I really enjoyed this book, but I did find myself having to re-read bits as the plot jumps around a bit. Essentially it’s about a psychiatrist, Dr Robert Hendricks, and how mental illness has ravaged his life. But in typical Sebastian Faulks style, it’s actually about much more than that.
I found it to be a powerful statement on the futility of war, and an examination of the damage conflict can inflict on mental health.
Hendricks is invited to a small French island by Alexander Pereira on the pretext that he was friendly with his father. Hendricks soon discovers that this isn’t exactly true, and is instead forced to confront his personal history, mental health and frustrated love affairs.
One of the major themes in the book is about how you can learn to move on from your mistakes and forgive yourself.
This, for me, is where the book got interesting. It becomes clear that Hendricks has schizophrenia, and I found the way this was discussed really insightful.
As I said above though, it is confusing and I’m not convinced the plot really hangs together that well. In some ways, it feels rushed – as if the author was trying to squeeze three books into one. Also, some of the characters (especially the female characters) are quite two dimensional and I found the way women are described to be a bit crass sometimes.
Overall, I’d recommend this book, if only for some of the incredible passages describing the impact of war on the mental health of the men who came home from WW2.
I also think I know a lot more about schizophrenia than I did before, but as this is a novel not a non-fiction book I can’t be sure that it’s all accurate.
Review by Barby