Saturday, May 26, 2007

I've found Adam

This post presents me with a problem. The problem is how to communicate the fact that although Caroline is my friend, my very very dear friend who I have come to love and respect over the few months that we have known each other online, everything I am about to say is irrespective of that friendship.

So. Please take me at my word and I will begin.

Yesterday at 14.35 pm I had my copy of Caroline's new novel In Search of Adam placed into my hands by Clare Weber in The Friday Project offices. I was going in to town to get a train back out to South East London, for an appointment. By 14.50 I was walking into the underground at St James's Park tube. I took a picture of the book in my hand. I didn't know it was a 'before' moment. The beginning of a 'before and after'.

The train arrived. I sat down. I opened the book and began to read. By page 3 I was crying. On the tube. In front of people.

I need to qualify something here - I don't do crying at books, or films, or TV or music. The only book which has ever previously moved me to sob was JG Ballard's The Kindness of Women. Media which touches me with that depth is rare. The film Gallipoli, the death of Mark Green in ER - it has happened so rarely that I remember each occasion. It's not that I lack empathy, but I find it hard to entirely suspend my understanding that this is a film / book / tv show.

So. At page 3 I began crying. I didn't stop crying (or reading) until several hours later when I had reached the end. I am a fast reader, I am prone to reading books in one sitting, can eat up 2 novels on a transatlantic flight. But. But this was about Jude. Caroline has created a character who was so real to me, so utterly completely alive for me, that I didn't want to leave her alone. In the moments when I was not reading, when I was crossing the street, in the appointment, stepping on to and off of various trains, I ached to be back with her. I wanted to reach into the book and put my arms around her. I wanted to whisper I am here. I am listening. You are not alone. At times I felt that Jude knew I was there. I don't think I have ever experienced that with a book before. Have you?

ISoA is a sad book. A moving, desperately tragic story. But. But it's not a miserable book. It is without self-consciousness. Without drama. Without sentimentality. Which is remarkable considering the fact that it is a book about child abuse, written from the child's perspective.

There are lots of ways in which ISoA is a clever book too. The use of different fonts and sizes and symbols and the graphic layout of words on the page is not a gimmick. Caroline was once slated for having 'got her book deal with a few fancy fonts'. That is not the case. ISoA is bordering on visual art. The use of the fonts, the use of repetition, the layout of words on the page, they are a powerful multiplier of Jude's voice - they tell you things which Jude does not have the understanding or confidence to articulate. They add a layer of meta communication. They are crucial to the story, core to the writing. They are not formatting - weren't added as an afterthought ... I feel that this is how the words came out.

If I had millions of pounds I would have hundreds of thousands of copies of ISoA printed and issue them to every parent, teacher, nurse, doctor, social worker, psychologist, therapist, youth worker and politician in the country. I would simply ask them to read 3 pages, and know that they would read the rest.

But I don't. So, I will have to rely on the fact that I don't believe you can read a book like ISoA and not tell people about it. That people who have met Jude will carry her story to others. And they will, because, in short, In Search of Adam is a before and after book.

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Anonymous trousers said...

So you enjoyed it then :-)

That's a pretty unequivocally powerful response to the book, and I reckon Caroline will be thrilled/panicked in equal measure!

Its good to hear though, and I look forward to heading out to a bookshop in three weeks time.

26 May, 2007 13:04  
Anonymous trousers said...

Sorry - "pretty" unequivocally? Things are either unequivocal or they aren't. Do excuse me!

26 May, 2007 13:22  
Blogger Caroline said...

I don't know how to respond.

Thank yous?

Twiddle them all together and that'll come close.

So glad you have Adam.

26 May, 2007 20:54  
Blogger Ms Melancholy said...

This is a beautiful review, Stray. Let's hope that one day you have millions of pounds. These stories need to be heard.

26 May, 2007 21:48  
Blogger Stray said...

Mr trousers! Lovely to see you - though in black and not blue? What's that about?

Cas - I shall twirl and swirl those round and round ... hugs would be nice! Thank yous not necessary. Smiles and tears probably inevitable. Panic would be better avoided but if you need to then try to chop it up into bite sized chunks.

Ms M - Oh! Wouldn't it be lovely to have millions of pounds so you could do stuff like that? I've rarely seen the point in having millions of pounds ... but that would be a great reason.


27 May, 2007 12:13  
Blogger dovegreyreader said...

Yipeeeeee I knew it!It's quite tricky to offer up the first review of a book and then you hold your breath for the next one but I felt so 110% sure about ISoA that I knew I could and had to go out on a limb with it.It is a complete reading experience and I don't recall the last time I felt so emotionally engaged with a book on this subject.I think it deserves to be hugely succesful and all those professionals should do what teachers did with Mark Haddon and just spend some money on it and read it.Jude Williams is going to become very well-known soon and will be loved,adored and embraced by everyone who meets her.

27 May, 2007 12:50  
Blogger Stray said...

Dovegreyreader - Well - that's 2 of us! How many do you think we need to start a movement?

I thought your review was superb by the way. Really spot on.


27 May, 2007 13:24  
Blogger dovegreyreader said...

I'll have to check with Arlo and Alice, can't remember how many people make a movement but I think we'll just head on and have ourselves a revolution, why stick at half measures!

27 May, 2007 14:02  
Blogger trousers said...

There we go - back in blue (I keep forgetting to sign in)

27 May, 2007 15:23  
Blogger Stray said...

dovegreyreader - yes! yes! A revolution! Hell - we've already got badges, a slogan and a fantastic manifesto - all we need now is a few more people, and I've no doubt they are right behind us :)

trousers - that's so much better :)

27 May, 2007 15:53  
Anonymous Natalie said...

Well I was going to read it after I'd finished doing this that and the other but now I'll have to put off TTATO and get Caroline's book immediately. Thanks for this straight-from-the-heart review Stray, it's the only kind of review that I truly believe in.
I too gulp books down in one big swallow, if they capture my attention. I've been known to take a book home from a bookstore, start reading on the bus, get home and sit down still wearing my coat and not get up until the last page, even if it takes until the next morning. (That's if it's a really big fat book. I'm a fast reader too).

27 May, 2007 20:11  
Blogger Clare said...


I was already planning to read this (and indeed was gripped by the bit I read on her blog) but after reading this review I really really have to read it. Yay for Caroline. She so deserves this.

28 May, 2007 00:19  
Blogger Shell said...

what a gorgeous gorgeous review, stray! i knew from the moment i saw Caroline's style that i would HAVE to order her book ... i suspected too that i would need a truckload of tissues because i DO cry at films, ads, a moment in the open air when something meta-touches ... i also read in one sitting so ... thank you for this eloquent review ...

28 May, 2007 16:00  
Blogger Stray said...

Natalie - oh goodness! I have done the very same - sat in a jacket, probably needing a wee for about 2 hours and completely dehydrated ... but totally absorbed.

Can't recommend it highly enough.

Clare - I think Cas does deserve this, both for being a brilliant writer (I am still having 'aha' moments several days later, and there are sentences from the book that made such a strong impression that I can recite them back verbatim) and for having the guts to write about such difficult material.

Shell - I think if you're a bit heart-on-sleeve under normal circumstances then two truckloads would be safer.

What is really amazing is that I feel like the little girl in the book is still with me. I found a tube of purple star shaped glitter today whilst going through a box of 'stuff', and my first thought was "Jude would love this ... ".

I think there is only one other character who I carry with me and that is the main character from Denise Mina's books in the Garnethill series.

Very special indeed.

Thank you all for stopping by :)


29 May, 2007 00:14  
Anonymous Hydrocodone said...

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02 November, 2007 12:07  

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