Book Review: We are all Completely Beside Ourselves

I don’t know if I’m the only person who does this but I have a kind of subconscious list of books I want to read and authors I know (or think) I like. It’s made up of titles that I seem to remember having been short-listed for awards, or having had a good review one time, or having been recommended by a friend. I don’t make an effort to remember why I want to read a book and I tend to not even look at blurbs before I read, I just have this vague feeling that I’ll like a book.

A result of this is that if a book is on sale and it’s on my mental list of potentially good reads then there’s a good chance I’ll pick it up and squirrel it away until I have an opportunity to give it the attention it deserves. We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves was on sale in the Kindle store in June and it has been quietly, patiently sitting on my Kindle, waiting for a day when I would finish a paperback and need to reach for something else.

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Thank goodness for that little mental list of mine, it never lets me down. I loved this book. Perhaps because I never read the blurb or any reviews of it (that I can remember) every twist was unexpected. It made me laugh, it broke my heart maybe six times and now it’s making me bully P into reading it because I want to be able to talk about it with someone without accidentally spoiling it for them.

Without spoiling it I can tell you this: It follows Rosemary, a college-age woman who tells the story in the first person and starts in the middle, a habit she picked up because as a young girl she was often told that she talked too much. She has a brother and a sister, neither of whom she or her parents have seen since she was young, and her family from that time is slightly mysterious, but all be revealed in due course.

There’s science in it too. Rosemary’s parents were scientists and she frequently second-guesses herself, tries to make sure she’s being reasonable whilst telling her story. For example, when she describes her experiences at age five, she points out that realistically, she probably can’t actually remember what happened, and may be just re-telling stories that she herself has been told. She’s sceptical about being too ready to trust her own memories, but she’s also sceptical about the science which tells her that she can’t.

It’s a satisfying, funny, sad, uplifting, wonderful book and if someone I know doesn’t go and read it quickly I think I’m going to burst from not talking about it. Incidentally, I’ve now Googled it, and it turns out the reason why it was in my Mental List of Potentially Good Books is because it was short-listed for the Booker Prize in 2014. So there you go. Take from that what you will.

4 thoughts on “Book Review: We are all Completely Beside Ourselves

  1. A story that starts in the middle? I’ve never heard of such a thing!

    Also, I too keep a mental reading list. It is ever increasing, because I spend all my time reading a bazillion scientific papers for one 700-ish word blog post. I usually only use 6-7 of those bazillion papers, but it’s all good.

    And by a bazillion I mean 10-15.


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