The International Writers Magazine:
Note of Madness by Tabitha Suzuma
Hardcover 205 pages (May 2006)
Publisher: The Bodley Head
ISBN: 0370 328698
by Gill James
book needs to come with a health warning. It is so well written,
that we almost become Flynn, the young music student. We almost
go down into the dark spaces with him as his mental illness takes
hold. Because of the age of the main protagonists, the novel will
certainly appeal to young people who are in the middle of the
hurly-burly of becoming adult.
That is why it
could be dangerous. There are pressures for this age group. We live
in a society which becomes ever more complex. The brain is at a fragile
stage of it development, and is forming in such a way that emotions
rule more than logic. Rampant hormones lead to mood swings. There is
much in Flynn with whom the young adult could identify, and possibly
persuade themselves that they are having the same experience, to the
extent that they might mimic his behavior.
Ironically, the danger is greater because Suzuma so accurately portrays
for us Flynns torture. We really are sitting on his shoulder as
he has sudden busts of energy which make him stay up all night, jogging
through the streets of London, composing operas and revising for exams.
We too want to veg out in front of the TV or keep our heads down under
the duvet when the depression kicks in. As his disease takes a stronger
grip, he senses the futility of life, contemplates taking his, and makes
us look more closely at our own. The author has managed to capture the
perspective of a young person suffering from Doplar 2, better known
as manic depression, in a much the same way as Haddon found the voice
of the Aspergers syndrome / savant in The Curious Incident
of the Dog in the Night-time.
It is encouraging to see Young Adult Literature in the UK tackling some
deep issues. This novel delightfully extends the range of what is available
for young adults adding to an already rich mixture of chicklet-lit,
gritty-but-everyday realism and fantasy. It really pushes the boundaries
further than even the work of Blackman and Burgess and comes close to
what is being produced in other parts of Europe.
For me, this book was a real page-turner. I wanted to carry on reading
to find out if Flynn managed to come to terms with his illness,
whether he ever managed to perform the Rach Three in concert, and, of
course, whether he managed to get the girl.
It is a pity that the text has been spoiled by one or two weaker points.
Im not sure that you can see quite as much as is mentioned, and
certainly not in that detail, from the Hungerford Bridge, leading over
the Thames from Embankment. I find it odd, too, that the three main
characters, who knew each other before going on to higher education,
stay together throughout their first year at college. It would have
been more convincing if they had been second year students. Perhaps,
though, the biggest fault is that the prologue ten years into
the future looking back at when the story took place rather compromises
the upbeatness or lack of it of the ending.
Still, perhaps that uncertainty is precisely what young adults appreciate
in stories created for them. They like to decide for themsleves, what
has actually happened.
Despite those slight niggles, I can thoroughly recommend this book.
I long to read another one equally as absorbing and fascinating. I hope
Tabitha Suzuma will come up with the goods.
© Gill James Jan 24th 2006
Gill James is the author of Nick's Gallery
and you can see more of her writing at www.gilljames.co.uk
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