Cruel Madness, A

by Thubron, Colin | Literature & Fiction |
ISBN: 014007760x Global Overview for this book
Registered by tangledthreads of Derby, Derbyshire United Kingdom on 5/7/2004
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2 journalers for this copy...
Journal Entry 1 by tangledthreads from Derby, Derbyshire United Kingdom on Friday, May 7, 2004
Jacket blurb: "Colin Thubron conjures up, within a tight narrative, a whole persuasive world - not just the physical setting of the hospital, but the tortuous and paradoxical internal world of the warped mind."

Journal Entry 2 by tangledthreads from Derby, Derbyshire United Kingdom on Friday, May 7, 2004
"It's perturbing how you come to take your identity from somebody else's gaze."

I wasn't expecting too much from this novel. I read another book by the same author, 'Distance', about a man with amnesia. I felt quite emotionally detached from the book, although looking back I wonder if that was something Thubron was trying to achieve deliberately, given the nature of the story. Anyway, back to the subject at hand, I was surprised and impressed by 'A Cruel Madness'.

At the beginning we are introduced to the narrator, Daniel, as a teacher giving classes at an asylum over summer. While there, he comes across an old flame - once a doctor, now a patient - provoking reminiscences and the rekindling of an old obsession.

From Chapter 3, however, although the phrasing is carefully ambiguous, it is clear that Daniel himself is actually a patient at the asylum. (I was relieved when I realised that I was supposed to have come to this conclusion, as I wasn't going to be very impressed if that had been the 'twist' at the end.) Once you have determined the unreliability of your narrator, it is then more of a game, trying to discern the true nature of the situation. I was more than once led by the nose into a narrative trap, only seeing at the very last minute where I was heading.

If you are interested in the workings of a disturbed mind, this novel makes fascinating reading. As with 'Distance' I didn't have an emotional reaction to the characters, but I was blown away by the skilfully constructed story. I almost wanted to pick it up and read it again as soon as I had finished, because I strongly suspect it is the kind of book that will reveal more in a second reading, once you know what you are looking for.

I will be loaning this out to optics at the next Meetup but will definitely be reading again in the future. I like to be taken by surprise.

Journal Entry 3 by tangledthreads from Derby, Derbyshire United Kingdom on Tuesday, May 11, 2004
Released on loan to optics at Silk Mill pub, at Meetup this evening...

Journal Entry 4 by optics from Derby, not specified not specified on Thursday, May 13, 2004
Collected at the Derby Meetup!

Journal Entry 5 by optics from Derby, not specified not specified on Monday, September 27, 2004
When reading this book it reminded me of the saying "if I know I am going crazy then I must not be insane". In the book Daniel is someone doing and saying things cause he believes them to be real and protects himself from reality (put very simply).

This book is cleverly written and leads you through the story in a way that lets you know what is going on. It does not spell things out to you but you get the feeling that you find things out at the pace that was intended by the author. The only criticism of the book was I found it too slow in places, I felt I was ahead of the story and if I skipped a few pages it would not have mattered.

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