I am at once frightened and amazed by the book. It affected me quite profoundly while I read it. Maybe it’s because I’ve a sister so on some levels I feel like I can related to it. There were moments when I was reading and I’m like hey this feels so familiar. Yet it’s twisted to something that’s so unfamiliar and.. it feels wrong.
Spoilers ahead so don’t read if you don’t want to be spoiled (hahaha duh omg)
Without Tess deals with so many issues. There’s the issue of the relationships in a family (who’s in charge? what roles does each member play? what happens when one member is gone, lost forever? what happens to the rest of them?), the issue of mental illness (is it truly an illness? are they really ‘recovering’ when we try to treat them? is it humane when we pull them away from a place where they are happy and into a harsh reality?), the issue of friendship (should we be pushing away our friends when we pull our family nearer? are family and friends mutually exclusive?) there are SO MANY THINGS TO THINK ABOUT.
Questions questions questions with no definite answer. Arguments that can go round and round there’s really no full stop is there? These issues are so BIG and told through the eyes of a younger sister, through her emotions, through her conversations with other people, talking about it, denying it, believing in her sister, wanting to believe in her sister who still lives in the magical world she wants, doesn’t want to be part of.
—This probably sounds quite incoherent but I don’t know how to put it coherently. Just typing it out the way I’m thinking it—
Another reason why I find myself relating to it because in some ways, I see myself in Tess (the older sister who died) but then again, who didn’t play make believe? Even adults do it now don’t they? Close their eyes and pretend everything’s all right. Open their eyes and get on with their lives, pretending that some dark part in their past didn’t exist. Tess’ make believe was different of course. It was the belief in a magical world – something that I so desperately wanted when I was younger. I remember I used to pretend I was a mermaid, that I was a princess, that I was actually a daughter of a king and queen (usually I felt quite guilty after thinking this), that I could fly, that unicorns exist, that magic exists, that fairies were real, that I could make everything okay with a wave of a wand, that I was invincible, that one day my real parents (again, guilty thought) would come to pick me up and we’d go back to my real world where magic was real and live happily ever after.
You probably think I’m lying, or making this up just because I read the book. But it’s true. Every thought there is a thought that I to some small extent, believed in. I wanted myself to believe in. But I couldn’t. I couldn’t completely believe in it but I couldn’t completely dismiss it either so the thoughts lingered and sometimes they would bubble to the surface. I’d swim and pretend I was a mermaid – I’m digressing.
Anyway, in some way, I envied Tess for her complete belief in that. At the same time I was horrified at the extent she believed. It felt a bit like this is what could have happened to me if I really believed. I know of course, that Tess was mentally ill, but it doesn’t stop me from thinking what if. What if it was me. What if this was real.
And I think this is why I love the novel so much.
(And I really got to start on my NM assignment)