Review – We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves

Cover of We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy FowlerWe Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, Karen Joy Fowler

I hurried up about reading We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves because my aunt talked about reading it, and since she doesn’t seem to be a big reader, I thought it’d be interesting (and maybe add to dinner table conversation the next time she visits). She told me about the twist in a somewhat oblique way that had me wondering how the facts fit together. When I hit the apparently infamous page 77, though, it does all make sense; if I hadn’t needed to return this to the library for the next patron who reserved it, I’d have reread the first 77 pages and figured out where there’s subtler foreshadowing and so on. I wasn’t looking for it in the right places, so if it was there, it passed me by.

All in all, it’s an interesting story, based on the idea of raising a chimp among humans and seeing how much we can humanise them, which has been done in various experiments. It’s hard to say more about the themes of the book without spoilering people for page 77, because the whole way the plot comes together relies on that reveal, and whether it works for you. For me, it did. I got the book out of the library at 5.30pm and finished it by 11pm; I feel that the voice is engaging, the unchronological way of telling the story works well, and the mystery/twist combined with that narrative voice worked for me, because Rosemary (the narrator) speaks to the reader. It’s like an oral story in some ways — you’re being told a story by someone who finds it difficult, who is feeling their way into telling it.

There are things I didn’t like very much about this book, even so; some of the plotlines/characters didn’t seem to add much. Some of it was all part of the red herrings, of course, to lead the reader astray. But I was unsure about the whole character of Harlow — her later appearances seemed unnecessary, and that first performative scene with her the best and most revealing thing about her character (revealing both herself and Rosemary, I mean). The lost suitcase plot… shrug? The puppet… what?

So needless to say, given how fast I devoured it, I did quite enjoy it. I haven’t a clue what I’ll have to say about it when my aunt visits again, though; I’m still thinking about it all.

(Mum, this book is very anti-animal experimentation, it’d drive you nuts. Squirt, don’t read it, it’ll upset you.)

Rating: 4/5

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8 thoughts on “Review – We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves

  1. Chimps, Red Herrings…anymore wildlife in this book?
    I suspect in those experiments, chimps are trying to chimpanzinate humans… 😉
    Am I allowed to ask who Squirt is?

    • Rats, dogs, cats…

      Squirt’s my baby sister — that’s her nickname. (For the curious, mine was Squeak until in an argument I asserted to my dad that I’m an adult now, at which point he insisted that I could no longer be Squeak. Meanie.) She’s a big fan of chimps.

  2. Aha! Domestic or wild/feral rats/dogs/cats?

    I think your Dad was a bit of a meanie on that occasion; being an adult doesn’t mean having to be boring! I might start calling you Squeak, now…

    • Lab rats, domestic dogs, and I can’t now remember if there was a cat but if there was it’d be domestic…

      What’s really mean is that he sticks to it. No amount of pleading will make him call me Squeak again! I miss that. He doesn’t really have a nickname for my sister, though; Squirt/Squirtlet/Squirtle is what I call her.

        • Mostly “Nikki”, nowadays. When she was tiny it was “Coley” because she couldn’t say “Nicole”. Also “oi you”, “give it back” and “Daaaaad she’s being mean”, judging on the frequency. *grins*

          (We’re 4.5 years apart in age. Given that, it tends to surprise people that we’re close.)

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