Saturday, 1 October 2011

Book Review - Rites of Spring by Jessica Duchen

Synopsis - They help and depend on each other but for practical matters, like shipping the children to parties, school and weekend courses in cookery, football, tennis or puppetry; doing the shopping, preparing the food, changing the light bulbs, unblocking the dishwasher.  They try to put their love first, but with a house full of screaming, fighting, irrational children it is not as easy as it was thirteen years ago.  They have managed not to hit those screaming, fighting, irrational children, but shouting came into the equation long ago, with the exhaustion and exasperation.  Sasha shouts less than Adam; his temper hotter, his temperament more open, more craving of expression.  Sasha expresses passion on live TV but at home, under stress, she shuts herself in her study and works while Adam stews, needing her to come out and talk it through, knowing she won't.

Review - Jessica Duchen has hit the bookshelves running with a debut novel that most of her audience can relate to.  The story is about family life, marriage, partnership, understanding, coping with the death of a parent and those living as well as a young family whilst juggling a career.  Does this sound familiar?  Yes! 
Adam the only son of Jewish parents, brought up by a controlling mother and a father who lives by old fashioned values, believing that the world was a better place when he was young.  Sasha and her sister Lisa, scarred by living with an alcoholic mother and career minded, perfectionist of a father who were constantly at loggerheads.  Adam is the strength of the marital partnership, a rock to Sasha at the time of death of her father.  However, when Adam's mother dies, Sasha cannot be there for him, physically or emotionally, preferring to shut herself in her study and let life go on or fall apart around her.  Adam is the man who put his love of art and painting on hold and takes a job that he hates to provide for his family while his wife reinvented her career, going to University to become a columnist and aspiring writer and a regular reviewer on a weekly TV show.
In the midst of this Ms Duchen tackles the subject of anorexia with the elder daughter becoming weaker amd more ill by the day.  It appears that relatives and friends can see this happening but nobody manages to say or do anything about it.  The young twin boys carry on as young boys do, in their own world oblivious to all around them.
This book strikes a chord, like Sasha and Liffy I wanted to be a ballet dancer and understand all too well, the pressure and demands.  How important it is to have a 180 degree turnout and to be able to extend each leg by your ear.  Particularly if you want to get into the top ballet schools and companies, and of course you must have the correct physique.  Like Liffy, one leg wouldn't turn out as far as required and the other would not extend higher than my shoulder but in terms of build I did not have a problem.  I have always had a healthy (too healthy these days!) relationship with food.  I have seen girls strive to be thinner and lighter.  We were weighed weekly before our first ballet class of the week, the pressure was certainly there!  As far as I can recall we only had one girl who became anorexic and I heard this news later on.  It is a disease that can be picked up too late as anorexics will try and hide their extreme thinness and lie about eating habits.
It is easy to lay the blame at Sasha's feet for being totally selfish, and she is!  Adam blames himself for not being there, after all, Sasha asks for space.  Ms Duchen explores the classic breakdown of a family.  This book is a reminder to all in relationships and with families, to make time, be there for each other and above all talk.  Communication is key and in our high tech modern world, it is all too easy to live in separate rooms on our iPhones, laptops, games machines etc.  4*

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