Tuesday, 1 May 2012
Book Review: Grace Williams Says it Loud by Emma Henderson
Grace Williams Says it Loud by Emma Henderson tell the story of a disabled girl in the 60s. When her parents can no longer cope with her care they send her to The Briar, a mental institute. Told from the point of view of Grace herself, it chronicles the trials and tribulations of her experience there, including a blossoming romance with Daniel, an epileptic boy who has lost his arms in an accident.
I didn't love this book like I expected to, but I didn't hate it either. I liked the fact that it was shocking without being a classic tale of abuse. Grace does not require your pity, and though there are many instances of neglect, not all of her life is doom and gloom. It is a matter of fact portrayal where good comes with bad.
The relationship between the protagonist and her sister is interesting and beautifully written. Sarah is born shortly after Grace enters The Briar, timing which gives the impression that she serves as a replacement within the family. Every developmental landmark Sarah reaches highlights Grace's lack of physical ability, and though years younger she has an awareness of her superior advancement. Strangely enough, as Sarah grows up it is she who devotes the most time to her disabled sister, witnessing these two become close is heartwarming.
This book's weakness is also its strength. The authorial voice. Told in first person by Grace, the narrative is poetic and lyrical throughout, a stark contrast with her outward persona in which she can only utter a couple of words at a time due to the limitations of her disability. This perhaps telling us that we should not judge a book by its cover, she is fiercely intelligent though society has branded her by her illness.
Yet...something in this did not quite add up. It skips from philosophical ponderings, to brash base curse words. It is an eloquent voice, that is also peppered with babyisms that betray her condition 'boobsies' for example crops up with regularity. Also, Grace recounts scenes she witnessed as a toddler in great detail, all in all it makes it more than a little unbelievable. Dipping between past and present makes the story more compelling and widens understanding, but perhaps this would have worked better if we were presented with more than one account.
I've since read that Henderson based the book on the experiences of her sister, who spent time in a similar home as a child. It is certainly an eye opener, and I did enjoy the book despite my reservations. Plugging it as a love story (it's the main focus of the blurb) is not accurate as Grace's experiences with Daniel are more coming of age than Romeo and Juliet, but it is a surprising read that you won't forget in a hurry.