psychology

All posts in the psychology category

Shtum – Jem Lester

Published July 17, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Powerful, darkly funny and heart-breaking, Shtum is a story about fathers and sons, autism, and dysfunctional relationships.

Ben Jewell has hit breaking point. His ten-year-old son Jonah has severe autism and Ben and his wife, Emma, are struggling to cope.

When Ben and Emma fake a separation – a strategic decision to further Jonah’s case in an upcoming tribunal – Ben and Jonah move in with Georg, Ben’s elderly father. In a small house in North London, three generations of men – one who can’t talk; two who won’t – are thrown together.

What did I think?:

There were a few things that first attracted me to Shtum by Jem Lester. Initially, I couldn’t fail but to be pulled in by that gorgeous cover and the way it was published as a naked hardback (one of my favourite types of hardbacks) then I read the synopsis and the early reviews and I got The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time vibe from it which intrigued me and made me more keen to check out what it was all about. Now I ordinarily hate comparing books to each other but did Shtum live up to the dizzying heights of Curious Incident? Unfortunately, not quite but that doesn’t mean it’s a bad book by any stretch of the imagination. I think when you go into something expecting a direct copy, it’s never going to end well and Shtum deserves to stand on its own as the story of a very different and fascinating family that I did end up feeling a range of conflicting emotions for.

Jem Lester, author of Shtum.

In a nutshell, this is the story of Ben Jewell who has recently separated from his wife, taking custody of his severely autistic son Jonah and living with his father, Jonah’s grandfather Georg. The interesting thing about Ben and Emma’s struggles is that their separation is staged, purely so that they have a better chance of getting Jonah into the residential school of their dreams that will offer them a much higher level of support than they have previously been receiving. Both parents are at breaking point, with Jonah and with each other and Ben has turned to drinking heavily as a way of escaping rather than helping to run the family business. He is also dealing with a difficult relationship with his father, Georg and as the fight to get Jonah the best care rumbles on, everything comes to a head for all parties concerned and they must learn to pull together as a family if they are all going to get through this hardest of times unscathed.

An indication of the main problems that a child with autism spectrum disorder can present with.

Now, I’m in no way, shape or form an autism expert but I had no idea how devastating an effect severe autism can have on a family. Compared with Curious Incident, where our protagonist is on the milder end of the spectrum, Shtum gives a no holds barred account of the “other” end where lack of speech, continence and occasional aggression seem to be the norm. I cannot imagine how debilitating it must be for the child and for the family as a whole and it was certainly an eye opener into a different, very cruel world. On further reading, I’ve discovered Jem Lester happens to have a severely autistic child so presumably has drawn on a lot of his own personal experiences to tell Ben and Jonah’s story and this makes the narrative all the more poignant, increasing my admiration and respect for the author ten-fold.

As for the conflicting emotions I mentioned earlier, that was mainly directed towards the behaviour of certain characters in the novel whom I found endlessly frustrating at points. Yes, we understand why Ben drinks and also why he shirks work. In the horrendous situation that he finds himself where his child requires constant, specialist care, you can’t blame him for becoming depressed and losing himself in something that will make him forget his troubles and responsibilities for a while. But this was also the reason why I just wanted to shake him. Him and Emma, for burying their heads in the sands and ignoring the issues or not asking for the appropriate help that they obviously deserve. Ben’s love for Jonah completely shines through and this is lovely to see, despite his misgivings and considerably “human” reactions to an awful situation BUT there were so many opportunities that he had the chance to turn his life round, build his fractured relationship with his father, sort his drinking out and each time, he just failed miserably.

Of course, it is always difficult to get that happy ending and it was authentic in the way that Ben took his sweet time to address his troubles but personally, I just found myself getting annoyed with him too quickly for his occasionally ridiculous actions. However, if you can get past this, this is a heart-breaking read that is well worth the time and investment purely for the different slice of life that this kind of challenge brings to thousands of families all over the world every day. I appreciated the sentiment, the volatile relationships and the humble way in which the author approaches a difficult and emotional subject area.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

3-5-stars

Shtum by Jem Lester was the thirty-eighth book in my quest to conquer Mount Everest in the Mount TBR Challenge 2018!

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F*** You Very Much: The Surprising Truth About Why People Are So Rude – Danny Wallace

Published June 1, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

You’re not imagining it. People are getting ruder. And this is a serious problem.

Did you know that even one rude comment in a life and death situation can decrease a surgeon’s performance by as much as 50%? That we say we don’t want rude politicians, but we vote for them anyway? Or that rude language can sway a jury in a criminal case?

Bestselling writer and broadcaster Danny Wallace (Yes Man, Awkward Situations For Men), is on a mission to understand where we have gone wrong. He travels the world interviewing neuroscientists, psychologists, NASA scientists, barristers, bin men, and bellboys. He joins a Radical Honesty group in Germany, talks to drivers about road rage in LA, and confronts his own online troll in a pub.

