel 4 and fell in love with it so I decided to get the book. It's great comparing the differences for me, and I really like the way the book is narrated by N in the first person, the fact that she uses a lot of London slang in particular.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing, 8 Nov 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Poppy Shakespeare (Kindle Edition)
Absolutely fascinating read, which gave the reader an insight into her life and daily struggles, definately one you just cannot put down and when you do you can't wait to pick it back up again. highly recommended
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Menacing, funny, touching, 22 Jun 2012
This review is from: Poppy Shakespeare (Paperback)
Poppy Shakespeare has recently split up with her partner and lost her job as a receptionist, but when she attends an interview for what she believes to be a new career, she finds herself thrown in an entirely unexpected and unwanted direction. The Dorothy Fish is a day care centre for the mentally ill where she is forcibly admitted. The rest of the patients are completely bemused by Poppy. To them, the Dorothy Fish is a safe, comfortable place to be, and they have a foolproof system allowing them to stay there: wanting to stay in a psychiatric unit must prove they are mad, therefore, if they're mad, they can't be ready to leave. Unfortunately, the same catch-22 logic is working against Poppy, and the ridiculous process of trying to procure her freedom is in danger of driving her insane!

The story has a menacing undertone and is obviously making a point about various government policies; but because the characters are portrayed as real people, it's very funny in places, and also very touching.

The story is told in the vernacular with lots of swearing (definitely not my usual sort of thing). But as I got to know the characters, the voice softened and stopped sounding so harsh, and I was quite sorry to reach the - probably inevitable - ending.

The book has been compared Kafka's 'The Trial', Heller's 'Catch-22', and Ken Kesey's 'One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest', which are all fair comparisons. It would also be fair to say I preferred this book to any of them.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Inspiring., 15 Mar 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Poppy Shakespeare (Paperback)
The book was posted on time and in great condition as stated. It is an incredible book and really flags Up some major issues in mental health services for both staff and service users it's a great read :)
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Mind-blowing!, 18 Nov 2011
This review is from: Poppy Shakespeare (Paperback)
I thought this book was truly brilliant. It tells the story of Poppy Shakespeare, a sane woman who finds herself incarcerated in a day hospital for mental patients. The narrator is a long-term inpatient, honoured to have been chosen by a nurse as Poppy's guide, who, dangerously, sees in her new friend the mother figure she has always craved. I guess this book chimed with me because I too spent some years in a day hospital - it was not the Dorothy Fish, but there were parallels. Clare Allen so cleverly ties together the real and the unreal, the spoken and the unspoken, in the lives of the day patients in that appalling place. She has such insight and yet such humour. I was laughing out loud, but crying inside as I read the book, and by the time I finished I felt closer to paranoid than I have done for a long time - it really was mind-blowing.

I have so much respect for this writer, who has herself been through the mental health system. If I had read this book before I wrote my own, I am sure I would have tried to fictionalise my story instead of writing it as a memoir - I had no idea it was possible to say so much about your experiences without giving everything away!

Louise Gillett
Author of, 'Surviving Schizophrenia: A Memoir'.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


‹ Previous | 1 25 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

This product

Poppy Shakespeare
Poppy Shakespeare by Clare Allan (Paperback - 5 Mar 2007)
£7.19
In stock
Add to basket Add to wishlist
Only search this product's reviews