Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Girlfriend in a Coma – Douglas Coupland

Douglas Coupland was first recommended to me about five years ago, but it's taken me a while to get around to finally reading some of his books. I bought Hey Nostradamus! on a whim a few months ago and was surprised at how much I enjoyed it. Even so, I still wasn't entirely convinced; I'd been tempted by Girlfriend in a Coma for a while, the title always stood out to me in book shops because of it's reference to The Smiths, but I found that off-putting as well as appealing. I think that mix of feelings is pretty much how I felt when I finished reading the novel.

Girlfriend in Coma opens on a group of six friends, Karen, Richard, Wendy, Linus, Pamela and Hamilton, who are introduced to us by their classmate Jared who has recently died from leukaemia. Hours after losing her virginity to Richard, Karen slips in a coma at a house party. Already hit with Jared's death the group struggles to cope; they are rejected at school with rumours of bad luck and blame and don't know where to turn. But the hardest thing for them to come to terms with is that in a letter to Richard, written before her death, Karen appears to predict her own retreat from the world as well predicting the decline of the world into a dark and broken state over the coming years.

Over the following seventeen years Karen remains deep in her coma and the group split off, throwing themselves into their lives in attempts to distract themselves and find meaning. Ultimately, though many of them find this solace in drugs, alcohol and extreme lifestyle choices. So, when we re-join the group seventeen years they are feeling unfulfilled and lost. But, then something they had lost hope in occurs; Karen wakes up from her coma, and although physically she is a shadow of her former self, mentally she is intact, feeling as though she was still seventeen.

I don't really want to explain the plot much more than this, don't want to ruin the twists and turns that are to come, but the plot does take a very unusual turn on more than one occasion. The reason I had mixed feelings about this novel was due to the final twist of the story; not knowing what is coming next can make a novel great, but I felt that Coupland ended this novel in such an unexpected way that I felt somewhat cheated out of a real ending. There came a point when I didn't know where he could take the story, and I guess that is when endings do become more likely to be unsatisfying. I was also surprised by the strong moral leaning the ending included as this wasn't particularly present earlier on. Even so, I did enjoy this book, even if I enjoyed the journey more than the destination and my disappointment hasn't put me off reading more of Coupland's books or recommending this one if you are in the mood for something a bit different.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for this review, it's been really helpful as I've been looking for a new book to read over x-mas :) xx

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