Friday, 1 May 2015

Chickenfeed by Minette Walkers: A review

I read Chickenfeed recently as a part of world book night campaign in my local library. Here we are supposed to pick up a book based on the review by others (you wouldn’t know which book it is until you open at home to start reading it). I deliberately picked up a smaller book as I hardly get time to read. I can take ages to finish a novel at times. But this book, luckily, was a quick read, literally!!

It’s a good read, couldn’t put it down at all. One of the very few books I have read in one stretch. I assume it was partly because it was a quick read and the other fact that it was very compelling made it difficult to pause. Although I knew what would happen at the end, even before starting the novel, I would like to think I was in a slightly better position in comprehending what had happened and the reasons behind it.

Minette Walkers has painted a very lucid picture of the character Norman Thorne and Elsie Cameron. Pretty normal sounding guys right? Well, they are!! But, don’t you think it is difficult to define normalcy. The understanding of these two characters is the fundamental basis of this novel. Story flows seamlessly and one would be so absolved in the psyche of the characters. When you are finished, I am sure there will be a can of worms digging in your little brain.

The story is simple- a crime/ suicide? Not sure. It’s a true story that happened many a decades ago in Crowborough in UK. You can easily look up the story online. After reading, this novel actually made me get off my seat and search for the actual story online. Some believe that Norman Thorne is innocent and Elsie was a tad bit crazy (sorry for the choice of words- probably suffering from a mental health disorder which was not accurately diagnosed/ treated). But Some others hold onto their intense belief that Norman Thorne was the killer. I don’t blame either, as they have their own reasons. This is a novel where in the true story is retold by the above characters as protagonists, and this is their story. We wouldn’t probably be able to understand what exactly happened as they both are long dead now. But after finishing the novel, I don’t deny that I sometimes wonder if Norman Thorne’s life was wasted at a young age of 22.

Its very easy to like Norman. What’s not to like in a young 19 yr old, made redundant of a proper job, trying to hold his platform, struggling to set up a career by himself? But there are lots of mistakes he made throughout his short life. Falling in love with Elsie is not one among them. When you have just fallen in love, you don’t realise what kind of personality your loved ones exhibit (in long term). By the time you understand that this relationship is too fragile and worst of all, dangerous to both, it might be too late. Norman had multiple opportunities to break up with Elsie, but he didn’t want a confrontation, he just wanted an easy way out which was agreeing to all her whims. If he couldn’t get out of it in the beginning, it’s obvious that he wouldn’t be able to get out of it later. I don’t understand why he didn’t see that coming. On the rare chance that he had married Elsie, I still think the end would be almost similar (or may be opposite). Will killing chickens all day had filled him with so much apathy towards a living being that he didn’t flinch while cutting her into pieces and then burying her? Or did she turn him into a person who not only didn’t love her, but had lost all respect towards her as a human being? This one fact is not very justifiable if we want to prove him not guilty.

Coming to Elsie, with her possessiveness, mentality of blaming others for her faults, and her constantly fluctuating emotions with threats of self harm, she comes across as overbearing and eccentric. Most of the traits of her character correlates with the Borderline personality disorder. People close to her, especially her parents, could have identified it and possibly sought medical help earlier. I do feel sympathetic towards her, but it’s hard to like her (atleast in the novel). But that doesn’t mean someone could just kill her because of that. People are different and many a times difficult. We always have a choice whether to do what we want to do or not (I stress we do have choice but we choose one decision over the other, influenced by many things- your past, present circumstances, how it would affect your loved ones and so on).I am not saying what happened actually, because I don’t know. This novel doesn’t promise you the truth behind the crime, doesn't tell you who did what(if that's what you are looking for), but it gives an idea, or lets put it this way, It gives a better understanding of the people involved and their circumstances. After all, we are the puppets of our circumstances, right?

P.S: This is only my opinion, and I have the right to my opinion. I am not pointing fingers or making assumptions. If you don’t agree, Please comment in the comment box so we can have a discussion rather than you know?