I was determined to read this since I had seen they were filming it for channel 4 so naturally I ended up reading it just a few days before it was going to be shown and actually finishing it a few hours before the TV version. I have had the actual book on my shelves (well in my boxes) for quite a while and been meaning to read it so this has been the perfect opportunity.
The tale of Poppy Shakespeare is told by N, a day resident of the Dorothy Fish Hospital in North London. One day N is asked to look after a new patient Poppy Shakespeare who is insistent that she isn’t made and shouldn’t be there at all. Despite N thinking she clearly is mad, she sets out to not only look after Poppy but to help her convince the doctors she isn’t mad, by being really mad. Are you confused yet? Fortunately the author Clare Allan manages to put what is quite a complex story across in an easily digestible and very funny debut with seriously dark undertones. I can see why this has had such rave reviews and why Allan has been up for the Orange Award.
Allan is asking the question who is sane? Who is mad? How do we define the two? Where do they overlap? I think what I loved about the book was how real some of the characters were, I loved the fact that N had no desire to leave the Dorothy Fish and couldn’t understand why anyone would. N is a great narrator and extremely original, if you are put off by swearing just ignore it in this case as you will be missing out on a real treat. Her language is also not politically correct, she calls the patients ‘dribblers’ of which Allan herself was one and so you know the book also has that slight edge of realism whilst being quite surreal. Overall a funny, heart breaking, heart warming debut.