A Fool, Free
By Beate Grimsrud
A prizewinning Scandinavian novel of a woman’s struggle with the other personalities in ther mind.Tweet
The relentless complexities of a multifaceted disorder affecting Norwegian celebrity author Eli Larsen make this an intense and demanding read. The repetition of themes and bad experiences, especially towards the end of the book, appears well-justified and is likely indicative of how other sufferers battle against mental health issues.
This story rightly gives the impression of being an autobiography as it is not plot driven like the average novel. Some of the group were convinced, before we had confirmation, that in order to have written in such detail the author must have experienced this all for herself. The book, which seems to have been based on diary entries, was apparently written over many years. It offers no conclusions or solutions, although it does analyse and inform.
The issue of confused sexuality may explain the multiple male voices of Espen, Erik, Prins Eugen and Emil in the female character Eli's head" It was suggested within our group that she would have been a more contented person altogether had she been born a boy, possibly she subconsciously regretted that she was not her older brother,Torvald.
The proof copies we shared were translated from the original, written in Norwegian. The Norwegian authorities are shown as ‘caring’ and care-giving, but not all the professionals were totally benevolent. Eli was forced to take remedial medication even when she appeared be doing well. They offered sanctuary when she needed a secure place to stay. It was felt unlikely that this book would have been financed by a British publisher because it does focus specifically on mental illness.
Our teenage male reader found the psychological reporting both clichéd and disorientating. He liked knowing more about Norwegian culture, but found the rest of the book too challenging to finish. Another reader struggled with the beginning and after she had ‘put the book down’ was not inspired to finish reading it. Many of the others in our group found the narrative fascinating and thought that Eli had become ‘stable in her instability’.
Average score 6/10
Firstly I want to say I loved this book from the first few pages. Eli takes you through her life from a small child to mature adulthood. It is a fascinating glimpse into Scandinavian culture and mental health issues. On the surface it is a simple book which relates how Eli's life has unfolded but the way she describes her battle with her little boys (the voices in her head) is compelling. I like the fact that she doesn't analyse where the voices came from or why they are there.
Part way through the book I googled Beate Grimsrud and watched some of her work on YouTube, she is such a truly creative person. She amazes me, how can someone who could barely read and write want so passionately to become an author? Also she was sure of this at a really young age.
I found this book easy to put down and pick up when I was in the mood. Which was a good thing as its a pretty long book. I think you need to be in an open frame of mind to go with Beate's free flowing writing.
Overall a fabulous and insightful read into the troubles of mental illness.