Monday, September 03, 2007

POPPY SHAKESPEARE by Clare Allen (2006)

I have a subscription to THE BELIEVER magazine to read Nick Hornby's monthly column "Stuff I'm Reading" and it was there that I read about Clare Allen's debut novel. POPPY SHAKESPEARE is a rollercoaster ride through a mental hospital in North London wherein the day patients, called "dribblers" , barter meds, smoke until their throats are raw and look out for each other's well being. The narrator, N., like her fellow patients at the Dorothy Fish, has the ambition to never be discharged, so each year she is relieved to hear at her assessment that she hasn't gotten any better.

However, when Pollyanna is unexpectedly discharged and is replaced by Poppy Shakespeare who insists she's not mentally ill, N.'s world trembles and she finds herself trusting somebody else for the first time in a very long while.

Allen's diction is snappy and her narrator completely believable. POPPY SHAKESPEARE has been described as a mix of CATCH 22 and ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO'S NEST. If you liked either one of those novels, you really ought to pick this one up.

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