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Review: Thaw (Fiona Robyn)

Title: Thaw
Author: Fiona Robyn
Genre: Adult
Pages: 271
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
FTC Disclosure: I bought this book with my own money
Challenges: Typically British (#1)
Summary: (from the back of the book): Ruth is thirty-two years old and doesn't know if she wants to be thirty-three. Her meticulously-ordered, lonely life as a microbiologist is starved of pleasure and devoid of meaning. She decides to give herself three months to decide whether or not to end her life, and we read her daily diary as she struggles to make sense of her past and grapples with the pain of the present. Can Red, the eccentric Russian artist Ruth commissions to paint her portrait, find a way to warm her frozen heart?

Review: It's funny, I rated this book a 4.5 out of 5 stars, but it isn't the kind of book that I usually gush about saying, "oh, you must go out and get this; it's so good!" Instead, it's a book that works its way into your psyche, gets you thinking about things, and seeing your own life from the outside. I think everyone has a little bit of Ruth (but I hope not too much) in them. We all questions ourselves socially sometimes, wonder if we're smart/interesting/pretty enough at some point, and wonder if we're really doing what we want to do with our lives. But Ruth has all of this, constantly. She is so unsure, so timid, so afraid of life that she can't get herself out of of the spiral she has created. Ruth worries and obsesses about the smallest of interactions, convinced no one wants to spend time with her. And, it is exhausting for Ruth as she feels responsible for everyone else's emotions.

I enjoyed seeing Ruth come out of her shell. As she contemplates ending it all she reaches out through a photography class, a portrait sitting, to a colleague. It's almost as if giving herself 3 months to decide means that she can take some risks that she wouldn't normally have taken. The risks turn out to be worth it and she (and the reader) can see glimmers of happiness.

I enjoyed the way the changes were subtle; there is no earth-shattering moment when Ruth makes a decision about suicide either way. The diary entries felt so real, that I was really listening to Ruth as she struggled to make her decision and figure out what was really going on in her life. At times I wanted to shake her and tell her to get a grip and snap out of it, and there were times when I emphathised with her and totally understood what she was saying.

On March 1, 2010 Fiona Robyn is going to have a blogsplash which I will participate in. She is going to blog Ruth's diary entries on the days they happen in the book. Totally cool!

I feel so fortunate to have Fiona do an interview with me:

Thaw is so intense! I found myself thinking about Ruth and her emotional baggage when I was away from the book. Did writing the book make you sad at all?
I often feel sad when I’m writing the sad bits of my books, and I’ve been known to get upset even when I’m doing the third or fourth drafts!

Suicide is such a serious subject, yet you managed to give Ruth some levity and show that it isn’t a black and white issue. Where did you get your inspiration and insight into the issue of suicide?
I’m glad you thought so. I always read around a subject before I write about it, but I also try to access the parts of myself that could imagine feeling how Ruth feels. I think we all have the potential to feel anything, depending on our circumstances. 

Where did you get the idea to do this book?
All my books start when the main character ‘turns up’ in my head, and ask to be written about. 

On March 1 you are doing a blogsplash. Tell us about that. Are you going to release the entire book online over 3 months?
I am! It’s a bit of an experiment – I may sell more books or less books as a result. I feel good about being able to give people the opportunity to read the book for free.

Where and when do you like to write? Is there anything you need to have with you during the process?
I have to write first thing in the mornings before I get distracted by anything else… I’m easily distracted. I light a candle before I start writing and blow it out when I’m done.

How has technology affected the way you write or the way you publicize your books?
I do lots of publicity online – I love blogging at www.plantingwords.com, and have a fan page on Facebook. I couldn’t live without my laptop… 

How does it feel to see your books in book stores?
There’s nothing like it!

Have you heard much from your readers? Do you have a favorite comment or question that you have heard?
I was touched by a woman who wrote and said that my second novel, ‘The Blue Handbag’, got her through time at hospital when she was having surgery. I’m always very happy to hear from readers, it’s what makes my job worth it!

What book are you working on now?
I’ve just finished ‘The Most Beautiful Thing’ which follows 14 year old Joe as he spends a summer in Amsterdam with his aunt Nel.

If you couldn’t be an author, what would you do?
There’s nothing I’d rather do… maybe I’d work in a bookshop!


Stephanie said...

What a great review and interview! I hadn't looked closely at this book before, but you've piqued my interest. I really like what you said about Ruth's changes being subtle, not earth-shattering. I think it takes a lot of talent and skill for an author to write personal growth and change this way.

Tales of Whimsy said...

Wow. Sounds fascinating.

Helen's Book Blog said...

Stephanie, that is one of the things I really liked about Thaw: there were no easy fixes or answers or false hope. It felt real