Where My Heart Used to Beat – Sebastian Faulks

I had been keen to read this book for ages and finally got round to getting it out of the library over the Easter holidays. It’s very much a character study of the main character Robert Hendricks. Robert is an English psychiatrist who lost his own father at a very early age in the first world war and served in the second world war himself. The book is set in the 1980s as Hendricks accepts an invitation to a small island off the coast of France to be the guest of a man Alexander Pereira, also a psychiatrist, who served with Hendricks own father and would like Hendricks to become his literary executor after his death. In many ways Pereira merely serves as the tool which allows for Hendricks self reflection, most of which the book is. At times this is really interesting, I particularly enjoyed the parts about his early days in psychiatry. ¬†War is a reccuring theme for Faulks but I didn’t find the writing in this instance as powerful as it was in Birdsong. A main theme running throughout the book is that of memory, how we remember events and how our memories shape us even though they may not actually be accurately reflecting the event we are remembering. I found this really interesting although I must confess I didn’t always follow it as I read at night when I’m too tired for anything too clever! Overall this was a good book with comments on humanity and identity as well as being a thorough character study. It was a book that made me think but it didn’t really make me feel. I didn’t care that much for Robert until nearly the end and there were not really any other characters that we got to know sufficiently well to really care about. That said it’s a good read especially if you are already a fan of Faulks.

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The State of Grace – Rachel Lucas

Another one of my daughter’s books! The main character Grace is a teenage girl with Aspergers which my daughter also has so I thought it might be useful to read to see if it would help me get inside her head a bit. The book is narrated by Grace and follows her as she deals with pretty normal teenage stuff, friendships, boys, families etc. The fact that it is all told through her own perspective is great and does really help show how the world can seem to someone with Aspergers and why they might behave in certain ways. My daughter felt that aspect was very realistic. I don’t think she was as impressed with the story but as her current book is War and Peace and one of her favourite books is Les Miserables I can understand! It is a good little read with a nice story and happy ending however although Grace is a very realistic character there was one aspect that didn’t strike me as realistic and made me feel quite sad. Grace has a lovely best friend Anna who seems to totally understand her and help her navigate tricky social situations. I know a few girls with autism and none of them have such a friend and often exist at the very edge of social circles, feeling isolated and lonely. I know aspergers is very much a part of who my daughter is and we have fully embraced it but seeing her feel lonely so often is hard and the one thing I would change. I would love for her to have a friend like Anna who just got her. In that respect this is possibly quite a helpful book for young people to read to help them understand how their peers with autism might be experiencing the world.