House Rules – Jodi Picoult

Emma is a single mother with two children, Jacob the eldest at eighteen and Theo the youngest at fifteen. They have not had a normal childhood – Jacob has Asperger’s and his mother has devoted her life to making sure that Jacob was accepted into society. Theo remains in the shadow and has had to live the structure needed for Jacob simply by default.

To be accepted into society takes its hardest form when Jacob is arrested for murder. In contrast Theo becomes guilty by association.

Now it is time for Emma to fight even harder to make sure her son is treated fairly and that everyone understands the reasons behind his actions. The need for routine, how noise can be uncomfortable, telling the literal truth, the absorption of facts but not in context, the misunderstanding by what others are saying to name some of them, Emma has to deal with all these and more everyday. All these actions make people judge without knowing the reasoning behind them and when some of them all point to guilt, it seems that the Asperger’s is an excuse in the eyes of the prosecution.

But what if Emma is actually covering up the truth? Did Jacob really commit murder? And can a man who knows nothing about criminal law defend him successfully?

Written from the perspective of Emma, Jacob and Theo but also Rich, the detective who arrests Jacob and Oliver the lawyer, Jodi Picoult gives a spectrum of the story which can be seen from differing points of view. I thought it was a technique that worked very well and it drew me in quickly enough, and the short length of chapters from each character kept it moving.

This is a book where you learn, learn very fast about Asperger’s and how it can affect family dynamics and the knock on effect of a wider world. It also reflected how much of what we say we take for granted and understand immediately.

There are times when Jacob’s world makes a lot more sense to me [Theo] than the one the rest of us live in. Why do we ask people how they’re doing when we don’t give a crap about the answer? Is Mr Jennison asking me that question because he’s worried about me, or because it’s something to say to fill up the air between us? ‘I’m okay’, I say, because old habits die hard. If I were like Jacob, I would have answered directly: I can’t sleep at night. And sometimes, when I run too fast, I can’t breathe. 

You also learn about the court procedure and the defence and prosecution world as Jacob comes to trial. Can Jacob cope in such a different environment to the one he has been accustomed to?

This is an engaging book, which I had doubts about to begin with as it is the first Jodi Picoult I have ever read and so I had no idea what I was getting. And although I did guess the outcome, it was still very interesting to see how we got there. It made me think about the truth and also what we are taught as we grow up and how much is assumed knowledge that somehow gets passed on when without us realising. A good read.

This is the book for my next book group and I am so grateful to K for suggesting it. I would be the first to admit that I would never have picked the book up in the shop. Somehow I had got a preconceived idea of what Jodi Picoult novels were like; something to do with her being an American and it all coming across much too sentimental. Oh to be proved so wrong. 

It is a chunky book, and I thought I was going to struggle, but in less than a week it has been read and in plenty of time for book group. I am looking forward to the discussion. I have come to the book and looking at it from a crime genre novel perspective. Which I believe there is nothing wrong with but I think those who are mothers are probably bringing their own knowledge of that (i.e. being a mother) to the book and will see something that perhaps I do not. I certainly pick that up from some of the reviews on Amazon. I recognise all these comments as being valid and they made an interesting read after I had finished the book and I reflected some more.

There are some poignant and thought-provoking  points that Picoult makes through her characters, and were valid enough for me to mark, to share in a review.

…the human heart is just a simple shelf. There’s only so much you can pile onto it before something falls off an edge and you are left to pick up the pieces.

How many times has my mum done such a thing for me? Or I for someone else?

What did throw me to begin with, was the Case Studies which were interspersed throughout the book. I felt these were unneccessary, although I can see they were examples of forensic science at work they add nothing much to the overall story for me.

Jacob’s literal world fascinated me, and the example I give in my review above, always makes me think of the times I have bumped into someone I know whilst waiting in the doctor’s surgery….”Hello, how are you?”, “Great thanks”. A standard pat answer – if I am great then why I am waiting to see a doctor? It is one of life puzzles, and this book showed more examples. “…I tell Jacob I’ll be there in a minute and he starts counting down from sixty” or “…when I ask…How did you sleep? On my stomach”. How much do we say that is not literal and what would happen if we actually took everything literally?

