Wednesday, 30 August 2017

Book Review: Small Great Things

I'm not one for only reading 'Bestsellers' but at the moment it does seem like that's all I'm reading; Jodi Picoult is a very established author and so I decided to read this book due to the interesting summary on the back cover. The summary doesn't come anywhere close to revealing the intensity of the plot, which is a good thing as this book is an absolute page-turner. This was a novel of multiple narratives, but ultimately it was centred around a widowed nurse named Ruth. During her duties she was racially abused and then accused of murder and her employers (who she previously had regarded as friends) more or less refuse to defend her, even if she is a highly skilled and trained labour and delivery nurse with over twenty years of experience. The other two narrators are Turk, the racist/white supremacist father of the dead child and Kennedy, a public defender who is determined to do her best for Ruth.

In all honesty, this novel is not one for the faint of heart. I usually read fairly quickly, but this is a book that you have to almost force yourself to read because the content is incredibly distressing. The plot definitely focuses on the idea that everyday racism exists, whether it is obvious or not. For all of the questions that were answered, another set of questions seemed to appear; it becomes a truly compelling read extremely quickly. There are so many themes touched upon in this novel, including race, discrimination, prejudice and injustice to name only a few; Picoult has a lovely writing style, both brutally honest and full of spectacular descriptive prose. Having multiple narrators is an excellent ways to understand every perspective, even if you don't personally agree with every narrator. On the surface, Ruth is undoubtedly the victim; after years of service and an excellent understanding of her job role, as well as her own skills. All of us have to defend ourselves from time to time, but in this context it was clearly due to the colour of her skin. The main issue I had was the behaviour of her colleagues toward her; the situation that they left her in really wasn't acceptable, especially as they had previously been friends.

The narrator who seemed to really help me understand the seriousness of the accusations against Ruth was Kennedy; perhaps because Kennedy is a white female (as am I) therefore a lot of questions that I had myself were asked and answered through her narrative. For example, when she describes her irritation at how Ruth is treated by friends and colleagues alongside the general public I understood exactly how she felt, because I felt the same way. Kennedy was determined to do what she could and deliberately took a step back from representing Ruth simply because of her race; instead she represented Ruth as a human being, a woman with thoughts, feelings and ultimately a highly educated, trained and competent nurse. Perhaps unsurprisingly, my least favourite parts of the narrative were the elements of the story told from Turk's point of view; clearly designed to shock. There were many reasons for why I found his perspective both offensive and horrifying, all of which because of the certainty of his foul belief system. I'd be lying if I didn't feel some sympathy toward him; his child died and he obviously doesn't know any better, but his parts were definitely the most difficult to read.

Overall, this novel was incredibly compelling whilst being extremely difficult to absorb. I have to admit that whilst I was completely satisfied with the portrayal of the trial, the characterisation across all areas of the novel and the range of backgrounds across the characters. However I was completely dissatisfied with the epilogue. It seemed far too contrived and definitely too good to be true, but the novel as a whole was too good to be entirely let down by a few pages. What I enjoyed about this book is Picoult's ability to make you think; however much of a difficult and uncomfortable topic racial discrimination is, it was handled well and also encouraged the reader to think outside of the box. I felt the need to constantly question any situation, for example although none of the characters were solely responsible for the turn of events, ultimately they all played their parts in the (eventually life changing) end result. I would definitely recommend reading this book as its a complete eye opener in many ways; I wouldn't say that I enjoyed it, but it is definitely one to remember and learn from.

1 comment:

  1. Ooh gonna give this a read - I had no idea it was about this, but interested to see if I agree with you!

    Poll xox



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