Monday, January 30, 2012

Review: Madapple

MadappleAuthor: Christina Meldrum
Release date: May 13th 2008
Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf BfYR
Hardcover, 410 pages
Buy: The Book Depository

Wow. When I started Madapple yesterday, I had no idea what I was signing up for. Had I known what was ahead of me, I don’t think I would have picked it up. You see, I expected it to be paranormal (although I’m not sure why), and it wasn’t. I never expected it to be about child abuse, kidnapping, drugs and incest, but it was. I certainly never thought it would delve so deep into the connections between paganism and Christianity. Finally, I expected it to be forgettable, but I doubt I’ll forget this for the rest of my life. The last book that upset me this much, that caused me many sleepless nights, was Disgrace by J.M. Coetzee. The difference between Disgrace and Madapple, however, is that in the end, I felt like a better person for having read Disgrace, while Madapple left me feeling…contaminated. I have the craziest urge to wash my brain with soap.

Aslaug was raised in complete isolation by her Danish mother. She was homeschooled, she never saw a doctor in her life nor did she ever have contact with other people her age. She never even had a father or a proper last name. Her mother taught her ancient and obscure languages, but prevented her from finding out most things about modern society. Their house in Maine didn’t have electricity or running water. So when Aslaug woke up one morning to find her mother dead, she did the only thing she could think of: she washed her, painted the Solomon’s seal on her chest to ward off evil spirits and started digging a grave in her back yard. A nosy neighbor saw what Aslaug was doing and called the police and they quickly came to arrest her for murder.

Having been proven innocent of her mother’s death, Aslaug manages to find an aunt and her two children and moves in with them. You’d think an aunt who is also a preacher and who runs her own church would be more stable than an abusive mother, but you’d be horribly wrong. Soon questions are raised that nobody wants to answer: who is Aslaug’s father? Does she even have one? Can she be a product of immaculate conception or is the truth much more disturbing? At the same time, faced with the first teenage boy she’s seen in her life, Aslaug starts having inappropriate feelings for her cousin, and what’s worse, those feelings are mutual.

Aslaug’s story, however disgusting, is masterfully told and there is no denying Christina Meldrum’s skill. It is divided into two alternating parts: Aslaug’s murky and confusing first person POV, and court transcripts from her trial, occurring four years later. The reader gets to hear about the events from various witnesses in 2007 and then goes back to 2003 to see them through Aslaug’s eyes. But Aslaug is far from a reliable narrator and as the story progressed, I became more and more convinced that she’s lost touch with reality, as I’m sure the author intended.

I can’t bring myself to recommend a book that made me sick to my stomach. The ending especially made me want to cry, or throw up, or both. I’m not exaggerating: I hated myself for reading certain parts of this. But if you ever feel the need to push your boundaries, Madapple is the book to do it with. Just please spare me the details. I think I’ve had all I can handle.

Also, please take my rating with a grain of salt. I still have no idea how to rate this book.

14 comments:

  1. Wow. I salute you for your honest and balanced review Maja. Madapple sounds like a book I would consider reading, but I don't think I would actively look for a copy to buy if that makes any sense. The part of me that enjoys being challenged and reading books that make me think is very interested, but I am wary as well.

    Shelagh
    The Word Fiend

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  2. That's funny - I had the same expectations for Madapple. While this book made me think, I don't think I would ever recommend it...

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  3. You are such a talented reviewer. This is by far one of the best reviews I have ever met and I completely understand the sentiments of wanting to was your brain with soap when you finish a particularly disturbing scene. Though I can tell this book is one I will probably never pick up, I read every word of this review and couldn't praise you more highly for such an in depth analysis of the book.

    You are fantastic! Ps - I haven't read The Space Between yet!!! I swear it is my next one. I am also ordering myself a copy of Blood Rights after your review on those ones too. I think you have quickly become my most trusted recommendation blogger!

