Sunday, April 06, 2008

The Double Bind

I stayed up last night to finish The Double Bind by Chris Bohjalian. Some things had niggled at me but I was engaged and enjoying the read. I'd meant to search it out when Metro Mama reviewed it quite some time ago (go there for a synopsis), but forgot until Kyla reminded me a few weeks ago.

(SPOILER ALERT - I'll try not to give out too many details but if you're planning on reading it, you may want to stop now.)

When I first started reading it, I found the prose kind of plodding and the narration somehow strange. I stuck with it, though, because of the subject matter that I knew was coming: photography, mental illness and homelessness. I did become more engaged and found the writing less jarring. As I proceeded, I felt a bit uncomfortable with the emphasis on Bobbie Crocker's diagnosis of schizophrenia, with all the well he was nuts so you can't pay attention to anything he says comments, and the use of psychiatrist's notes at the start of some chapters.

By the time I neared the end, I was well and truly engaged. I enjoyed the little twist that involved the psychiatrist's notes, but I felt cheated by the ultimate conclusion. It felt like one of those stories I used to write when I was kid, spending all kinds of time on character development until I got sick of them and didn't know how to get out, so I'd just say it was all a dream. It felt cheap. I was all set to recommend the book right up until the last few pages. But not now.

As Metro Mama indicated, the book was inspired by a real person, Bob "Soupy" Campbell, and his photographs that were found when he died. Bohjalian has posted a dozen of the pictures on his website, as well as the article he wrote following his research. In the end, I enjoyed the article, with its more human approach, much more than the novel.

Anyone else read it? What did you think?


NotSoSage said...

Ack! I had to stop reading. I can't bear to know anything about books that I read. I don't even like to read the back cover. I want it to be recommended to me and then just start on page 1.

NotSoSage said...

P.S. It has been too long. It's been a while since I've been to your town, but next time I go, you'll know about it.

Anonymous said...

I read it about a year ago & felt the same as you about the "twist" at the end. The ending that I imagined would have been much better.

Kyla said...

Want to hear something funny? I never finished it. LOL. As much as I wanted to, I just couldn't get past the slow pace and a weird feel. I don't have much time for leisure reading these days, so when I do, it has to suck me in fast or else it is doomed. But man, I think it could have been really good, based on the premise. Unfortunate that it wasn't done well.

slouching mom said...

It's in my "to be read" pile. Maybe not, now that I've read this!

Aliki2006 said...

I haven't read it yet...I'll keep it in mind!

I did recently finish _I Know This Much is True_ by Wally Lamb. It was on Oprah's list, and while I don't rush out to buy books off her list I found this at the thrift store and was surprised by what a good read it turned out to be. It's a novel about twins, one of whom is schizophrenic, and about the damage the illness has done to his family--namely to the other twin.

P.S.I owe you back your copy of Look Me in the Eye! Can you-mail me your address when you get the chance and I'll send it back. Sorry to be so late with it!