Speaking of Love – Reviews

I had seen some good reviews of SPEAKING of LOVE about the blogosphere so I was prepared to admire this book but not necessarily to enjoy it. The subject matter, schizophrenia, did not seem something that would be great entertainment. [But] … I fell totally for main character, Iris. Though her journey is terribly painful Angela Young pulls off the trick of convincing you it was traumatic without actually making the process of reading about her mental illness at all distressing. Juxtabook

This is a brave and beautiful book, fearlessly and compassionately charting the terrain of mental illness. Reading it made me realise how the responses of most people to emotional and mental disturbance in others grow out of the violence of fear – the fear of everything churned up, damaged and troubling that we all carry within. Those early responses to schizophrenic patients – lock them up, chain them down, wipe out their memories with ECT – are the physical counterparts of brutal feelings that demand the ugliness of ill health be kept out of sight of the normal people. For fear of what it might trigger in them, of course. ‘Because until you know you can hold your own centre of gravity in the face of another’s loss of it,’ Ruth, the gentle doctor, says in the novel, ‘you may very well be overwhelmed … all over again.’ I think that’s why recovery still seems miraculous – it’s a miracle when people manage to find kindness, love and compassion, and yet these are the only tools that work against emotional darkness … . Those who know mental health issues are forced to find extraordinary courage to deal with them. Tales from the Reading Room

There are terrible silences and gaping but untended emotional wounds in Iris’s home after her mother dies. She fills them as best she can with words and flights of fantasy of her own. Other sinister voices from the ‘goblins in the corner’ also creep in, until she is rescued by falling in love with a poet with unruly red hair, with whom she moves to an idyllic cottage in the country. Rather like Larkin’s infamous poem about parents, this is a novel about how one generation’s difficulties impact on another. Told in slivers, from the perspective of each of its characters, and flickering backwards and forwards in time, it builds to a crescendo as the interlocking lives of three generations are slotted together. This novel is suffused with a love of storytelling and a warmth that makes it a pleasure to read. Daily Mail

Quite beautifully written and constructed … a completely authentic glimpse of a mind disintegrating and being redeemed … I can’t praise it highly enough.’ Joanna Lumley

This one was a bit of a slow starter for me, very probably because it’s not the sort of thing I usually read and … it took a while. But hell did it not sneak up on me … softly … softly … BAM! I was hooked and I had no idea how or when it happened! Storm Drummey from Liz Loves Books @ amazon

‘If you like Maggie O’Farrell you’ll love Angela Young.’ Simon Thomas, Stuck in a Book

Young’s writing is, quite simply, exquisite. Poetic. Lyrical. You know every last detail of wherever a character is at any particular time, and beauty is found in just everything – the simplest, often most insignificant things; a blade of grass, a drop of water, a person’s hand … are all described in mesmerising detail. The imagery and symbolism running throughout are well thought out and very appropriately placed. As for the sensitive subject of mental health – often sadly taboo, and even more often either gaudy and melodramatic or glamorised and ridiculed – is portrayed here with sensitivity and class, whilst still very genuine and credible. Storm Drummey on amazon

Angela Young’s poignant, beautiful novel combines the virtues of Niall Williams’ Only Say the Word and Mark Haddon’s A Spot of Bother: she understands and expresses the damage caused to relationships by an inability to articulate and comprehend feelings; she plots the route into and out of breakdown and madness in a compelling and believable way. To this, Young adds powerful images of man as a storyteller and an effective ending. James Evans, Waterstone’s, Windsor

Speaking of Love is unlike any other book you’ll ever read. There is no structure, only beautiful layers of complexity unfolding at a gentle pace … it’s a tale you won’t be able to put down thanks to the endearing characters and the missed opportunities that mark their poignant journeys. Reading for Pleasure

And an online book group discussion: The Cornflower Book Group

And here’s what some of the people who voted for SPEAKING of LOVE in Spread the Word’s Books to Talk About 2008 felt:

‘This is a difficult subject but I thought the book really captured how easy it is to topple over the edge into insanity. Beautifully written. I’ve recommended it to all my friends.’

‘Absorbing moving storytelling about issues which touch so many of us.’

‘This is a masterclass in storytelling. The stories of Iris, Vivie and Matthew are interwoven over a four-day period as each prepares in their own way for a storytelling festival. Counterpointing these very contemporary tales of love and loss, are the actual tales told by Iris at the festival. These are remarkably convincing fairytales which seem to have an age-old provenance, yet provide a profound and moving commentary on the immediate actions of the central characters. As inventive and uncompromising and poetic as a Virginia Woolf novel. Wonderful.’

‘I was moved to tears towards the end, and then suffered from severe novel withdrawal symptoms.’

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