Book Club #5 – House Rules – Jodi Picoult

The three faces that I used in the last book club seemed to work so I thought I would keep that going for future groups. It is a good ice breaker.

This time we had 3 likes, 1 not sure and 1 dislike. I do so love it when we don’t all agree. It really makes for an interesting discussion, and then I sometimes feel different about the book and I am sure the others feel the same.

For me and you can probably tell from my own review which featured on the blog a few days ago, that I liked it. I was surprised, I thought it was going to be all American and shmaltzy and I enjoyed it, especially the crime aspect of the book. However, I was aware that not being a mother I might be looking differently at this book. I was intrigued by some of what Jacob did and questioned whether we all had perhaps a form of autism. K says we are all on the spectrum somewhere, in which case there is no such thing as ‘normal’ or as the book says ‘neurotypical’.

K a mother and has personal experience of a child with social interaction issues, and she loved the book. She related to it and could understand so much, but at the same time she was also aware that there were lots of things that were not covered in the book. K found the book upsetting because of her own experiences, which she was very honest about with the rest of the group. The main question that everyone raised was? Why did Emma not directly ask Jacob is he had committed murder. He would tell the truth, he could never lie.

L enjoyed the book, and it had only taken her about three days to read. Nothing like putting yourself under pressure, but C finished it literally before stepping across to mine and S had not finished it because she was not quite sure. K had only finished it that morning. It was a chunky book. But all of us decided that it was perhaps about 200 pages too long – there was a lot repeated. A lot of situations to describe Jacob’s behaviour was the main repetition, although with different perspectives but they were still repeated, and laboured the point a bit too much. Interestingly we all worked out the outcome of the book, fairly early on and I think this added to the dislike of the length of it; it seemed to take a long time to get there.

Starting with the structure of the novel, the relatively short chapters, which alternated between the characters I think worked, but C disagreed. She felt that she was not absorbed in the story enough, as it jumped from one to another. S agreed and she thinks that is maybe one of the reasons she was not sure about the book. I liked this structure, because it gave the whole picture from everyone’s point of view. Ironically, we went from our last book which had no structure and was one complete narrative with no breaks to this which was short and had breaks every couple of pages.

To aid discussion, I posted a link on our clubs Facebook page to a review on the book, written by a lady who had two children, one with Asperger’s and one without. It was an interesting take on the novel and she was honest in what she said and it did make me revisit the way I had perceived the book. C was cheering at the lady who had written something that explained how she was feeling. The overall opinion, which K picked up on was that Emma let Jacob and his Asperger’s rule his life, her life and her family’s. There was nothing else.  Everything was for him, down to the specific days for the colour of the food. Why did Emma try and not teach her son that this was perhaps not an acceptable way of living a life?  Protecting him from everything and letting him have everything was not helpful in K’s eyes.

Everything he hated was adhered to. Some of our things we could not stand were; nails scratching down a blackboard, towing the caravan; the sucker (sorry don’t know the technical term) at the dentist, poor hygiene and even down to following a path or structure and it all going a bit wrong. These were all things that although we cannot stand we don’t avoid. C continues to tow the caravan, K still goes to the dentist….. it led to what K called the ‘oops’ moment. In other words how do you deal with something when it is not planned and happens unexpectedly.

The moment the girl came to meet Jacob to go to the prom and was wearing an orange dress (orange being a colour Jacob hated) and the way Jacob would have to deal with it. As K says and we all agreed life has a way of throwing plenty of ‘oops’ moments at you! All of us wondered why Emma had let her life be overtaken by Jacob’s condition. It was refreshing to have Oliver come along and tell Jacob and to some extent Emma – tough you are going to have to deal with these situations without any preparation.

The ‘crime’ element of the story was important and from a question ‘if the plot element of Jacob’s love of forensics was not there – would the book have been different’. Overwhelmingly, whether we liked the book or not, forensics was an important part of the novel. Jacob’s all over consuming passion for this was what hindered him and saved him in the end. The setting up of the crime scene, both real and fake as a test was an important turning point in the novel. The real life criminal case studies which were interspersed throughout the book, which focused very much on forensics were irrelevant to all of us. In fact most did not bother reading them as they brought nothing to the actual plot of the story. It was if Picoult had done this research and needed to put it in a book somehow.

But we never know the outcome – and if we were on the jury what way would you have gone. For most of us, there was no finality to the book, despite the case study at the end which still did not tie up the loose ends of what happened to Theo, what happened to Jacob. What justice was there if any? Funnily enough, none of us could say what way we would have voted in terms of guilty or not guilty – because we do not know what happened once the truth was out and they returned to the courtroom. Without that we decided that you could not make a fair choice.

There was plenty of laughing moments in the book – especially when it was white food day and Oliver was trying to understand his client more and he strolls in drinking coke; definitely not a white food item! The honesty of the interactions and the confusion of life’s rules was discussed. None of us are sat down and taught to say the things we do – when someone asks how we slept. We say good or bad. Jacob says on his stomach. The world is actual and literal to him and as K explained from her own personal experience that is the case. So much we know which is just simply learnt as we grow up and still as adults I believe we still learn. How many of us, have said the wrong thing and regretted it?

This discussion (and this blog post) could run on and on as there was plenty to talk about and we kept going whilst a second cup of tea was made and more scrummy nibbles were consumed. K pointed out that the subsequent house arrest that Jacob was put under was actually no different to the  years he had lived anyway. Emma had imposed a certain amount of house arrest on them anyway. House arrest under another name.  I thought I would end the group with some pictures of different covers which have been used for this novel. We all agreed that the cover we had been the one we liked the most (posted earlier in this blog post). The first two below were too much child like and as S said whilst reading the book you had to keep reminding yourself that Jacob is not a child but an adult. The third seemed rather an odd cover, but remarkably looks like the author and the fourth makes sense but only if you have read the book (but still has a child like element to it).

And so another book club comes to an end;a recommendation to read Mark Haddon’s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by C, who felt this book was a better reflection dealing with the issue of autism/Asperger’s. Looking back at my review, I think that book did it more succinctly than perhaps this one.

And so now we are onto book six….

One thought on “Book Club #5 – House Rules – Jodi Picoult

  1. I’ve never read a Jodi Picoult but one of my closest friends adores this author. I second reading The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. I read that book last year and loved it.

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