Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Who Will Run The Frog Hospital?

I've mentioned before my penchant for a sad tale. So, in seeking inspiration for a tale of heartbreak, I Googled this very theme and the title that caught my eye was this one by Lorrie Moore. Although I'm not sure it met my initial brief (my heartstrings were left largely untugged), I did find this an intriguing tale of growing up and growing apart.

Berie Carr is grown up now, visiting Paris with her husband and some very large alarm bells sounding to the reader as regards the health of her marriage. While there, she reflects on a friendship lost and takes us back to a summer back in 1972 where, on the cusp of womanhood, events see the beginning of the end of her close bond with childhood friend, Silsby.

I felt Moore captured beautifully those heady days of adolescent summers and the intensity of teenage female friendships. It's difficult to read this book and not reflect back on your own schooldays, feeling the pinch of regret at losing touch with those you never questioned as being part of your everyday life. There is little dialogue in this book, more just the narrative of Berie's reflections as she recounts the moments, small at the time, which unleash a chain of events that separate and part; at first the break is dramatic, but then the drift sets in and the subtle changes occur to make their worlds very different.

The bittersweet tone was this novel's strength; however, I wasn't totally convinced by the overall flow. I don't think the reflections from modern day Paris were particularly coherent with the rest of the narrative or really added much; in places, I felt the modern day parts got in the way of the story's progression. I also felt the characters shifted a little too much towards the end, particularly Silsby; the girl the adult Berie described wasn't a convincing reflection of the grown up version she reveals later on.

I've read some reviews of this since which have suggested it would have been better as a short story rather than a short novel and I can't help but agree. As a wistful reflection on innocence lost and how people change over time, this was a great read. I'm not convinced, however, it was at its strongest as a short novel as I felt there was some padding out with the Parisian sections especially. Still, if you feel like stirring some memories of those lost summers of youth and reflecting on those friends from yesteryear, this isn't a bad book to trigger that. Plus I guess it's not a bad thing it wasn't too heartbreaking; there's nothing worse than trying to stifle a tear-y moment when packed in on public transport...

(Available from Amazon)


  1. Not sure of the wordcount where a short story ends and a novella begins, or the starting point for a novel rather than a novella.

  2. Interesting comment, as I do think it's a fine line of definition! It's something I've lost a bit of perspective on perhaps by reading on Kindle. I guess for me it felt like a bit of a stretched narrative; I felt it could've packed more of a punch by being more compact. Have you read this one? What were your thoughts?


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