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The Silver Linings Playbook - Matthew Quick

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Author: Matthew Quick / Format: Paperback / Date of publication: 25 October 2012 / Genre: Modern & Contemporary Fiction / Publisher: Pan Macmillan / Title: The Silver Linings Playbook / ISBN 13: 9781447219897 / ISBN 10: 1447219897 / Alternative EAN: 9780330456845

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      03.02.2010 17:37
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      Welcome to Pat's world...

      This book is one of the featured books of the Channel 4 "TV Book Club" series, though I have yet to watch the programme, which I believe is the replacement for the defunct "Richard and Judy Bookclub", and chose the book because of its quirky title which intrigued me somewhat.

      This book is most definitely set in America, the kind of America that at first sight almost seems very famiiar to British readers as it features American football games, beer, a therapist and a well-intentioned "Mom". This world, however, is Pat People's world, and it soon becomes clear that Pat doesn't quite inhabit the same world that the rest of us think we live in.

      Pat, the hero and narrator of the book has been released from an institution at the start of the book, which he refers to as "the bad place". It soon becomes very clear that he has been suffering from, and continues to suffer from, some sort of mental illness and the reader is drawn into his world as Pat rediscovers it himself. He is hell bent on a programme of self improvement through physical exercise and reading, all in aid of making things right between him and his wife "Nikki", from whom he is having "apart time" in his words.

      We find out at the same time essentially as he does what exactly has been happening in the time that he can't remember, the time which has elapsed whilst he has been in hospital, which turns out to be longer than he first thinks. We also come to realise that his wife Nikki isn't maybe quite the ideal woman that he thinks he must win back.

      What follows is a funny and sensitively told tale of discovery that I found really compelling to read, and well written by the author. I found that the author's portrayl of Pat avoided cliche and being patronising. Though at times it did seem from some of his actions as he struggled with his inexplicable anger and seemingly irrational fear of Kenny G, as if you shouldn't like Pat, somehow I always did, and I always wanted to know what happened to him.

      The other characters in the book were well drawn too, from Cliff the therapist who Mom has found, through to Pat's brother Jake and Tiffany, who seems in a similar strange place as Pat, the different characters as mainly seen through Pat's eyes are made to seem very real. The Eagles, an American Football team are almost another character in the book, Pat's life outside the institution is punctuated by their games and accompanied by the Eagles' chants and team spirit.

      The Eagles seem to be the only way that Pat can communicate with his father and they feature quite prominently in this book. For me personally, I have absolutely no interest in Football, of the American or other description, and cannot really relate to anyone being fanatical about sport, but somehow the Eagles side plot didn't detract from the enjoyment I got from this book.

      I really enjoyed some of the funny scenes in the book - Pat finds himself in all kinds of strange escapades, such as being cajoled into taking part in a very strange dance competition with Tiffany, and meeting up with another former inmate of the institution in the most improbably of circumstances. In some parts of the book the seemingly sane characters in this novel seem to do the craziest and funny things, you could question whether anyone or this book is of sound mind, or maybe it is a good reminder that mental illness is only a step away for any of us (and indeed a high proportion of us will suffer from it in one way or another through our lives), at times Pat seems as bewildered by what he sees around him as I was and you can't help but understand why.

      Other parts of the book are more poignant, or reveal the scary places that mental illness can take one, but what I thought was particularly good about the characterisation of Pat was that at no point did I find his illness completely overshadowing who he was - you never forgot that he was a person, albeit a fictional one. I wanted to believe, like Pat, that the world does have silver linings and all things end well if only you try hard enough.

      Talking of endings, I wasn't entirely sure that I was satisfied with the ending of this book, which required rather a suspension of belief in some ways, however I did that it was one of those books where I would really like to know what happened next. This is always a sign to me that I have read a good book. I am sure that I will read this book again as a second reading I am sure would fit more pieces of the story together.

      I fully enjoyed this book, TV Book Club label or not it is a good, fairly light read which succeeds in transporting the reader to a different place, which is what I assume the title is referring to, and making you see the world a little differently, and for this alone, and for the fact that it is a very good read, I recommend it.

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