Published by: Penguin
Price: 699 INR
‘Brilliant! Rich with fully formed characters and stunning psychological drama, this heart-gripping novel will keep you riveted from first page to last.’
– Jeffery Deaver.
The joy of reading a book years after you first come across it knows no bounds. The mark of a shrivelled page. A dog ear there, a mark here. Your wet fingers might have touched the pages once and made one of them a shade lighter. Darker, if you had oil on them. You are filled with joy as you meet those characters again, you laugh your way through those incidents and then bid a teary goodbye as you finish the novel and keep it back in its rightful place, for a third helping. That is exactly what happened with me with regard to this brilliant novel.
‘People look at me funny when I tell them I have a demon.’
Sigmund Freud bashed both religion and its counterparts when he said, ‘Demons do not exist anymore than gods do, being only the products of the psychic activity of man.’ Following his footsteps, Carolyn Jess-Cooke’s debut novel ‘The Boy Who Could See Demons‘ strikes a melancholy chord with the reader, keeping a few strands similar, despite the fact that it lags towards the middle. The author of the award-winning poetry collection ‘Inroads’ (2010) manages to write a rather squalid tale about a ten year old Alex who seems to be richly imaginative and thought-provoking.
Having been born and brought up in Belfast of 1978, one can acknowledge the ease with which Jess-Cooke has set the story in. While the title is self-explanatory, Alex Broccoli’s social worker Micheal Jones has to make the decision of shifting him to MacNeice House or not. An old Victorian mansion located between the hills, in the wilderness, it houses kids between the age of four and fifteen suffering from mental illnesses. These include anxiety disorders, autism spectrum disorders, behavioural disorders, depressive disorders, obsessive compulsive disorder, psychotic disorders, and then some.
While Alex claims he can talk with a demon by the name of Reun – which others interestingly enough perceive as ‘Ruin’- we see Micheal teaming up with Anya, a psychiatrist with a troubled past to analyse him.
The cover design by Anna Morrison has onions on toast, leaves, musical indices and Woof (Alex’s dog- someone who should have featured more in the story), and Alex and Reun walking on a bland path. Black and white mainly, and with the title presented in bold letters, it makes for a very intriguing front. Something you definitely wouldn’t miss in a bookstore somewhere.
Ruen is easily one of the cleverest manifestations a child’s mind can come up with. With the main facet being varying degrees of mental illness, there are sprinkles of music, onions on toast and utter helplessness in there. Having read it almost a year ago, I was in for a surprise as I revisited the setting, discovered hidden intentions of the multitude of characters present and gasped with joy in the end.
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