Sunday, September 11, 2011

The State of Me by Nasim Marie Jafry

I met Nasim through Story Shop, the Edinburgh City of Literature project at the Edinburgh International Book Festival. You can read her stories here. She is the only one out of the group reading at Story Shop this year to already have a novel out. I bought a copy at the bookshop at the Book Festival.

The State of Me follows Helen Fleet, a promising student at Glasgow University, whose studies are interrupted when she is diagnosed first with Coxsackie virus and then with ME. Based on her own experiences of having ME, Nasim writes beautifully and insightfully and with a great deal of humour and originality about how the illness affects Helen's life and relationships.The novel moves back and forth between Helen's first person narrative, third person narrative and internal dialogues:

helen:........What are you doing today?

stranger:..I'm going to see Dance with a Stranger after work. What about you?

helen:.......Oh, I'm getting new plasma. I'm bored with the stuff I've got, so I thought I'd get some new stuff.

Woven into the background are the music, films, books and news items of the 1980s (so I found myself singing along at times!). Helen goes through a lot of bad times, when she can barely get out of bed and when she is faced by people (including medical practitioners) who deny the existence of ME. However in between times she enjoys life with her friends and family and manages her energy so she can travel a wee bit and do some voluntary work. Nasim has a great eye for amusing incidents:

When we'd finished ...(the meal)... the owner brought out a beautiful black puppy and put her on the table for us to pat, as if she were an after-dinner ritual like brandy and cigars.

This is a wonderful novel which engages the reader on many levels as well as giving a lot of insight into ME.

The State of Me by Nasim Marie Jafry published by The Friday Project (an imprint of Harper Collins)

As ever, coloured text contains hyperlinks which take you to other webpages where you can find out more.

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