Saturday, September 24, 2016

The Other Side of the World

The Other Side of the World by Stephanie Bishop
Atria Books: 9/20/16
eBook review copy; 256 pages
ISBN-13: 9781501133121

The Other Side of the World by Stephanie Bishop is a recommended literary novel about searching for home and postpartum depression.

It is 1963 in Cambridge. Charlotte and Henry are married, have one daughter, and are expecting another. Charlotte is going through postpartum depression and feels as if in motherhood she has lost the essence of what makes her unique and gives her satisfaction, like her painting and long walks. Henry, a university lecturer and poet, is dreading the coming cold, damp winter and dreaming of moving someplace warm. He feels the answer to Charlotte's malaise and his dislike of cold weather is found in a brochure he discovered on relocating to Australia.

He brings up the idea until Charlotte, too overwhelmed with her own situation, reluctantly agrees. Charlotte regrets her acquiescence to Henry's idea immediately, but is too exhausted, and depressed to bring up her objections. Henry applies and gets a position as a lecturer, so the family moves and settles in Perth.

Although it is warm and brings up childhood memories of India for him, Australia is not the paradise Henry thought it would be. As an Anglo-Indian, Henry is met with racism at work. He finds himself questioning his identity and it becomes increasingly hard for him to concentrate on writing his book. Charlotte longs to be back at home, in England. Almost every waking moment has her struggling to cope, but wanting to escape.

The actual quality of the writing in The Other Side of the World is quite good - lyrical and descriptive. The writing will please those who enjoy literary fiction. Bishop's descriptions of their surroundings and various landscapes are noteworthy. The plot, however, is slow, perhaps because this is an introspective novel that is driven by the character's inner thoughts, memories, dreams, and longings. The characters themselves are very well developed. The problem I had was I found it difficult to make a connection and empathize with the characters. This leaves me with rating a book where the actual prose is exquisite, but the plot and characters were lack luster and became tiresome.

Disclosure: My advanced reading copy was courtesy of the publisher for review purposes.

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