- Paperback: 406 pages
- Publisher: Wayward Cat Publishing (September 25, 2013)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 9781938999093
- ISBN-13: 978-1938999093
- ASIN: 1938999096
- Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 1 x 8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 3 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #6,299,747 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Camelia Paperback – September 25, 2013
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Camelia has stolen my heart, and now when someone asks "What are some of your favorite books?" it will be on that list. This book is one of the best books I've ever read. I will say that it's taken a place on my "Top Five Favorite Books" list.
--The Literary Connoisseur
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The main character (April), while suffering the unfair trials life has thrown at her, is fairly overflowing with a wonderful, sarcastic, sometimes biting sense of humor. Like the rest of us, April is both hero and antihero, someone the reader can admire and applaud, as well as loathe and pity. That tension adds dimension and depth.
As with The Bell Jar, the story is told in the first person, and both novels expertly use this perspective to convey the unedited thoughts and raw emotions of the main characters. But Dann does it better.
April is more an "everyman" than Plath's Esther, perhaps because the types of "issues" they face are better understood in the 21st century than they were in the 1960s. Plath gave us remarkable insight into the experience of dealing with a particular kind of mental illness, and her novel contributed significantly to the acceptability of discussing the subject openly and without shame or condemnation.
While Esther deals with what appears to be schizophrenia, April deals with alcoholism, depression, self-loathing, and something akin to Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Most of us are more familiar with these problems, at least in a theoretical sense, than the less common schizophrenia. But Dann immerses us in them, making them starkly real in an extraordinary way.
Being allowed into April's mind is revelatory. I feel an odd sense of familiarity with a number of the thoughts, feelings, and perspectives she relates. But they are expressed so clearly, so perfectly - and they resonate so deeply - that they become, to me, epiphanies.
This isn't an easy book. It deals with serious subjects and hard truths, and it doesn't have a happy, peppy, heart-warming ending. But it is beautifully written and spiked with humor. I encourage you to embrace the characters and the story, and allow yourself to enjoy this book. I know that sounds odd, but if you can do it, you'll find it very rewarding.
April’s story is not about redemption and not about healing. It is a long, hard and often painful plod through the existence of an unreliable, selfish, depressed, self-destructive woman. Yet, somewhere within the darkness, author Dianna Dann is able to capture something real and meaningful.
The first chapter of Camelia is merely a nettle of April’s confused ramblings briefly punctuated by updates on her questionable suicide progress. The following chapters thankfully become more coherent but no more pleasant. Readers ride shotgun with April as she struggles through life and seeks the truth behind her imaginary childhood friend, Camelia.
April is a character who is impossible to love and easy to pity. She resists most attempts at help, resents the parents she relies on for shelter and money, and spends her nights drunk and uncouth, which leads to regular episodes of abuse and bad decisions.
If you can’t tell already, I struggled with Camelia. Dann purposefully crafts an unlikable protagonist and asks us to find meaning and purpose in her painful existence. Dann’s writing, though often loose and wandering, is powerful nonetheless. April is achingly real, and it is a testament to Dann’s talent that there is something in April worth exploring and understanding. Dann also surrounds April with a cast of well-wrought and human characters, including her dysfunctional mother, the troubled Paulie and the drunks she lives with at a halfway house for a short period of time.
There were times where I longed to put the book down or hesitated to pick it back up. Somewhere along the way, however, something changed. Perhaps it was a bit of Stockholm Syndrome, but I found that I understood April’s pain. I knew that girl; the girl who never grows up. I recognized April’s voice as an echo of my own worst demons, and perhaps that realization was what made this book worth the read.
This book is not for everyone. Readers must wade through dark waters, but there is something very real in this journey that has the potential to touch deeply. When you learn the terrible secret behind Camelia, it is worth the wait.
(This book was provided to Compulsion Reads for review by the author.)