We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves: Shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2014

Karen Joy Fowler

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves: Shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2014
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We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves: Shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2014

Karen Joy Fowler

Rosemary’s young, just at college, and she’s decided not to tell anyone a thing about her family. So we’re not going to tell you too much either: you’ll have to find out for yourselves what it is that makes her unhappy family unlike any other.

Rosemary is now an only child, but she used to have a sister the same age as her, and an older brother. Both are now gone - vanished from her life. There’s something unique about Rosemary’s sister, Fern. So now she’s telling her story; a looping narrative that begins towards the end, and then goes back to the beginning. Twice. It’s funny, clever, intimate, honest, analytical and swirling with ideas that will come back to bite you.

We hope you enjoy it, and if, when you’re telling a friend about it, you do decide to spill the beans about Fern - it’s pretty hard to resist - don’t worry.

Review

Alternatively funny and heartbreaking, We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves tells the story of a young woman, Rosemary, and her not-so-ordinary upbringing. This is the kind of book where the less you know about the story before reading, the better. That said, I can tell you the novel begins when Rosemary is a college student in her early twenties. She has a past filled with secrets she doesn’t want anyone to know, and several of her family members are mysteriously missing. The first 18 years of her life were defined by one fact, and she doesn’t want the reader to know it right away (you’ll find out around a quarter of the way into the book): ‘I had to move halfway across the country in order to leave that fact behind. It’s never going to be the first thing I share with someone.’

A novel that twists and turns, We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves intimately examines a family from all angles. It jumps around in time, moving from Rosemary’s college years to her childhood and back again, and finally, to Rosemary in the present day. Karen Joy Fowler’s writing style is strong and distinctive, and Rosemary is a witty and engaging narrator who will at once charm and infuriate readers.

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves raises a lot of interesting ideas, including ethical dilemmas and questions around the reliability of memory. But at its heart, it’s the story of a broken family, and it genuinely made me laugh and cry. This novel is an absolute joy to read. I highly recommend it, especially for book clubs – you’ll be dying to discuss it with someone else once you’ve finished.


Nina Kenwood is the Digital Marketing Manager for Readings.

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