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Interesting and Challenging
on 3 July 2014
Who are you? Interesting & Challenging
Elizabeth Forbes’ second novel Who Are You? is an interesting and challenging look at how we in the UK deal with PTSD in are young men that we send to war. It raises some interesting questions as to whether we do enough not only to support the ex soldier but do we support the ever hidden victims of PTSD the families who are left to deal with it. Mental health issues such as PTSD is not a sexy subject nor is the returning soldier who has PTSD we normally paint them as returning heroes not damaged vessels.
Who Are You? is quite a dark and twisted read dealing with an issue others would rather avoid, in an interesting read with two narratives, that of Alex the returning soldier and Juliet his wife and mother to their child Ben. We are able to feel and see what Alex feels especially as he is working in the City in a job he does not enjoy living in the suburbs he does not like. Juliet is a stay at home maker who is building a beautiful home in the London suburb of Richmond.
Alex now that he has left the army and attempting to live a ‘normal’ life but he is not the same Alex that went to war he is totally different. He was once a loving person but now is abusive and cruel and even a danger to his wife and young son. It is through the use of internet forums she believes that Alex is suffering from PTSD but she realises that things can only get worse for them.
Forbes develops throughout the book the scary details of a broken man with PTSD who cannot recognise what is really happening around him. We get inside both Alex’s and Juliet’s mind and see how their thinking is developing even though both are damaged in their own way. It really does illicit a lot of sympathy for Ben their child who is the innocent observer and participant in this story. Juliet knows she has to get Ben away from Alex for his own safety and hope to start afresh with a new life.
This is an excellently well written and researched book on a taboo subject many would like to avoid. In that this book could be just applicable to any soldier coming home from any war in our history as one can mend the body but the mind is totally different. Without recognising that PTSD is a mental health issue and we need to recognise that this does change people and their memories we are only going to repeat what is happening to survivors and their families as they suffer together – the unwitting victims of war.
Who Are You? is not an easy read and it is not really designed to be but it is a compelling read especially with the character development as we see how the PTSD affects Alex and his family. The way Forbes has written the story using a double narrative is challenging but well worth it as it helps you to stop and think about mental health issues and how poorly they are dealt with in and outside of the army. I would advise be prepared to be horrified at times but feel complete sympathy for all their battles with PTSD.