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  4. Yikes Maja! I ran across this book last spring and after reading the synopsis I decided to skip it! I am so glad I did.I don't think I could bear readinga book with such difficult and horrendous topics. I read for pleasure for the most part and this is one I don't want "contaminating my brain"!
    Thanks for such an homest review

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  5. This is the kind of review that makes me seek out a book. What does that make me? I even like the title...

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  6. I am so drawn to dark books like this even though after I read them, I end up having trouble sleeping and often wish I had never read it. Fantastic review Maja! I hadn't ever heard of this book before.

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  7. I think it's great when authors can write about such difficult and often sicking subjects but I don't know if I'd be able to read this.

    I think your review is fantastic, well written, Maja :)

    Mands

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  8. I even feel slightly icky just reading your review, Maja. This sounds...gruesome. You know, I used to think the cover was gorgeous, but now looking back at it, all I see is creepiness. Is it strange of me to still want to read this?

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  9. I wanted to read this book a while back, but I never got a chance to pick it up. Sounds like it should stay that way. Haha. Nice and honest review.

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  10. I'm so glad I read this review! You did an amazing job, considering how much it upset you. I doubt I would have even been able to finish it. Than you for the warning. Sometimes you have no clue what you're in for when you open a book. I've also read a book that upset me beyond belief. Today I'm still very upset by it. And I also wanted to wash my brain out. I'm sorry you read something so upsetting, but at the same time I'm glad you saw something positive in it, and could put it in words for others who might be interested.

    - Jana @ That Artsy Reader Girl
    P.S. - Thanks for commenting on my review of Paris, My Sweet today, and for becoming a follower! I'm a new follower of you now, and think your blog is great!

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  11. Oh my gosh, Maja. From a first glance, I never would've guessed it was about child abuse, kidnapping, drugs, and incest either! I'm so sorry that it made you feel that awful! I always have a hard time reading about things like that too, so you don't have to feel bad about feeling that way at all.

    This was such an amazing, honest, and thoughtful review, Maja! If I'm ever looking for a book to push my boundaries, I'll definitely think of your review of this book! Thank you so much for posting this! <3 :)

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  12. Great review, Maja! I have read so many books that made me feel contaminated and sick to my stomach that I almost became numb to certain topics and graphic scenes in books. Once in a while I pick up a disturbing book to see that my life is peachy and normal compared to the book protagonist and to experience some anger and deep emotions that other books don't offer.

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  13. Thought I'd pop back now that I've finished this book.

    It is a weird one. I liked the structure--the narration broken up with courtroom scenes (and to be honest, I'm glad they were there because the narrative did drag at times).

    I'm also not sure what to think of this. It will certainly stay with me, and I appreciated the nuanced characters. I did feel the second half was rushed, though. I didn't "buy" the end of the book, wheras I totally bought the beginning.

    SPOILER
    [I felt Rune's actions were glossed over at the end. He was preparing her tray with the drugged tea; he evidently still raped her, did he not? All we get at the end is "hurrah, she IS telling the truth!" and he doesn't really appear to be dealt with. That annoyed me].

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  14. I'm so glad you came back to discuss this book, Lucy. I'm still very troubled by it. Honestly, I've probably read five other books since then, but I can't seem to get it out of my head.
    I feel the same way about the ending. As much as the story dragged around the middle, the ending was too abrupt, and besides, it was in such contrast with the rest of the book. Even though the story had a dreamlike (nightmare-ish) quality to it, it was still so raw and hurtful and realistic, so the ending felt like a cop-out.

    SPOILERS AHEAD:
    I don't think Rune necessarily knew that she was drugged since it was his sister who did it. I wouldn't go so far as to call what he did a rape, although it wasn't normal by any standards. I do agree with you that he got away easily, he had literally no consequences for his actions, especially all those months they kept her locked and tied up. And he DID kidnap her child in the end. That too went unnoticed.

    Plus, what are the chances of that baby being born healthy? After incest over incest over incest, I'd say slim to none.

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