And in doing so, he uncovers the latest thinking about how we behave, how rudeness, once unleashed, can spread like a virus – and how even one flippant remark can snowball into disaster.

As insightful and enthralling as it is highly entertaining, F*** You Very Much is an eye-opening exploration into the worst side of human behaviour.

What did I think?:

First of all, a huge thank you to Chloe Rose and Ebury Press via Penguin Random House for sending me a copy of Danny Wallace’s new book in exchange for an honest review. A big thumbs up to blogger friend Stuart at Always Trust in Books for letting them know that I might enjoy this one too! And enjoy it I certainly did. I’ve read a few of the author’s previous books in my pre-blogging days such as Join Me and Yes Man and thoroughly enjoyed his writing style and sense of humour so I was pretty confident that I was going to feel the same about this one, especially when I found out the subject matter – rudeness, a HUGE bugbear of mine. I devoured this book in about a twenty-four hour period and loved every moment, particularly when Danny draws on personal experience and of course, the geek in me enjoyed when he drew on scientific research to illustrate his (many) great points.

Danny Wallace, British author of F*** You Very Much.

So, I don’t think I need to go into too much depth about the contents of this book – the title and subtitle pretty much do the job for me! It’s a fascinating insight into how our society has got ruder and Danny explores the reasons that may be behind this gradual change in attitudes. The book itself is divided up into certain sections, to name a few of my favourites: Bad Manors, Women And Rudeness, Policing Rudeness and Rudeness And Power. It’s not until the author delves deeper into the subjects of why people have become so rude that I really started to notice things in my own life that I have found more difficult in recent years. To take a personal example, I have a chronic illness and can’t stand up for long periods of time but have to make a long commute into London each day. The rudeness I’ve encountered when people glance at you and then deliberately look at their phone to avoid giving you a seat is frankly, unbelievable and can be quite upsetting.

Then there’s trolling on the Internet, particularly Twitter, a hotbed of vicious snipes and negativity. Danny recounts his own personal experience with a troll who sent him an incredibly nasty message. I won’t go into what happens with this pathetic excuse for a human being but let’s just say Danny feels somewhat vindicated in the end. Throughout the entirety of this book, the author talks about the topic of rudeness with a wry sense of humour that at points, had me cackling like a banshee.

Ah….if only all Internet trolls were as cute as this!

Although it was one particular “hotdog” related incident that was his inspiration for opening up this fascinating talking point, he also quotes some historical incidents and, as I’ve mentioned real, hard evidence to back up his claims. Some of the information he quotes is hysterical, for example, how can one naked bottom save lives and change the behaviour of a group of people? Other parts are far more sobering, like the shocking effect one stressful, rude incident can have on the performance of a doctor/surgeon leading to potentially mistakes being made and lives being at risk.

Why have we got ruder? It’s hard to say but it seems to be a growing problem. Danny invites you to think of TV personalities that are famous for being rude and people LOVE them for it. Think of Simon Cowell who says exactly what he thought on TV talent shows, Anne Robinson who delighted viewers with her put-downs on The Weakest Link and Gordon Ramsay where everyone is on tenter-hooks, waiting for him to blow his top with some poor, unsuspecting cook.

“Right, I’ll get you more pumpkin. I’ll ram it right up your f***ing a***. Would you like it whole or diced?”

Gordon Ramsay said this by the way, not me. Complaints his way please!

Finally, there is the perhaps obvious blatantly rude person in the media at the moment. You know, the one who was elected as President Of The United States. A lot of people didn’t see it coming but come it did and personally, I continue to be horrified with everything that comes out of his mouth. If that kind of person can be elected to be in charge of a country, well…..the less said about that the better otherwise I’ll just get into a massive rant. I’ll just say that the author describes Trump’s personality and the things that he has done/said so far perfectly when relating it to the topic of the book, but somehow manages to stay light-hearted and bring out that fantastic humorous side that he is well known for.

Donald Trump – Rudeness And Power?!

There’s so much to savour in this book, tasty tid-bits that I know I’m going to remember and quote to others like the information junkie that I am! It explores so many topics, including class, power, the modern world and women with such delicious detail that I could go on and on about the wealth of information covered within. One final thing – the author describes how if you experience someone being rude to you, you are statistically more likely to be rude to another person later on, maybe that day or perhaps a bit later, depending on how the incident has affected your state of mind. This absolutely horrified me as I would hate to be “that person,” and I would hope that I’m not intentionally rude to ANYONE. However, when I mused on it a bit more, I realised that it may be true. I’ve been grumpy, been upset and I’ve probably mistakenly snapped at someone else because I felt hard done by! It’s horrible to think of and I’ll certainly be checking my reactions in the future. Meanwhile, if you’re into non-fiction and fancy a few smiles and things to mull over, F*** You Very Much is definitely the book for you!

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0