POVone: The First Person Perspective

Rants and Reviews on Novels Written in the First Person Point of View

Tag Archives: Mental Illness

Book Review: At the Water’s Edge by Sara Gruen

Author: Sara Gruen
Title: At the Water’s Edge
Genre: Literary; Historical
Publication Date: March 31, 2015
Publisher: Spiegel & Grau (Random House)
Number of Pages: 368
Narrator: Maddie Hyde (Pennypacker)
Quality Rating: 76.94

At the Water's Edge by Sara Gruen

What’s It About?

As the second World War wages in the world around her, Maddie spends much of her time hanging around with her husband Ellis and his best friend Hank–who have avoided service for medical reasons. When they get a little carried away and make a scene at a high society New Year’s Eve party, Ellis’s father cuts him off from the family fortune. To get back at his dad, he and Hank drag Maddie to Ireland in search of the fabled Lochness Monster. Years ago, Ellis’s father achieved infamy by faking a siting of the beast, and Ellis intends to show him up by capturing footage of the real thing.

Once thy arrive at their destination, a small hotel in a rural area near the Loch, Ellis and Hank begin searching for Nessie and visiting people who have seen the beast–often leaving Maddie by herself at the hotel. As Maddie spends more and more time with the hotel staff, she grows increasingly fond of them–to the disappointment of Ellis, who insists that they are beneath her class.

When he returns from his expeditions, Ellis is always drunk and proceeds to cruelly insult Maddie in a variety of ways. His mistreatment of Maddie leads to many confrontations with the hotel staff, including disagreements with a man who has become specially interested in Maddie. As the story unfolds, secrets come to light about Ellis’s true character, why he isn’t serving in the war, and what he really thinks of his wife. All of this latent tension leads to a dramatic to conclusion in which the monster is revealed–although perhaps not the one they were looking for.

Should You Read It?

If you like the sort of story that centers around a woman’s struggle to escape a bad marriage, this will be right up your alley. Also central to the story is the theme of social expectations and the class divisions they create. Although the novel is set in Europe at the height of World War 2, the war is a minor theme. The rich depictions of Ireland and its people are emphasized more than the time period. Also, be advised that this isn’t really about a search for the Lochness monster–that point is merely a vehicle for the development of the deep relationship conflict that fills the pages.

Links and References

Author Information: Website, Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, NPR Interview

Book Reviews: Boston Globe, Kirkus Reviews, Chicago Tribune, That’s What She Read

Purchase: Buy It On Amazon.com

Other Books By Sara Gruen: Ape House (2010), Water for Elephants (2006), Flying Changes (2005)

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Book Review: Our Endless Numbered Days by Claire Fuller

Author: Claire Fuller
Title: Our Endless Numbered Days
Genre: Literary
Publication Date: March 17, 2015
Publisher: Tin House (Bloomsbury)
Number of Pages: 382
Narrator: Peggy
Amazon.com Reviewer Grade: A, Excellent; of the first 48 reviews, the average reader rating was 96.67%.

Our Endless Numbered Days by Claire Fuller

What’s It About?

Peggy is an eight year old girl whose mother has gone off to work in Germany. After witnessing an argument he has on the telephone, she is abruptly taken from her home out into the wilderness to live alone with her temperamental father. After a torrential storm occurs shortly after their arrival at an abandoned cottage in the woods, Peggy’s father informs her that the rest of the world has been destroyed. The two of them are the only ones alive and, just over the hill across the forest, the world melts away into nothingness.

Peggy’s father teaches her to take care of herself in the wild, at times coming to the brink of starvation. To alleviate his anxiety and boredom, Peggy’s father comes up with endless projects–from creating a makeshift piano for Peggy to rebuilding the cottage they’ve come to call home.

Over time, Peggy’s father slowly loses his mind. To escape his violent and mercurial outbursts, Peggy begins to venture off into the woods by herself. Soon, she meets another man who has been living in the forest. As she develops a relationship with this mystery man, he becomes a refuge from her father. As she grows into her late teens, Peggy’s father reaches his wit’s end–leading to a dramatic showdown between Peggy, her father, and her new secret lover.

Should You Read It?

If you like a good psychological mystery, you’ll love this story. Told through the lens of a child, the author captures the world–not as it is–but as it is seen through damaged eyes. The narrative and tone leave the reader wondering what’s real and what’s imagined–all the way up to the dramatic and cathartic conclusion. If you enjoy a good survival story, you’ll probably like this book as well–as it is set in an isolated wilderness. While the writing style creates a strong sense of mystery and movement, the themes are darkly and deeply literary. So, whether your tastes tend more toward the high brow or the nitty gritty, this story will likely appeal to you if enjoy a good tale of mystery and madness.

Links and References

Author Information: Website, Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads

Book Reviews: The Guardian, The Socratic Salon, The Chicago Tribune

Purchase: Buy It On Amazon.com

Other Books By Claire Fuller: Our Endless Numbered Days is Claire Fuller’s debut novel.

Book Review: Making Nice by Matt Sumell

Author: Matt Sumell
Title: Making Nice
Genre: Literary
Publication Date: February 17, 2015
Publisher: Henry Holt (Holtzbrinck)
Number of Pages: 240
Narrator: Alby
Amazon.com Reviewer Grade: D+, Bad; of the first 48 reviews, the average reader rating was 69.17%.

Making Nice by Matt Sumell

What’s It About?

Alby is a crass and aggressive 30 year old man from a dysfunctional family. When his mother dies of cancer, he begins to reminisce on various instances in his life. He talks of fights he gets into with his siblings, conversations with his drunken father, and his awkward encounters with strangers.

Within each episode Alby recounts, the reader gets a sense of how complex Alby is–at once brutally honest and psychologically disturbed. Despite his vulgarity and inexplicable rage, a subtle undercurrent running through his narrative suggests he wants to do better–to “make nice” with those around him.

Should You Read It?

If you enjoy the sort of novel that consists more or less exclusively of the discursive ramblings of a mentally disturbed narrator, this book is for you. Think The Catcher in the Rye with a lot more F-words and crude sexual references. (Needless to say, if you’re sensitive to vulgar language, this is not for you). All of that being said, the tone of the novel–despite its graphic content–is surprisingly light and witty. The narrator’s non-sensical observations are laced with sarcasm that is quite comedic in all of its randomness.

Links and References

Author Information: Website, Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, Interview with NPR

Book Reviews: The Guardian, The Rumpus, The Irish Times

Purchase: Buy It On Amazon.com

Other Books By Matt Sumell: Making Nice is Matt Sumell’s debut novel.