The Other Side of You by Salley Vickers

About the book

There is no cure for being alive.’ Thus speaks Dr David McBride, a psychiatrist for whom death exerts an unusual draw. As a young child he witnessed the death of his six-year-old brother and it is this traumatic event which has shaped his own personality and choice of profession. One day a failed suicide, Elizabeth Cruikshank, is admitted to his hospital. She is unusually reticent and it is not until he recalls a painting by Caravaggio that she finally yields up her story.

We learn of Elizabeth Cruikshank’s dereliction of trust, and the man she has lost, through David’s narration. As her story unfolds, David finds his own life being touched by a sense that the ‘other side’ of his elusive patient has a strange resonance for him, too.

Set partly in Rome, ‘The Other Side of You’ explores the theme of redemption through love and art, which has become a hallmark of Salley Vickers’s acclaimed work, which includes ‘Mr Golightly’s Holiday’ and ‘Miss Garnet’s Angel’.

Reviewed by The Pageturners

“Beautifully written, this novel tells the story of a psychiatrist and a female patient, a failed suicide.The author has worked as a psychoanalyst and uses this story to explore several themes – e.g. life, love and reality so plenty of scope for some philosophical discussions! Paintings bt Caravaggio and the city of Rome are featured and add interest to the narrative. Our group of five were divided in our judgement; it would seem that this book needs careful, thoughtful reading or re-reading to appreciate it fully. The reader who suggested it has read it a few times already!”

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Umbrella by Will Self

About the book

For half a century Audrey Death has been in a state of semi-consciousness. Severed from the world of the living after falling victim to Encephalitis lethargica, she has languished in Friern Barnet Mental Hospital. Then, in 1971, maverick psychiatrist Dr Zack Busner arrives.

Audrey’s experiences of a bygone Edwardian London: her socialist lover, her involvement with the Suffragists, and her work in a munitions factory during the First World War, alternate with Dr Busner’s attempts to bring her back to life with a new and powerful drug. His investigations lead to revelations that are both shocking and tragic, and which will return to haunt him decades later.

 

Reviewed by Petersfield U3A Group 2

“By far the worst book we have ever encountered. Not one of our group could get past the first pages. Comments range from ‘Rubbish’ ‘Repetitive’ to Weird’ a waste of time – who reads this stuff??”

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