What if you grew up to realise that your father had used your childhood as an experiment?
Rosemary doesn’t talk very much, and about certain things she’s silent. She had a sister, Fern, her whirlwind other half, who vanished from her life in circumstances she wishes she could forget. And it’s been ten years since she last saw her beloved older brother Lowell.
Now at college, Rosemary starts to see that she can’t go forward without going back, back to the time when, aged five, she was sent away from home to her grandparents and returned to find Fern gone.
I shall not reveal what this book is really about so as not to give spoilers, but it is a very interesting topic. Unfortunately, I was still rather disappointed by the book.
We’re All Completely Beside Ourselves starts as your average ‘missing sibling mystery’ and continues to be for the first 77 pages. It does this really nicely, but for me one third of the book seemed a little too long to expect the reader to remain interested.
In the book Rosemary slowly comes to terms with what has happened when she was five. She listens to other people’s perspectives, but recounts them without adding her own judgement. She later becomes a bit critical of her brother’s views, but this is not so much apparent from her thought process, as left to the reader to deduce from her reactions later on in the story. Her self-reflection does not increase throughout the novel, it merely wobbles a bit. This isn’t very troublesome to the story, but personally I just can’t stand a character who doesn’t think for herself. Ultimately, she doesn’t come to a real conclusion, but has her feelings of guilt softened by her mother.
I found the style of the book rather vague. Fowler doesn’t use many words to set the scene, but focuses on conversations and thoughts of her characters. I usually think that this can be a great strength, but in this book it only made it so hard for me to envision the settings of these conversations that it became distracting. I always want a nice picture in my head when I read a book :). Moreover, I got the feeling that Fowler tried very hard to add a literary touch to the book by quoting Kafka and dividing it into parts. However, neither of these things added very much to the story and instead made it feel a bit forced.
The ending of the book is quite jumbled. It suddenly halts the storyline in which Rosemary is 22 and starts jumping back and forth between moments later in her life. Many of my questions about some more minor characters were never answered.
On the front cover, Stylist states it has “one of the best twists in years”. In my opinion a good ‘twist’ is an ending which makes you re-evaluate the entire novel, not the introduction of an original topic. However, thinking about it now makes me doubt. What do you think?