Sunday, 3 July 2016

Etta and Otto and Russell and James - Emma Hooper


Three of the characters of the title are humans, and one isn't.  I will leave it to you to find out a) what kind of "other" the character is, and b) whether or not he is real.  For Etta is eighty-two and is losing her memory.  Like many dementia sufferers, the long term memories are those that still stick, and this becomes obvious as the book progresses, with memories of Etta's early life; how she connects with Otto and then Russell, and what happens to this trio.

It describes how Canadians went off to WW1 and what they found and lived through when they got there.  Not in too much detail but enough to confirm that all wars are hellish but if you live through to the end, you have to live with it for the rest of your life.  It describes what love feels like for some people.  It describes how some  are braver than others in different ways, and of course, it describes the workings of a demented mind and all it's mixed up memories.  I only had one question mark whilst reading this - and you may ask the same question as you read it..... Etta leaves home to find the sea (which she has never seen) and I wondered, however fit she was, whether she could really have managed so many nights in the open and without too much food.  Nitpicking by me of course, as this is certainly a wonderful book, Etta's journey perhaps reminding readers of Harold Fry's journey, although this is not so much the story of her journey but a journey through her memories.

 It isn't a difficult read, but people either like this kind of book (which jumps around in time and also has different character's views) or they don't.  When I am going to review a book I go to Amazon to look at the 1 and 2 star scores.  It is there that I find that some low scores are from readers who don't like the style a book was written in and therefore don't really read that particular book at all.  I mean they read it, i.e. they devour the words on each page; but they don't feel it -like eating a slice of lovely cake but not tasting any sugar.