Monday, 12 March 2012

66/111 - The Locked Ward by Dennis O'Donnell

This is a fairly new book, and I really liked the cover, so I bought it.

When I first started reading it, I thought shit, I've made a terrible mistake. The book opens with Dennis talking about his time cleaning up after elderly patients on a dementia ward, and I thought this is going to be too bleak and dull for me to read. However, shortly after this he is asked by another member of a team at the hospital to move to the locked ward for the more seriously ill and disturbed patients, and this is where the book really begins.

I really liked the premise of this book, and the care with which he treats the memory of his former patients is very humbling. There is a huge scope of illness, and the book was very educational in places, and a good way to get an insight into the day-to-day workings of being a psychiatric orderly on this kind of ward.

It was far from perfect - I feel kind of mean saying this, but I didn't always like the writing style. It seemed like it was trying too hard, and had too many mixtures of elements. There were lots of very awkward turns of phrase, and it was both too serious and too casual at the same time. The author's narrator voice is quite formal and instructional, and then the author as the character seems much more joke-y, and he writes himself with a Scottish accent (along with the other staff and patients). I found this to be distracting and unnecessary, and it didn't add anything for me (probably showing my southern bias here). The little puns and turns of phrase also turned me off (for example he says 'going out to blacken a lung' instead of 'smoking' - this phrase alone is fine, but he uses it repeatedly and it gets kind of lame).

I also wished we could have stayed with the characters for longer. At the outset of the book, Dennis explains that he has kept things at a deliberate distance and changed certain facts to protect the identities of the individuals involved, however the lack of consistent characters made it seem more shallow, I guess. I also didn't really come away with enough of an impression of Dennis himself.

Anyway, that's all.

Next time: First Among Sequels by Jasper Fforde

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