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Book Review: We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves


1st Jan 2015 Book Reviews

Book Review: We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, by Karen Joy Fowler (Serpent’s Tail, £12.99; ebook, £7.16)


This is an extremely tricky book to review. Not for the usual reasons—because it’s difficult to read (it isn’t); or because it’s hard to tell whether it’s any good or not (it’s very good indeed). No, the problem is that a quarter of the way through, there’s a jaw-dropping twist that shapes the rest of the novel. If I don’t reveal it, I can’t possibly explain how and why the whole thing works so beautifully. If I do, I’ll not only deprive you of a thrillingly timed surprise. I’ll also undermine Karen Joy Fowler’s entirely justified reasons for placing it where she does.

In the circumstances, I can only tell you that pre-
twist, the book seems like a wonderfully sharp picture of a disintegrating American family, narrated in an easy conversational style. Post-twist, it still does—but, in addition, becomes nothing less than a full-on exploration of what makes human beings human.

And that, I’m afraid, is all I’m prepared to say for now, apart from a confident prediction that—like Fowler’s 2004 novel The Jane Austen Book Club—the result will be a big hit; and that when it is, its secret won’t stay secret for long. In other words, the sooner you read it, the better.