Sunday, 1 February 2015

Book #10 We Are Not Ourselves by Matthew Thomas

We Are Not Ourselves

My thanks to the publisher, Fourth Estate, for the complimentary copy

Eileen Tumilty is the child of proud Irish immigrants, a first generation Irish American, both parents struggle with alcoholism and she becomes a carer at a young age. Later, she marries Ed, but suddenly his behaviour becomes inexplicably erratic, leading them to a devastating diagnosis. 

This was a tough read for me. I felt an utter sense of detachment the vast majority of the time from any of the characters, I couldn't emotionally invest in anybody. Somehow the early years of Eileen Tumilty feel like a description of a person rather than a story with a character in it. I never really felt like I knew her. Even before Ed becomes ill, they don't have the greatest marriage, they did not seem particularly well suited and I didn't take to him as a character. Nor did I feel that I understood either of their behaviour in terms of their relationship with their son Connell.

At the books most dramatic moments, I failed to feel very moved at all, even though the story was sad, whereas normally, given the subject matter, and the events, I would have expected to cry.
Secondary characters didn't really come off the page either. I felt like characters such as Ruth, and Frank, and even cousin Pat, were not particularly fleshed out, and felt rather empty.

What is odd then, is that in spite of the fact that it's quite dry and certainly long, I did keep reading it, right through to the end, so something kept me reading. Because I never understood what made Eileen tick, I couldn't understand her decisions. Like choosing to pretty much force her declining husband out of the neighbourhood he knew for apparently racist reasons.

A puzzling experience, not a bad novel, certainly, but somehow a completely disengaging one.

Verdict : 6/10

2015 Challenge : A book set somewhere you want to visit (New York)

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