There really is no better way of dealing with the jolts life sends you than to disappear in a book. Just when I think that nothing perhaps could make things better, books prove me wrong. Over and over again. This happens often.
I won this book via a giveaway on the author's Facebook page, a long time ago. A reaaally long time ago. I loved Tabitha Suzuma's Forbidden. Even now I'd consider it one of the most powerful books I've read (just so you know, I read Forbidden four years ago). Somehow, though - whether it was life or university or other books - I never got around to reading A Note of Madness.
On Wednesday, I was rummaging my shelves for something to read. There's always too much to read. My shelves are spilling and I always have to look for newer places around the house to make room for my books. A lot of those books are unread, not because I didn't want to read them, but because other books came along and then even more books. My copy of A Note of Madness was signed 'August 2010' with a message from the author. Once I picked it up, I couldn't let it go.
Life as a student is good for Flynn. As one of the top pianists at the Royal College of Music, he has been put forward for an important concert, the opportunity of a lifetime. But beneath the surface, things are changing. On a good day he feels full of energy and life, but on a bad day being alive is worse than being dead. Sometimes he wants to compose and practice all night, at other times he can't get out of bed. With the pressure of the forthcoming concert and the growing concern of his family and friends, emotions come to a head. Sometimes things can only get worse before they get better.
In the last few months, I've lost count of the number of times I thought I was going mad. It happened with increasing frequency and I kept thinking it would get better but it didn't, not then. It's hard to define madness. It's an easy step-over from sanity. I think it happens to everyone, at least once in our lives. Flynn's madness pushes him over, way over the edge. And the whole spiralling-downwards experience is what the book chronicles. There are no minced words, no twists and turns, it's probably the most straight-cut book I've read. Flynn loses his mind and how.
After I read Forbidden, I had an overwhelming urge to connect with the author. The book had such a huge impact on me, I had to tell her. We befriended over Facebook, and yes, if you know her, you would know how she has battled (and still battles) mental illness. She is very vocal about it and I think that's important because nobody really talks about it. A Note of Madness was her debut novel and you get it, you know. You get the fact that the author knows what she is talking about because you get into Flynn's head, ride the highs and lows with him and feel the crippling fear that makes it impossible to go on and do anything, even though the book is written in third person and you're just supposed to feel objective about it.
It's an atmosphere of paranoia. Flynn's, his family's, his friends'. Sometimes you'd want to shut the book, just so you could breathe. It's not an easy read, of course. But it's good, it's really good.
After Robin Williams' suicide, when everybody was talking about depression, Ms Suzuma shared this post on Facebook. It talks about her family's fight with the disease. I think you should take a look.
I think the book has a most apt cover. The blackness, the boy at the edge, the title placement - I think it's one of my favourites now.