September 1939. War between Germany and Britain has just been declared, an event which – together with occasional back references to a previous conflict of some 25 years earlier – acts as an appropriate backdrop for a novel exploring, on a domestic level, the manifestations and repercussions of yet another form of madness. The outbreak of war necessitates the removal of 13-year-old Rowan Scrivener, a sufferer from schizophrenia, from his London family to an institution in Kent, described by its director as ‘a private asylum for the mentally deranged’, where the patients undergo ‘a treatment with much controversy and some risks’ involving electro-convulsive therapy. The doctor principally in charge has left his native Germany to work here, a fact which induces sharp feelings of guilt when he recalls what is happening in his homeland. But, interesting as Hearn’s handling of this dimension of her story is, the real focus of the narrative remains on Rowan, his ‘Superboy from Planet Krypton’ fantasies and, most skilfully of all, his evolving relationship with Dorothea, a teenage fellow patient. The light and shade of their friendship, including its tragic denouement, are beautifully observed, as are the eccentricities of Rowan’s family and their responses to the boy’s situation. Readers of Julie Hearn’s earlier work, and particularly of the excellent The Merrybegot, will find no diminution of her talents here.
http://booksforkeeps.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/12/bfklogo.png 0 0 Richard Hill http://booksforkeeps.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/12/bfklogo.png Richard Hill2009-05-01 13:50:022022-12-19 13:52:56Rowan the Strange