My First Abandoned Book of the Year: Poppy Shakespeare by Clare Allan


  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury USA; First U. S. Edition edition (May 2, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1596911549
  • ISBN-13: 978-1596911543


I’m just not wild about Poppy, and I’m sure Poppy’s not wild about me, either.

I don’t really think this is a BAD book per se, I just didn’t get along with it. At all. There was just no connection, no ZING!!! moment of two like souls meeting within the first 50ish pages, and according to the venerable librarian Nancy Pearl, if you’re under 50 you should give a book a full 50 pages to see if there’s any connection to be made at all. Well, I gave it a generous 50 and still nothing.

The book sounds like the sort of book I’d have loved. Here’s a review from The New Yorker:

From The New Yorker
In this darkly funny, excruciating first novel, N, who has been a patient at a London mental hospital for thirteen years, plays Virgil to Poppy Shakespeare, a sometimes manic single mother, who claims that she has been mistakenly committed. Allan’s brash conceit is that N teaches Poppy how to act crazy so that she can be assessed, cured, and released; Poppy duly begins gnawing her fingertips and muttering. Allan’s triumph, though, is pure voice: N’s loopy, dead-on rants—about the vagaries of the system, her unspeakable childhood, and the other patients, whom she calls “dribblers”—blur the line between the mad and the sane, and express how the disenfranchised experience authority.
Copyright © 2006 The New Yorker


Darkly funny… CHECK! Mental Hospital…. CHECK! British…. CHECK CHECK! But still no magic, no fireworks. I can’t quite explain it, unless it was just the right book at the wrong time.

Ah, well. Don’t take this as a negative review but more as a “it’s not you, it’s me” break-up proclamation. If the sound of the book tempts you, pick it up and give it a try. Maybe you’ll have better luck. If you do, let me know. It’ll make me feel worse, but at least I’ll have the satisfaction of knowing someone did connect with it based on my lukewarm post today. And, who knows, maybe one day Poppy and I will meet again, connect, and fly off to Bermuda together.

Okay, probably not, but I feel better saying so. Indulge me.

2 thoughts on “My First Abandoned Book of the Year: Poppy Shakespeare by Clare Allan

  1. Danielle, I’m sure there are scores of other readers thinking I’m out of my mind and this is the best book on earth! It is so disappointing when a book sounds this good and it just doesn’t do it for you, I agree. Such a let down, but like you say there are thankfully so many others out there. I’ve already found ‘Motherless Brooklyn’ to replace it, so I’m happy for now.


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