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Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I thought this was an excellent book. The story is a "much fictionalised" (the author's words) account of Alex Shearer's experience of the death of his brother. It sounds grim, but it isn't - I found it very readable, extremely funny at times and very, thoughtful and wise. There is a very narrow path to tread in a book like this between flippancy on the one hand and mawkish sentimentality on the other, but Shearer never puts a foot wrong, I think. I have had more experience of watching family members die of cancer than anyone really ought, and this is one of the most enjoyable and most insightful things I have read about it.

The story is a simple one. The narrator flies out from Britain to Brisbane where his brother, whom he has not seen for many years, has a brain tumour and is in the last stages of life. It doesn't sound like much of a plot, but I found it very gripping. What makes this so good is that Shearer writes very well in an easy but deceptively profound way, and he captures so many aspects of a death like this with a light touch but genuine insight. I laughed out loud several times, and often nodded in recognition of both how people behave and at the narrator's own thoughts. Shearer catches brilliantly some of those things which take you off guard - that terminal illness doesn't mean people's annoying traits go away, for example, or that the situation can be infuriating, hilarious and heartbreaking all at the same time. He has some lovely, humane interludes of the narrator just mulling things over and also some very sharp, pithy lines like "hospitals are no place for the sick and vulnerable."

Shearer neatly presents the behaviour and attitudes of others to the illness, too. It's never heavy-handed or preachy, but we see the small, important kindnesses in some people and the self-obsession of others. Also, those people who "know, I just know" that he'll get better, that he can "fight" this, that he got a brain tumour by thinking the wrong sort of thoughts and all the other things people say, often with good intentions and very seldom with intent to hurt, but which are unhelpful and sometimes hurtful nonetheless. People often simply don't know what to do in the face of impending death, and Shearer paints very neat sketches of some of the ways in which people try to deal with it (or run away from it).

I could go on, but I won't. I really think this is an exceptionally good book, written with wit, compassion and humanity. It's a very easy read and a very rewarding one. It is touching, funny and wise; I recommend it warmly.
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Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This is one of the most tender and poignant books that I’ve ever read. Another reviewer has drawn comparisons between the relationship of the brothers in this book to that of Lennie and George in Steinbeck’s “Of Mice and Men”. I agree, and I thought that the elder brother, Louis, was a little similar to Dustin Hoffman’s Raymond in “Rainman”. The book – though not strictly a memoir – is based on the author’s own experience of caring for his brother through a short terminal illness. The interaction between the brothers was heartbreakingly touching. Although they were very dissimilar characters and not particularly close when growing up, the bond of brotherhood was there when it was needed. Throughout the book, the narrator recalls different times when the brothers were much younger. These are often very amusing tales, where one or the other has called upon his sibling to help him out of a difficult situation. Other reminiscences are quite sad.

Although the main subject of this book is about death, there is much to laugh at. The brothers are well educated and some of the conversations that begin quite normally often progress into hilarious offshoots and debates. The gentle patience of the younger brother shown towards Louis is very touching - and brought me to the edge of tears at times. I thoroughly recommend this book; it’s not all doom and gloom - and considering it’s not a thriller, it is a page-turner in its own way. I loved it.
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Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This is The Life by Alex Shearer – A novel

Whilst this is a novel, the story is very loosely based on the author's experience of his brother becoming ill and dying.

Death – a word we all dread and a word that is often avoided. "Sorry to hear of your loss". "The passing of a loved one", Just a couple of the phrases people use so as to avoid the dreaded word. But death is a part of life and it is something we all have to experience.

The story is by no means doomy gloomy. There are sad aspects but there are lots of amusing bits.

What I found difficult was the style of writing, which seems to becoming more and more usual these days. The story darted around. Times were past before Louis was ill. Then times were after his death. Then times were while he was ill. It bounced around too much for me and made for a reading experience akin to trying to have a conversation with someone suffering from dementia or similar.

There is a lot of what is written in this story that most readers will identify with. There are aspects in the storyline that you will see in yourself, or a family member or a friend. I suppose the slightly random way the story goes, is the random way our own thoughts bounce around when faced with a similar scenario in our own lives.

It is not a book that I found to be a page – turner. Not a story that I would like to see translated for the small screen, however nonetheless it is very thought provoking and very worth reading.
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Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This is one of those books that leaves you feeling glad you have read it. The subject matter of a life ending has been touched on by some best-selling books over recent years. I particularly thought of the Picardie sisters' journal 'Before I Say Goodbye' on reading this, in that the book is written by a surviving sibling; however Alex Shearer chose to fictionalise his account. This doesn't make the book false or unreal however. It brings you characters that you can believe in completely.
Life deals harshly with the sick and dying in many cases; fictionalising things probably allowed Alex to control his anger over the bitter injustices that society deals out to those who can no longer materially contribute to it. At the same time the voice of realism is maintained; there are no plaster saints in these pages.
People about to leave the planet can be cranky, bitter and annoying, piling guilt upon those who are caring for them, when they catch themselves in less than caring thoughts.
Life is like that and death is like that. It isn't angels hovering at the bedhead, and is very often the elephant in the room.
Alex Shearer catches all that, and more in the pages of this book. It makes you laugh, nod knowingly, and often, put the book down for a moment's pause and reflection before you carry on.
A deeply humane book and a cracking read.
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Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
A work of fiction inspired by the death of Alex Shearer's brother - speculation inevitable about how many of the emotions and memories expressed by the unnamed narrator are in fact the author's own.

Once the high-flier, Louis' life became a succession of random projects - all of them destined to fail. In due course he simply let everything slide. Once a brain tumour is diagnosed, his younger brother flies out from England to Australia to help out during the final months. He finds much to exasperate, but all is overshadowed by sibling love.

