Book - 2012
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A brother is as easily forgotten as an umbrella. James Joyce, Ulysses Recently having abandoned his RD Laing-influenced experiment in running a therapeutic community - the so-called Concept House in Willesden - maverick psychiatrist Zack Busner arrives at Friern Hospital, a vast Victorian mental asylum in North London, under a professional and a marital cloud. He has every intention of avoiding controversy, but then he encounters Audrey Dearth, a working-class girl from Fulham born in 1890 who has been immured in Friern for decades. A socialist, a feminist and a munitions worker at the Woolwich Arsenal, Audrey fell victim to the encephalitis lethargica sleeping sickness epidemic at the end of the First World War and, like one of the subjects in Oliver Sacks' Awakenings, has been in a coma ever since. Realising that Audrey is just one of a number of post-encephalitics scattered throughout the asylum, Busner becomes involved in an attempt to bring them back to life - with wholly unforeseen consequences.
Publisher: New York : Grove Press ; [S.l.] : Distributed by Publishers Group West, c2012.
ISBN: 9780802120724
Branch Call Number: PR6069.E3654 U528 2012
Characteristics: 397 p. ; 24 cm.


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Jan 11, 2015

A challenging book to read, Self has pulled off a Ulysses-like feat of technical brilliance, while constructing a surreal commentary on war, mental illness, and shifting perceptions. Not recommended for anyone looking for a straightforward plot.

Jane60201 Aug 05, 2013

As others have said, this is a challenging read, reminiscent of James Joyce. There are times when I was totally lost and others when I was blown away by the author's evocative use of description. These gems made it worthwhile.

May 28, 2013

The author obviously went to great effort to write this novel, but there is no reward for the reader.

ChristchurchLib Feb 19, 2013

Shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, this stream-of-consciousness novel follows a psychiatrist at a mental hospital in London in 1971. At the same time, we are treated to an account of one of his patients, an octogenarian who's been institutionalized - and catatonic - for 50 years after contracting encephalitis lethargica. His efforts to treat her and glimpses of her youth during a short reawakening alternate with flashbacks to the lives of her brothers and flash-forwards to the doctor in 2010. A complicated read adorned with "snippets of dialects, stylistic flourishes, and inventive phrases loose with meaning" (Publishers Weekly), Umbrella is "mesmerizing" (Boston Globe).
Fiction A to Z Newsletter February 2013.


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