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#72 ~ Trauma

Cover of Trauma

Trauma by Patrick McGrath

Trauma tells the story of Charlie, a divorced psychiatrist who specializes in Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Charlie has spent his life taking care of his mentally ill mother and a brother-in-law who suffered from PTSD as a result of his tours of duty in Vietnam. After his brother-in-law dies, he ends his marriage, unable to cope with his guilt. After his mother dies, Charlie finds himself emotionally orphaned and without someone in his personal life to fix. What’s a psychiatrist to do living like that?

This novel takes place in New York City during the 70s and perhaps 80s. The Twin Towers are being built and viewed from many angles throughout the novel and are almost a character themselves, symbolizing stability in a city full of disillusioned Americans struggling to deal with the aftermath of the Vietnam War. I found this to be the best, most subtle, and thought-provoking commentary on our current war. The reader is free to draw one’s own conclusions or even not notice it at all because there is no break in the narrative to make a political statement. In the end, the novel is more timeless this way. While the story itself will always have a specific time and place in history, there is no blatant political commentary targeted at a 2008 audience that will interfere with readers 100 years from now.

I have always enjoyed Patrick McGrath, the more Gothic the better. This novel isn’t his most Gothic, but he is in great form. It reads quickly and is entertaining and interesting. I prefer Asylum to this and all of his other novels, still I found the tension to be perfect. Even after mulling Charlie over for the past few days, I’m still not sure if he is a reliable narrator. To me, this is a good thing. This way I am able to look back on a novel both with trust and full of questions. Each view provides an interesting twist. Of course, the mother is always to blame which ever way you slice it, but that’s another story.

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To buy this book, click here.

6 Comments

  • At 2008.05.23 14:39, kegsoccer said:

    Never heard of McGrath, I’ll have to check out what else he’s written too. Lol “the mother is always to blame…” very true!

    • At 2008.05.23 14:45, Devourer of Books said:

      Well look at you, getting a head start on the NPR summer reading list!

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      • At 2008.05.23 14:58, Literate Housewife said:

        I love when I do that and don’t even know it. 🙂 I love PMcG and that book was on display at the library when I picked up Last Night at the Lobster.

        I have a love/hate relationship with NPR suggestions. Danny told me about LNATL a long time ago but I tuned him out because of the disaster that was The Emperor’s Children. I did read Maureen Corrigan’s book and it was really good. So, I don’t know… 🙂

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        • At 2008.07.28 23:04, Matt said:

          I was reading through the first few pages and realized the narrator is unreliable. That intrigues me. Thanks for the thoughtful review.

          The NPR book recommendation can be hit or miss sometimes. That is why I enjoy going through the aisles at the bookstore myself. 🙂

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          • At 2008.07.29 06:40, Literate Housewife said:

            Matt, unreliable narrators are one of McGrath’s calling cards. You should enjoy Trauma. I can’t wait for your review!

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            • […] Asylum is a superb novel and I would encourage anyone to read it.  His novel from last year, Trauma, is also great.  I think what appeals to me most of all in Gothic literature is that you are more […]

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