Today’s blog post is my review of a book by a favourite author of mine; Scarlett Thomas’, and the book is called ‘Going Out’. Now, I did read this a while ago, and write the review, but I’m posting this Book Review today as I feel it’s the right timing.
Ok, so first thing’s first, I definitely read Scarlett’s books out of publishing order. “The End of Mr Y” was my entrance into the writing world of Scarlett Thomas a good 6-7 years ago, whereas “Going Out” was published some time before that. But hey. I suppose I’m definitely reviewing them in some semblance of order as I have yet to write about my love of “The End of Mr Y”, so that helps… right?
On to the review!
“Going Out” is, as many of Scarlett’s books are, an eclectic mix of the human experience mixed with topics and subjects you never knew could be connected – my inner zeal for knowledge and finding connections with anything (even if you think there’s none there) truly feels fangirly after reading any of her books, and “Going Out” is no exception to the feeling.
I’ve seen her combine treasure maps, miso soup, and math codes before. Now in “Going Out” she writes of health – mental and physical, magic and healing, and the trials of being stuck in a life you don’t want. Something we probably all feel more than once in our lives.
With Coronavirus and a lockdown, I felt this particular book was just the right theme for this time period.
Luke is twenty-five and allergic to the sun. He is stuck in his bedroom, where the world comes to him through TV, the internet and Julie’s visits. Julie, meanwhile, is brilliant, kind and could be changing the world. Unfortunately she is too terrified of aeroplane crashes, road accidents and potentially life-threatening bacteria to leave her home town. When someone contacts Luke and claims that he can cure him, Luke and Julie have to deal with their fears and face the world outside. With four friends, wellies and a homemade space suit, they set off in a VW Camper van along Britain’s B-roads. It is a journey that might just change their lives.
Ok. So you could read the synopsis and get a gist of the whole story perhaps, but “Going Out” is so much more than that, and I really can’t get over enough how – with the state of the world at the moment and the anxiety surrounding escaping from the safety of your self-made cage – it’s such an important and brilliant read. As someone who deals with anxiety on a daily basis at varying degrees, I felt for Julie’s character immediately, who definitely seems to suffer from anxiety as well.
How can you face the world when you’re so full of fear? Sometimes we all have to push through, and this is exactly what the characters in the book do. Julie with her anxiety, Luke with his allergy to the sun… in hope they attempt the seemingly impossible and brave the world outside.
It’s not just them either. Other characters fall into the ‘braving the unknown’ mix. Leanne, Luke’s girlfriend who harbours a secret she’s terrified to admit. David, Julie’s coworker who discovers he’s got cancer. Chantel who has just won the lottery but is subject to prejudice over her wealth. And Charlotte, who disappeared a few years before, only to return and bring back into the light the crush Julie had with her when they were teenagers.
In a way, all the characters need healing. Julie, with her fears of the world, Luke with his allergy to the sun, David with his cancer, Leanne with her fears of what she thinks she’s capable of, Chantel with her money worries and fears she’s out of place, and Charlotte with the situation she ran from with her ex-boyfriend.
Fear is such a big subject to this book – but more so how to overcome it, and that more likely than not, it’s all in your head. Well. We knew that already. But Scarlett shows that while it can control us, we can overcome it. The book evolves to show this – how fear controls unless we’re willing to step out of the shadows of all the stories we tell ourselves and believe in.
I suppose I could go on all day about this subject, and the book itself, because it has been a big subject I myself have been working on for many years – and more so with this pandemic. Ultimately, the book – as ever, is written in such a way that hits at the heart of the human experience. Scarlett makes it feel like you’re there with them in their experiences. Even in the VW Campervan*.
In the end, the characters all face the roots of their fears and heal from them. Or at least, understand where those fears stem from and move forward. It’s a lesson on life, how we experience the world, and a story of how we have to walk out of the shadows and face the sun – and realise – hey, it’s not so bad out here after all.
Also, as a side note, I really loved the little nod in the book to one of Scarlett’s other novels… head to page 99 to find out which one!
How Many Stars?
Overall, it’s a 5-star rating from me. Scarlett Thomas never fails to amaze and inspire me. And the nod to Ayurveda was a great inclusion topic too!
*After picking this book up and chatting with my friends about it, one of my friends and I are so up for doing a road trip of our own around the UK at some point. I’ve already created a vision board! It may be a while before it’s fully realised, but here’s to making the dream a reality!