Despite being a Literature student and self-proclaimed book lover, I must admit I rarely sit down just to read a book. It can often be a chore to read set texts and, unless on holiday, catching up on Downton Abbey or Made In Chelsea (posh people are entertaining, ok!) often takes priority over curling up with a page-turning read. Shocking, I know.
But wait – on Tuesday, something big happened. I bought _The Silver Linings Play Book_ by Matthew Quick. Aware that’s its being released later this year as a film starring Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence and Robert DeNiro, I figured I would read the novel first. And here’s the kicker…by Wednesday I had. We’re not talking Tolstoy or Homer length, it’s a respectable 200-something pages. Now this could partly be because my new student housing has no internet, but for me to sit down and keep reading? Safe to say you know you have a quality read on your hands.
And by Jove it is. Quick’s novel is startlingly and refreshingly different in tone. Told from the perspective of Pat Peoples, a thirty-something former high school teacher who is mentally ill, it rings _Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night Time_ bells. Pat sees the world differently – with silver linings, movie-style happy endings and a blunt delivery. He berates Hemingway for thinking “up the worst ending imaginable” in _A Farewell To Arms_, and Sylvia Plath for putting her head in an oven.
After Pat’s release from the “bad place”, he attempts to get his act together and fix relationships with his family and estranged wife Nikki; at least until he meets the prickly and equally blunt Tiffany, with whom he embarks on a strange and obstacle-filled friendship.
Though Quick employs a deceptively simple methodology of narration, the sub-plots themselves are far from it. Centred on mental illness and battling with depression, _Silver Linings_ ducks, dives and diverts through passages about running, American football, and dancing, all whilst Pat attempts to put together the pieces of his life, making for a thoroughly entertaining and dizzying read.
It is a darkly comic debut, perhaps the only way to deal with depression and its effects on people without getting, well, depressed. Pat’s way of looking at things, and Quick’s consistent style that is so imperative to characterising this optimistic, if somewhat skewed world-view, is what makes it so engrossing. Its equal parts heart-breaking, sweet, and candid.
Admittedly the novel’s repetitions – which form Pat’s ‘self-betterment’ routine of exercising and reading more, can be a tad on the tedious side, especially during a montage chapter that can quite easily be skimmed to get the gist. But I’m clutching at straws to find a fault. As the man-child protagonist struggles through re-acclimatising himself to an adult world, constantly finding himself in awkward situations and unfortunate circumstances (something I can wholeheartedly sympathise with), you will find yourself rooting for his philosophy, believing the title and the promise of a happy ending.
What I discovered on an Oxfam bookshelf was not just a book that I could read in a day, but one with resonance, tenderness, truth, and hilarity.