BOOK REVIEW: THE TRICK IS TO KEEP BREATHING BY JANICE GALLOWAY

KEEP BREATHING

GENERAL INFORMATION 

TITLE: THE TRICK IS TO KEEP BREATHING

AUTHOR: JANICE GALLOWAY

PAGES: 236

PUBLISHER: VINTAGE BOOKS

YEAR: 1989

GENRE: GENERAL FICTION

COVER TYPE: PAPER BACK

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Trick_is_to_Keep_Breathing_(novel)

www.galloway.1to1.org/Janice_Galloway_Official_site/Start.html

BLURB FROM THE BACK COVER

An account from the inside of a mind cracking up…its writing is as taut as a bowstring. From brilliant title to closing injunction, it hums with intelligence, clarity, wit; and, its heroine’s struggle for order and meaning seduces our minds, exposes how close we all of us are to insanity. Joy, as Galloway’s heroine reluctantly lets us know that she’s called, is simply that dangerous step or two nearer the edge (Listener)

A real achievement; its dialogue sparks and its voice is true. For Janice Galloway the trick is simply to keep writing (Scotsman)

This remarkably original work has gained Janice Galloway an almost immediate reputation as one of Scotland’s most interesting serious prose writers (Glasgow Herald)

Poignant and original…a wonderfully sensitive portrait of a woman who doesn’t give up trying to find the “trick” to making life go on (Ms Magazine) 

EXTRACT  

I watch myself from the corner of the room.  

OVERALL IMPRESSION  

I really enjoyed The Trick Is To Keep Breathing. Galloway takes you deep into the psyche of a woman who is mentally falling apart. This isn’t an easy place to be and the novel becomes overwhelming and claustrophobic at times. I would not have been able to finish it if Galloway had made it any longer. The length is perfect. I was moved to tears because Galloway gives her readers a front row seat to witness someone coming apart at the seams. Joy is the main character and Galloway allows her readers to know her intimately.  

REVIEW 

I love the title. The Trick Is To Keep Breathing perfectly fits the subject matter of the novel and describes Joy’s attempts to stop herself from completely falling apart. The title demands you read this novel.

I love the way Galloway structures The Trick Is To Keep Breathing. The novel is not divided into chapters and is written as a fragmented narrative that moves back and forth in time as Joy recalls various memories including being physically abused as a child by her older sister and the recent death of her married lover that seems to have triggered her decent into depression. This structure is very useful and represents Joy’s slowly crumbling state of mind.

The Trick Is To Keep Breathing is written in a very unique way. There are random paragraphs in italics, Joy’s memories of various events or questioning her own actions. Some of the dialogue especially between Joy and her doctor and various doctors when she ends up in a psychiatric hospital is laid out like a script. There are random thoughts and observations squeezed into the left and right margins. This further heightens the sense of being inside a mind gradually coming apart.  

The Trick Is To Keep Breathing is written in the first person from Joy’s point of view. Joy is anorexic and an alcoholic. The structure of the novel means that she is a very intimate first person narrator. Galloway takes us right inside her gradually unravelling mind and shows us the world from her rather detached perspective. This is one of the strengths of The Trick Is To Keep Breathing. Joy’s mind is not as easy place to be. The novel is the perfect length. I couldn’t have stayed inside her head much longer.

Joy is the main character and because the novel is told from her perspective you really get to know her inside out. There are various other characters including her abusive older sister, her married lover and various people at work and doctors she encounters. These characters are little more than black and white sketches. I didn’t get much of a sense of any of them. This would usually be a bad thing but I think it adds even more realism to the portray of Joy’s unstable mental state.

The Trick Is To Keep Breathing reminds me of The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath I read a few months ago. The Bell Jar deals with identical subject matter. I enjoyed The Trick Is To Keep Breathing much more. Esther’s is too rational for someone falling apart. I felt The Trick Is To Keep Breathing was a better novel and offered a more realistic interpretation of the subject matter.

FINAL THOUGHTS

I thought The Trick Is To Keep Breathing was excellent. I have wanted to read her fiction since I read her memoir, All Made Up recently for my book group. I was moved to tears at times. I felt Joy’s pain and confusion as she struggled to find a ‘trick’ to keep living on. The Trick Is To Keep Breathing is original, sad, poignant and heart-breaking.   

RATING

5 STAR RATING

 

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