We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves | Spoiler-y Review

I’m going to stick a really big disclaimer on this post and that is, if you’re planning to read this book in the future or even just think it might be something that’ll interest you, do not settle in. I can tell you from the outset, spoiler-free, that this book is so unique and, I’d say, best enjoyed if you go in completely blind as I did.

I really, really enjoyed this book. It has a hell of a lot of character and I got out of it exactly what I was expecting (and more!) – a powerful novel focused on the relationship between siblings in a dysfunctional family. Because the way I usually review books is tired and without much direction, I’m going to be snagging some of the discussion qs from the back of the book, because I’ve found a few that pick out my favourite aspects of this read.

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Before we get stuck in, I suppose I’d better summarise the story briefly. We meet Rosemary, an introverted student, as she unexpectedly becomes part of a scuffle in the college canteen. It becomes apparent, fairly early on, that things haven’t always been this way – now choosing to stay silent, Rosemary was once a lively, brash, chatterbox child. She hasn’t been the same since the disappearance of her crazy twin sister Fern. Not only that, but it’s been ten years since her brother Lowell took off, sending only unsigned postcards in his wake.

So. This book. This book this book this book!

“It’s not until page 77 that we discover Fern is a chimpanzee. Rosemary’s keen to control the way the reader is introduced to certain ideas, in this case so she can establish Fern as her sister and not an animal. Did that work for you?”

For me, this was my favourite aspect of my whole reading experience. I had absolutely no idea that Fern was anything but a human twin until this point. I was so shocked! I was thoroughly controlled. If Fern had been introdued as a chimpanzee from the offset, I’m sure this would create some sort of emotional barrier between the reader and the sisters. As it is, in Rosemary’s words it is evident that their relationship runs much deeper than family pet and child. Following Fern’s departure, this is made all the more clear when Rosemary says it was easier for her brother and parents to adjust as they had a life before Fern, whereas Rosemary knew no different to the bond she shared with her. (such a bad paraphrase if I can find the quote from the book I’ll add it agh)

“Does the ending mean Rosemary has atoned for her earlier sins? Does she need to?”

The tone of the ending was absolutely perfect. The style in which the whole novel is delivered – piece by piece, non-chronologically – reflects her family’s imperfect nature. By no means is Rosemary ‘in the clear’, so to speak, and throughout the novel very few loose ends are tied and moments of clarity reached. Where Rosemary ends her story, her brother Lowell is still on the run, and there’s still deep-rooted, unsolved resentment between the human children and their parents. The ending scene is placed as a moment of calm amongst the chaos. We see Rosemary and Fern’s reunion after 22 years as a simple, natural exchange, and yet it’s such a significant moment in their relationship that I did tear up on the train reading it (yes, really.) Atonement does not seem necessary. The Cookes have a long way to go, but the love between Fern and Rosemary is unconditional.

The non-chronological narrative Rosemary uses in telling her story deserves a nod of its own, I think. Many features of this story – Fern being a chimpanzee, the parents using their children for a psychological experiment, even Rosemary’s tendancy to overshare as a child – inevitably would rouse certain judgements in the reader. By telling the story in such a roundabout way, we are able to empathize more closely with Rosemary by learning more about her as a person, thus understanding her on a personal level. Let’s face it, if you knew somebody who’d been raised to believe a chimpanzee was her sister and nothing else about her, you’d instantly be thinking that she’s a bit cookoo.

As Rosemary says, in every ‘human being’, the ‘being’ is much more important than the ‘human’.

Until tomorrow,

Emma x

Newcastle trippin’ | 6th-8th March 2016

September 2016 will mark the four-year anniversary of the beginning of my promise-making to my friend Kate, along the lines of ‘I will *definitely* come and visit you in Newcastle as soon as I can!’ when we moved away to uni. With this in mind, I finally got myself up to the blustery North to see the city for myself, one £83 return train ticket later.

On the better side of a five-hour train journey (and one confused, clompy walk from Birmingham Snow Hill to Grand Central to catch my connection because, not only had I never done the walk before, but I was also hauling a suitcase along cobbled pavements and had my nicest heeled brogues on to boot. So, clomp clomp), another of my nearest and dearest Anna met me from the station and took us to an independant bakery, The Great British Cupcakery, giving me a flying tour of the city centre on the way – visit to the viewing point in the Baltic art gallery included. We had the most *incredible* milkshakes and a lovely big catch up.

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These were only £5 – I feel like *I* robbed *them*, but whatever.

We made our way onto the Metro and into Jesmond later on, where Anna dropped me at Kate’s to head off and live the busy life of a medic (and cook some lemon salmon. A surprisingly good combo, if the rumours are to be believed).

I’m going to spare you the minute-by-minute details of the whole two days, but instead here are the things I learned during my visit.