I leave this book wondering? Will I pick up another Jodi Picoult in the future?

Book group meets next Monday and I will report back with how we get on!

Crafts · Knitting

Knitting, Sea?

It has been a while since I have posted anything on my blog about crafts. I have been doing bits and pieces but nothing that has been finished off to be honest. I have yet to master reading a book and knitting or sewing and I really do not get on with audio books  because I tend to tune out what is being said. Then with the death of my Nan, everything got a bit too much so it was very limited in what I was doing. No concentration at all.

However, I have done some things and they have been small manageable and quick! They take the form of knitting. And it was knitting for a purpose. The Royal Naval Museum (Portsmouth) launched a community art project to get the Navy and the nation knitting! The aim to create a huge seaside theme ‘yarnscape’ for the Family area at the museum.

So armed with a knitting pattern, which is still available on the website, although the closing date has now passed. I started using scraps of wool up to knit a fish or two. My mum became involved and she did a few fish, and then created some other creatures. You did not have to stick to the patterns they provided. Which is good as my mum invariably wanders off on her creative tangent. Then out come patterns from various other places and I thought I would have a go at an octopus.

And so the end result looked like this:

Looking forward to going and seeing them there with everyone else’s creations. You can see other submissions here.

In the meantime, have been stitching again and my mum has found something in the local paper asking for people to knit ‘things’ to sell at the local hospital in aid of charity…… I think I might be roped into this……


September Roundup

September is the time of new starts for many people and also back to work for many, myself included and I think it is because of this my reading suddenly slows down! Everything is suddenly changing, darker mornings, trees changing, the weather remains a mystery but you can see we are heading into Autumn. It took me a bit longer than normal to get into a routine again, but I think I am there!

So an interesting reading list for September, a children’s book perhaps should not count, but I am afraid it is such a delightful book and I am sure The Further Tale of Peter Rabbit by Emma Thompson will be under many Christmas trees this year. It was lovely to regress back to childhood with the classic Peter Rabbit.

Another classic has to be Josephine Tey and The Daughter of Time. My interest has been piqued in Richard III; reading Alison Weir’s new novel this year and hearing her talk about this books influence on her made it a book I wanted to read and now I have. It was great and I am now longing to get my teeth into some more historical fiction as soon as I can.

The beauty of Tey was it can also been filed under the crime genre category which has dominated the rest of September. A début author, Jason Dean and The Wrong Man was rather gruesome in parts but with plenty of twists and turns it kept me turning the pages. I admit this was not a book I would have picked up in a shop and read, but that is the joy of being a book blogger, publishers take a chance and send a book out to see what reaction they get! I am reading so much variety thanks to them.

When it comes to crime I do not immediately put the traditionally built Mma Ramotswe of the No 1. Ladies Detective Agency in the crime category, but invariably in bookshops that is where you will find her. I read the latest one I had on my shelf Tea Time for the Traditionally Built by Alexander McCall Smith. These books are little short moral tales more than anything crime related, although the crime when it is featured is not so gruesome and of the thriller variety.

Taking another book off my shelf was the choice for my final finish of September and that was Santa Montefiore The House by the Sea. I was after familiar. My brain was not being able to cope with plunging into something new and so this was the main reason for the book choice. I try and alternate between authors that are new to me and ones I know, that way I can keep up with what I know and then discover more people I want to read.

September was still quite a ‘bookish’ month for me as I went off to see Madeline Miller talk at one of our local libraries. I was dithering about this visit, but I am so glad I went. Especially as I learnt so much, met some new people and came away with a signed book!

My book club was back for September after the ‘summer’ break and it is reading our next book House Rules by Jodi Picoult that I finish September. It is a chunky novel, but I am getting into it and I think it will make for interesting discussion when the time comes.

So that was September. Onto October, and I can feel in my bones that it is going to be a very different reading month!