Wry humour abounds. So many around declare "No worries", whilst Louis seems nearer the mark with "We're screwed". Wincingly described are accumulating frustrations, so much of what Louis owns declared by him "fine" although failing to function. Vividly portrayed are colourful characters perhaps best avoided - not least those sozzled bickering married bores, Jack and Mary.

Louis, of course, dominates - even after death, recollections jabbing as possessions are sorted for charity shops or the bin.

Here is a novel to provoke deep personal thoughts, probably more sadness than mirth amongst those striving to recover from a death in the family.

All need to recognize now what is precious in life and make the most of it. Never leave it too late.

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VINE VOICEon 24 November 2014
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This is not by the Alan Shearer, footballer, but an author who writes about the djifficult subject of the loss of a brother due to a brain tumour. However, he discloses this is a 'much fictionalised' version. The subject sounds grim and close to the bone, but it is actually a fantastically written book which has many moments of humour alongside the heartbreaking reality of the subject matter. It is one of those books that one should not enjoy but I was left questioning some of the themes within the book of life, death and the process of dying.
A book which I recommend but don't read it during dark times in your own life, or without a box of tissues to hand
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on 23 July 2014
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I personally could not get into this book. I appreciate the good reviews for it but I found it very difficult to read. The character build up is insufficient enough to make me care about the characters and I just did not want to read it. The writing style is very 'bitty' and haphazard which also put me off. I appreciate death and illness are difficult topics to write about and that the author has done this well in others' tastes, however, this one just didn't do it for me and I didn't find anything funny on this book at all. Sorry, not for everyone.
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Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
"Maybe tonight, maybe tomorrow, maybe one of these days soon, when the world is quiet again, you might understand what it is you need to understand. But really, you know you never will. And you'll be baffled until the day you die. And even then you might never find out. You're like an ant crawling over a manuscript. You aren't even aware the words are there, let alone able to read them."
This is the Life is an ode to a dead brother - based a real one, as detailed in the epilogue: The origins of This is the Life.
Louis, the brother, is not an easy man to live with and never was, not from childhood; a man gifted with many talents, but lacking the most important one: how to cope with life. His less talented but more capable brother, who has always had to pick up the pieces left in Louis wake, flies to Australia to care for Louis, who is dying from a brain tumour. He finds a man living in a self-created chaos of bad choices and ruined relationships, filth, vermin and non-functioning white goods. In the midst of the mess he has made of his life, Louis remains exasperating, maddening, still loveable.
It's a heartbreaking tale. It's not an easy read, but it is beautifully written. The dirty, dreary everyday misery is interspersed with quiet musings on the pointlessness of life and death and dying. Expect to be depressed, but also enchanted.
"Louis, my brother, always went places first, being older. And then, after a time, I would follow. I expect he'll still be wearing the beanie hat. He'll probably say, 'What kept you?' One of us will know what to do.
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VINE VOICEon 21 January 2014
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
A short book with a lasting impact. "This Is The Life" was inspired by Shearer's brother's death and I felt as if I was intruding on his own, personal grief as he describes here the last few months of a man's life. It seems as intimate as a diary at times.
Louis has had surgery for a brain tumour and his younger brother flies out to Australia to be with him and care for him.
Unless I missed it, the younger brother remains unnamed and is just referred to as "Louis's brother". This made me really feel that it is mostly non-fiction and the author's own experience. As Shearer states--being defined as simply being related to someone else is the inevitable consequence of "coming along later and not having the sense to get there first!" But the dominant, older sibling role is reversed as Louis's condition deteriorates. How often that happens with children and their aging parents; and in the same way Shearer describes how even the strongest bonds can be tested at such a time.
Louis appears to have always been a bit odd, rather verging on the autistic spectrum but he did have lots of good friends and as we learn more about Louis's life in Australia it provides the reader with a detailed and moving eulogy.
The book is supposed to be "achingly funny". I found it amusing at times but not laugh out loud. It is also promoted as a book which will move you to tears. It certainly did that. It is extremely moving and a wake-up call for those who forget that life is transient.

This is the Life
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VINE VOICEon 22 March 2015
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This novel, apparently born of the author's own experience (although it is a work of fiction), is the tale of two brothers: the first perosn narrator (whose name is never mentioned) and Louis, his older brother, who is suffering from an uncurable brain tumour. We see them through from the diagnosis, the treatments, right up until the end of Louis's life, and meet a cast of (often eccentric) characters along the way.

First, the good news. This novel is insightful and deep on one level, but readable, and often entertaining as well. The author's style is relaxed and accessible, and I immediately became involved with the characters, especially the chaotic, eccentric but very likeable Louis. I feel that the narrator's preoccupation with death is very personal to the author, and he makes some very perceptive observations ("why is it that we aren't afraid of death all the time, but only when its imminence is announced? We know what's going to happen. We know there is no choice.Yet when we hear it knocking, it always comes as a terrifying surprise". So obvious, and yet so true).

But the reason I can't give this novel four stars is the structure. It seems to be a feature of practically every modern novel I read: the narrative is rarely linear, but jumps back and forth in time. And so it is with this book. One minute Louis is dying, the next he's being diagnosed; the next he's having chemotherapy, the next he's well. There seems to be no purpose to this, and no particular order. It adds nothing to the novel itself, and I found it irritating, as it interrupts the flow of the story.

In conclusion, I enjyed this novel - it is warm and human and sympathetic - but I would have enjoyed it even more if the narrative had been uninterrupted. Recommended.
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