1. Cobbling together any mixture of vegetables, meat and cheese with risotto rice and cream makes for a great meal.
2. Some sort of record of fisheries began in 1866. (Kate took me to her lecture I’ve gone a bit sketchy on all the other details of that fact)
3. Newcastle uni students, on the whole, are both v good looking and v well dressed.
4. In Newcastle, it makes perfect logical sense to charge £4.50 for a cider black (!!!!), but £9 for six shots of tequila (?!!?!?!). I’m deadly serious.
5. Just because you *can* make a martini with the contents of a sherbert Dip Dab doesn’t mean you should.
6. A hungover Tuesday morning is best spent with coffee on the beach, watching wet dogs play fetch and poo in the sea.

and finally, arguably the most important lesson…

7. it is worth spending the money to travel to a new place, see good friends and feel a little bit lighter.

…that was so corny. I can only apologise.

I had a lot of fun! Even if I upped and left my mum on Mothering Sunday to get there. Soz, Mum.

Until tomorrow (who are we kidding??),

Emma x

Little Mood Lifters

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Thanks to my friend Bee for creating this horrific but perfectly appropriate image to sum up how I’m feeling. 

I am not afraid to admit that, at nearly 22 years old, I am slowly and painfully wading through my quarter life crisis. Fresh out of uni, I’m working a part time job (which I do enjoy, don’t get me wrong) to get some savings behind me in order to move away from home and become an Adult with a Career. It’s a period of my life that I’ll always remember bittersweetly: being home has given me the opportunity to ask myself the plainly cruel questions of: will I ever fall in love? Will I have a successful, exciting career? What about money? Will my friends still be around forever? What if I move away and make no new friends and can’t find a job and run out of money and everything is shit and what if –

Cue the low moods, biting comments and 18 cups of coffee I stress-drink a day (not really. But I feel like I could, sometimes.)

As I’m putting the majority of my earnings in savings at the moment and I work 3-4 days a week, usually including weekends, I don’t really have the scope to Get Out and Do Things, that all the priviledged western world 20-somethings are touted as being free and completely able to do. However, that doesn’t stop me having some little, closer to home solutions to curing a low mood – and no, this list will *not* include the usual tripe, such as ‘join a gym!’ ‘cut out sugar!’ ‘go to sleep before 10pm each night!’ I’m optimistic, not crazy.

So. Here are my five Little Mood Lifters, tried and tested by yours truly:

1. Revisit the things you enjoyed when you were happier. From about the ages of 12/15, I was in the depths of a vaguely emo/scene phase. My fashion sense at the time could’ve been described as ’14 year old tries and fails miserably to become Vince Noir’, and my favourite bands were My Chemical Romance, Fall Out Boy and Panic! At The Disco. Despite all being things that got me and my friends teased relentlessly at school, I love the feeling of putting on one of their older albums and still being able to sing along to every word. It’s a bit like a comfort food.

2. Play Animal Crossing. Okay, bit of a dud if you don’t own Animal Crossing or just aren’t into games in general. When I’m feeling stressed, I love to check in with my townspeople and be soothed by AC’s lovely, delicate soundtrack. It’s nice to immerse myself in something that is so removed from my own situation so easily.

3. Clean! Sometimes the room I’m sat in can be enough to make me feel antsy. I’m not saying get the duster and polish out and go to town, but if there’s crap on your coffee table, throw away any rubbish and neatly pile the rest. It does help.

4. Leave the room. While I was revising for my finals at uni, the biggest piece of advice I could find on the Internet was to not revise in your bedroom. By using all your brainpower in your bedroom, you’re subconsciously creating this association that your bedroom = study study study oh GOD can you not cram any more in? Same goes for general stress. I spend a lot of time in my family home. If I spend enough time feeling stressed or sad in my lounge, I just pick up whatever I’m doing and move to the kitchen. (I’m writing this post from my kitchen table.)

5. Plan. I can’t literally pack up everything and leave, willy-nilly, for the aforementioned reasons. It would be nice to round up a group of friends and say ‘see ya later England we’re off to the Maldives!’ and then just go. But, as everyone with a head screwed on will agree with me, that’s just plain unrealistic. However, that doesn’t stop me looking into places I’d like to go in the future, jobs I may think about applying for and having a browse of the property market to see what apartments are on offer to give me some ideas for the future. Some may see it as a glaring reminder of all the things they *don’t* have, but for me it gives me something to aim towards and feel excited about when my current situation doesn’t quite offer me complete content.

So those are my little mood lifters, without a quinoa salad in sight!

Until tomorrow,

Emma x

(For the record I do actually enjoy quinoa and regularly go to the gym, and that’s a great feeling of its own! But it’s not an instant, everyday fix. Today I’ve eaten microwave chips and watched the second Harry Potter film in my dressing gown. It’s swings and roundabouts.)