Rowan the Strange (by Julie Hearn)

2 07 2011

The cat doesn’t really get all the gushing about Rowan the Strange by Julie Hearn. Not that she found it a struggle to get through this book, she just didn’t know what all the fuss was about.

Set in 1939 in London, by all accounts a time of confusion and hardship, Rowan Scrivener is the strange one, he has these uncontrollable fits, which turn out to be symptomatic for his schizophrenia. For his own and his family’s safety he is sent to an asylum in Kent. His mother signs a waiver agreeing to all necessary therapies, not really realizing Rowan will be submitted to electroconvulsive shock therapy – the man in charge here is a German doctor, no less!

Maybe the rave reviews  have something to do with the setting of the book: an English insane asylum at the beginning of the Second World War, with a department run by a German doctor? Or maybe it’s about the reversal of roles (bad nursie, good Jerry). Or maybe it’s because mad kids just invoke sympathy? Or maybe it’s making the production of Peter Pan by the loonies and nurses alike central in your book (you know…the road to self-discovery and all that). Or maybe it’s the fact that Julie Hearn doesn’t make it very hard to get through this book in one sitting?

All in all, the cat would guess that Julie Hearn has attempted to write a One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest but then for children. Nice attempt, I’m sure this would work as a film too…or would have worked as a film, like 20 or 30 or so ago. I guess it might be this that made the cat feel as if this was just nothing new…the story in itself – though interesting enough – feels oddly old-fashioned, as did Julie Hearn’s style. This one won’t stick.

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