Thursday, 17 November 2011

Poppy Shakespeare

Hi all

They were selling off some books at the Rethink AGM the other day, and I bought a couple.  I had read the reviews for Poppy Shakespeare a while ago, and meant to get around to reading it sometime, so when I saw it for sale for just a pound I was delighted.  It took me a few days to get around to starting it though, but when I did (yesterday) I was surprised at how good it is.  It is unputdownable.

I suppose this is partly because I have spent some time in a day hospital, although it was quite unlike the one portrayed, or at least my experience of it was quite different.  What is good about the book is that it is written from the perspective of a patient - a very messed-up one, one with (almost) the worst childhood imaginable, but one who knows the system, and who plays it.  It is just so funny, but at the same time so awful.  I can't remember finding anything so funny since the Adrian Mole books - but then I read those when I was a teenager, and identified with Adrian in a similar way. 

But poor poor Poppy Shakespeare, a sane woman who somehow finds herself in the day hospital on a compulsory basis....  So it is heart-wrenching too.  I am definitely going to write a review of this book as soon as I have finished it.  And I am going to learn from it too - my book is humourous, but the humour tails off about a third into the book.  Lightness of touch is definitely to be recommended. 

Although of course P S is fiction, which makes a difference (although I do seem to remember reading that the author had some sort of insight into mental illness; if I recall wrongly I apologise profusely.  You certainly would not think from the quality of the writing that this was the case.  Which sounds really rude to those who have been mentally ill, including myself, but I am just trying to make the point that I am not being rude.  Although if Clare Allen never had been ill or spent time inside a day hospital the book would be just too unkind for words, so she must have been....It would have been quicker if I just Googled the facts on the internet instead of speculating, but it's too late now.  Well, it's not, but I'm not going to right now). 

Anyway....I was actually a bit jealous of Clare Allen recently - I read that she was teaching an Arvon course.  I would like to teach at Arvon one day - I reckoned when I was there about a year ago that I might achieve this goal in ten years' time, but this 'goal' may well be deluded.  Having read (most of) her book, I would now love to take one of her courses - what a writer!  She really has the hang of story telling, which still eludes me - most of my writing is still journalistic in tone.  Now I am starting to wish that I had fictionalised my own book, but I am not sure if I could have done. 

Poppy Shakespeare is so good I really had to tear myself away to write this blog post, and I am well aware that I should be doing housework and neither reading nor blogging.  Hey ho.

Didn't get an interview for the Time to Change job, by the way.  Applicants called for interview were due to be notified by email yesterday at the latest.  I checked my email obsessively, most of the day, but there was nothing from Time to Change.  Hey ho again. 

Still want to get off benefits and into work, somehow.  Reading Poppy Shakespeare makes it seem even more urgent.  The big issue at the day hospital is the workings of the so-called 'Ministry of Madness' and the MAD money forms that patients have to fill out, around which their daily existence seems to hinge.  It is cringeworthy.  Anybody who hasn't read it yet really really should.  I wonder if Clare Allen has written any more books?  That I will Google.

So, do I have anything else to write about?  Not particularly.  I suppose I will put my efforts into starting up a Rethink group.  It will keep me busy for now, and hopefully pave the way to employment somehow too.  I will also plug on with the writing - because first and foremost a writer is what I am, even though sometimes other writers seem to be a lot better at it than me.  Which is so not fair!  (But is probably because they work harder at it).

Bye for now

Louise x


  1. I'm sure you read by now that she spent 10 years in the mental health system. There's a great interview with her at

  2. Hi Anon

    Thanks. No, I was too busy reading the book, didn't want to put it down to start Googling! Already resented having to cook dinner, talk to the family, etc. I did vaguely remember she had a history, thanks for confirming it, I will go and look at the interview now.

    Louise x