Sunday, August 22, 2010

What I've been reading

In the past week I have read two books.

Rose Tremain's novel The Road Home tells the story of an Eastern European immigrant to England. He finds that the streets of London are not paved with gold, that £20 a day is not enough to live on and that Englishmen are not tall, ascetic and witty, fellows with bowler hats and umbrellas, but mostly denizens of the Commonwealth and fat. Reduced to sleeping in doorways, he takes jobs delivering fliers for a kebab stall, picking asparagus in Lincolnshire and washing dishes in a smart restaurant. The people he meets include an Irish drunk, a couple of Chinese homosexuals, a curmudgeonly farmer, a sweet old lady abandoned to a residential home by uncaring children, and many from the London art scene whom Tremain lampoons for their being dressed in the Emperor's New Clothes. Lev, the immigrant, has just lost his wife to leukemia and is emotionally stifled because of this, yet he manages to negotiate his way through the minefield to a happy ending.

No such happy ending for Marcus Trescothick. I am not normally a fan of sporting biographies, but this one is a bit different. Coming back to me tells the story of England's opening batsman, who at the height of his success succumbs to an acute anxiety neurosis. It makes him unable to tour other countries and signals the end of his career as an international cricketer. Frankly I could do with out the, "I scored 47 and 63 in the two innings at Lords but after that I reached my highest test score against the Bangladeshis of 197 at Edgbaston." You can skip all that; just take it for read that he was a very good batsman. What is interesting is how he handled the anxiety and depression and how unaware the cricket management were of the problem. The press were vile, assuming that the problem was a sexual peccadillo of him or his wife.

I liked the explanation given to him by his counsellor. "Depressive illness, caused by stress, nearly always happens to one sort of person. He or she will have the following characteristics; moral strength, reliability, diligence, strong conscience, strong sense of responsibility, a tendency to focus on the needs of others before one's own, sensitivity, vulnerability to criticism, and self-esteem dependent on the evaluation of others. This person is the sort to whom you would turn if you had a problem to sort out upon which your house depended, a safe pair of hands you can trust with your life, though often taken somewhat for granted. People are very surprised when he gets ill; indeed he is the last person you would expect to have a breakdown."


Anonymous said...

Dr. Hamblin...would be interested in your thoughts on what the top ten books of all time are...classics?...the bible I am sure...but others am most curious about...romanbob

Terry Hamblin said...

Here's my choice for today:
1 The Bible
2 Lord of the Rings
3 Knowing God - JI Packer
4 The Reason for God - Timothy Keller
5 Crime and Punishment
6 Silas Marner
7 Blood pure and Eloquent - Wintrobe
8 Modern English Usage - Fowler
9 A Grief Observed - CS Lewis
10 Escape from Reason - Schaeffer

Tormorrow I might choose a different list.