Rowan Scrivener hears a voice, and sometimes, when stressed or scared, the voice makes him do things he never would normally, like the time he slammed the lid of the piano down on his sister s hand, breaking three of her fingers It is 1939, war has just broken out, London is under blackout and schizophrenia is poorly understood Rowan is sent to a hospital where he is to undergo a radical new therapy, administered by a German doctor What a brilliant, beautiful, heartrending book Its power lies in its understated humanity Rowan s is a tiny, surely insignificant drama in the face of the coming global conflict He is not treated harshly or cruelly, but by today s standards it is clumsy, callous, insensitive and even contemptuous Set against the scale of human suffering, however, Rowan seems downright lucky About halfway through, in a scene of quiet devastation, we discover why this book has been set when it has and why the doctor is German, and suddenly every tiny mistreatment is set in sharp relief, not diminished but accentuated, as these vulnerable people are horribly exposed in the face of indifference or fear or spite at the hands of others.This isn t a tale of plucky rebellion against institutional authority, it s a story of people struggling against an illness they cannot understand trying to get better with the help of people with limited insight, and who do not understand the limits of their vision Yeah, I cried. genuinely amazing fantastic and heart breaking READ THIS AND ENJOY Rowan Knows He Is Strange But Dangerous He Didn T Mean To Scare His Sister In His Right Mind, He Wouldn T Hurt A Fly But There S A Place He Can Go Where They Say They Can Fix His Mind Beyond The Bars On The Window, England Is At War Behind Them, Rowan S Own Battle Is Only Just Beginning A strange little bit disjointed crossover book Didn t really flow for me Some of the descriptions of early use of electric shock treatment for schizophrenia and mental illness were interesting but a bit sketchy What was truly disturbing particularly for me as an adult were the atrocities alluded to in Nazi Germany taking place in the hospitals full of mentally and physically disabled children Described via coded Christmas cards this small section was a blood chilling reminder of the horrors of the Nazi regime. In a classic case of don t judge a book by its cover, Julie Hearn s Rowan The Strange is a moving, emotional and unforgettable read centering around 13 year old Rowan Scrivener, a British teen battling voices in his head It s 1939 and England is at war just as the battles begin in the Scrivener home When Rowan accidentally harms his young sister, his parents decide it s time to take him where he can get well an asylum in the countryside.Under the care of Dr von Metzer, a German with experience in mental illness, Rowan undergoes electric shock therapy and develops interesting new personality traits While undergoing treatment, he meets Dorothea, a young woman who believes each of us has a guardian angel looking out for us Spirited, angry and sarcastic, Dorothea runs the ward where Rowan stays which, for a while, includes just the two of them.The unlikely friends work through their issues together as they prepare for the Christmas pantomime, a play the asylum s attendees put on each holiday season After Rowan is cast in a major role, he must confront his own fears to perform his part well And maybe help others in the process.The book s strength lies in our main character a young boy who has no idea what s happening to him and why, who desperately clings to the belief that someday he ll be normal Taunted as Ro the Strange by classmates and his sister, Rowan tries to control the voice in his head that causes him to have panics and do strange things, but he s powerless to stop it What carried me through the narrative was the belief that Rowan was, in his heart, a good person a good son, a good brother This wasn t his fault It wasn t anyone s fault, really, but it most especially wasn t his.Every preconceived notion I had about the plot proved wrong I assumed the Scriveners would be a surly lot, angry that they had a damaged son, embarrassed by him and desperate to send him away Wrong I assumed Rowan would be an awkward, silly boy, dangerous and scary and just plain weird Wrong I assumed Dr Von would be a masochist, a deranged German doctor with no regard for his patients well being and only a regard for the science of the experiments he performed on them Wrong In fact, I was wrong about nearly everything in Hearn s novel including my own belief that I would loathe this one, turning the pages as if weights were positioned on my fingers In reality I tore through it in record time, eager to find out what happened to Rowan and hopeful that he would find the solace he seeked I loved his nana, a kindly woman who never once treated Rowan like he was someone to fear, and his parents, who were so supportive Against the backdrop of World War II in London, the Scriveners managed to stay brave, strong and loving even with their children all over the country.You know I just loved this book If you get the chance, I think you ll surprisingly really love it, too. Rowan the Strange by Lily HearnStory set in wartime England Rowan is a boy from a well off and eccentric family He suffers from bouts of strange behaviour becomes very anxious and then hears voices and behaves strangely without much recall of what he has done His own bewilderment is portrayed well in the start In one of these spells he hurts his sister and it frightens him that his family is getting scared of him He is sent to a mental hospital, where a new researcher from Germany is trying out new therapy which turns out to be shock therapy The book is startling in unexpected ways it is quite strongly against xenophobia and speaks out against the strange being targeted The strange being the mentally ill, but also the stranger in the country in the time of war It is not the German scientist with his new electric shock therapy who is dangerous