Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction, Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel, Post Colonial Asian Fiction, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality Historical Novels are Among my Interests

Monday, May 17, 2010

"Cardboard:A Woman Left for Dead" by Fiona Place

Cardboard: A Woman Left for Dead by Fiona Place (386 pages, 2010-second edition)

When Fiona Place contacted me and offered me a free copy of her book I was flattered and happy to get a free book.    Of course before I accepted the book I studied the title on and to see if it was fair of me to accept the  book and if it  might be worth my time.   Over all the rating are quite high.   I discovered the first edition of the book (1989) won the Australian National Book Council Award for best book by a new writer.

Cardboard is narrated in the first person by Lucy, the main  character of the work.    She suffers from anorexia, an extreme aversion to food.  ( I will admit this is a hard disease for me to relate to as I love food.)

 As I read on in Cardboard I came to realize Place was intentionally  making brilliant use of a hard for most of us to understand disease (or psychological problem-semantic issues here)  as a metaphor for the effects that the inability to be in control off our lives can have on our ability to accept the pleasures of the human condition.     The writing is done in a very conscious of itself manner and its role in relaying the story manner blends elegantly with the themes of the book.   

As the story opens Lucy is on a tour.   She gets weaker and weaker as she refuses to eat.   The tour leader leaves her in a hotel in country where she does not speak the language.   Lucy returns to a country that speaks her language and ends up in the hospital.   The doctors are at a loss to explain the cause or discover a cure for her illness.   At first Lucy comes to see her essence as that of a "sick person".    Some of the doctors and nurses are very professional, some are uncaring and seem immune to the feelings of their patients.    The novel then begins to show us why Lucy has the issues she does.  I began to feel real pride in Lucy as she embarked on the solution to her problem, a problem she could only really solve herself.   It is also a very perceptive study of the ways hospitals control and regard their patients, especially those with diesease that annoy or bore the hospital staff.    It was a pleasure to see Lucy grow and become empowered.   

Some of the novel is written as the near stream of consciousness of Lucy.   Part of the novel is in verse.   In a memo in the novel from an imminent authority on the causes of anorexia it is suggested that it may have its roots in the inability of the sufferers to pick up double meanings in language.     It is this idea that is in play in the many experimental uses of language by Place.   As Lucy begins the process of healing, the language of the book becomes less childlike and admits of more nuances of interpretation.    

On Fiona Place's web page you can learn a lot more  about her and her work.  

Mel u


Bethany said...

Oh wow! This book sounds amazing! And, my own work in progress is first person from a girl who used to suffer from anorexia. This would be some very useful research too. Thanks for the review!

Suko said...

Excellent review, Mel. I also read Cardboard and will review it soon. The author kindly sent me a couple of extra books to giveaway.

Fiona Place said...

It is wonderful for the book to reach a new audience - and I am very lucky to have book reviewers such as Mel and the wider book blog community to read and comment on the book. It is a work I think still stands, still works - and is very much about taking the reader inside the closed world of an eating disorder - to experience the blinkered and restricted view as well as the struggle to recover, to regain a vision that can allow growth and enjoyment. It is also about language - how we define ourselves through words and draws on Robert Lowell, Marguerite Duras and others for inspiration. I was a poet who wrote a novel - which means my whole focus was one the words, on the narrative working at an unconscious level. I look forward to further comments and once again thank you to Mel.

Eileen said...

Wow, she just got left in a hospital in a strange country where she doesn't speak the language? That sounds terrifying.

Mel u said...

Bethany-glad this may be of use to you

Suko-I will look forward to your review of this book

Fiona-the book blog community is a great way for authors to communicate directly with the reading public-thanks so much for giving me the change to read your book

E L Fay-yes it had to have been

Suko said...

Mel, I added a link to your review of Cardboard to my review of Cardboard.