he questions his values and treatments the whole time, his care is for the patients under his care but the administration who wants the glory of new research at the cost of the well being of patients There is a bit in about Hitler starting euthanasia programmes in Germany on the mentally ill, the weak The experimental therapy work is presented as shocking and frightful, but not one sidedly good or bad It reads well it is aimed at a youth market, so the idea is to present this story, not to reflect on the consciousness or represent it in incoherence, which it might have done in a different telling.My one criticism might be that we can see Rowan s strangeness when he is home, his own bewilderment there is no doubt that he is troubled However, when he is in the hospital, this sense vanishes to a large extent The story must move towards him getting out , but this need seems to have less to do with him healing than with the place in itself being threatening corrupt administration, meanness from staff, community disgruntlement I read the book some time ago, cant quickly find itin my list though Guess December 2010 Want to bookcross it though I liked it, I feel it can travel I don t need it in that way. Review from my blog.An emotional read Rowan is 13 and it s 1939 The Second World War has just started The country is gripped by paranoia and fear Fears of German spies are running wild Thoughts of threat of invisible killer gas attacks and wondering when the bombs will start to fall occupy the minds of the nation This is a very bad time to be exhibiting the first signs of schizophrenia as young Rowan does After an incident where he violently breaks three of his sister s fingers with a piano lid followed by another incident with a knife, the boy is admitted to a place which promises to put him to rights Unbeknown to his family, he is soon used as an experimental test subject in the use of a new process being trialled in Italy Electroconvulsive therapy The book is extremely well handled with some great characters I loved Dorothea But there are other fascinating characters to get to know like Doctor Von whose psychological journey is almost as traumatic as some of his test subjects The passages where the Nazis policy is revealed to Doctor Von for killing children who are institutionalized disabled or mentally ill by compulsory euthanasia are truly chilling.The story has some clever parallels with The Wizard of Oz, and the physical performance of Peter Pan as the Christmas pantomime has a profound affect on many of the troubled inhabitants of the psychiatric hospital Very compelling and memorable There are two other books by Julie Hearn that are about Rowan s mother and grandmother I shall seek them out. The cat doesn t really get all the gushing about Rowan the Strange by Julie Hearn Not that she found it a struggle to get through this book, she just didn t know what all the fuss was about.Set in 1939 in London, by all accounts a time of confusion and hardship, Rowan Scrivener is the strange one, he has these uncontrollable fits, which turn out to be symptomatic for his schizophrenia For his own and his family s safety he is sent to an asylum in Kent His mother signs a waiver agreeing to all necessary therapies, not really realizing Rowan will be submitted to electroconvulsive shock therapy the man in charge here is a German doctor, no less Maybe the rave reviews have something to do with the setting of the book an English insane asylum at the beginning of the Second World War, with a department run by a German doctor Or maybe it s about the reversal of roles bad nursie, good Jerry Or maybe it s because mad kids just invoke sympathy Or maybe it s making the production of Peter Pan by the loonies and nurses alike central in your book you know the road to self discovery and all that Or maybe it s the fact that Julie Hearn doesn t make it very hard to get through this book in one sitting All in all, the cat would guess that Julie Hearn has attempted to write a One Flew over the Cuckoo s Nest but then for children Nice attempt, I m sure this would work as a film too or would have worked as a film, like 20 or 30 or so ago I guess it might be this that made the cat feel as if this was just nothing new the story in itself though interesting enough feels oddly old fashioned, as did Julie Hearn s style This one won t stick. I absolutely loved this book Having read all of Julie Hearn books I have to say this was my favourite of them all It s funny and so sad Nearly made me cry a few times A must read I thinnk D The cover and the description for this book are highly misleading they make it sound like it s going to be some creepy One Flew Over the Cuckoo s Nest type story, or even science fiction Instead, although the characters and setting is indeed a troubling one the patients and staff at a mental hospital in Britain in 1939 the story is, in the end, almost heartwarming.There were so many characters to appreciate here Rowan s family, particularly his eccentric dog loving grandmother, captivated me Though stressed and bewildered by his illness, they truly wanted what was best for him The same for his psychiatrist, Dr von Metzer, a kind and compassionate doctor whose biggest problem was being German in a very xenophobic Britain Dorothea was annoying but refreshingly real, and the other patients in Rowan s unit were fully drawn, not just cardboard cutouts like supporting characters often are Even the bad people in the story weren t evil, just bigoted and selfish.The historical details of the early war gas masks, blackout curtains, evacuations of children to the countryside were authentic and added color to the story without seeming too didactic I thought the subplot about Germany s T4 program was very well done.I would recommend Rowan the Strange to junior high schoolers up through adulthood There s a lot for people to like in this book.
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- 332 pages
- Rowan the Strange
- Julie Hearn
- 02 September 2018 Julie Hearn