The Infinite Wisdom of Harriet Rose by Diana Janney
|The Infinite Wisdom of Harriet Rose by Diana Janney|
|Reviewer: Zoe Morris|
|Summary: Harriet Rose is on the road to success when her family self-publish her musings, but does this 14 year old philosopher really want this kind of attention?|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 400||Date: January 2008|
|Publisher: Headline Review|
It was an unusual time for a rising star. How many celebrities spend their day arguing with the headmistress while their mother, their publicity manager, organises their first television appearance?
When Harriet Rose declines the offer of birthday presents for her 14th, and ask for donations to charity instead, she has no idea that it's her life that's going to change unspeakably as a result. Her mother and grandmother have had an unusual idea for a gift for her - they take her personal notebooks of thoughts and "meditations", which she's been scribbling down for years, and get these published. Properly. In a book. With a smashing front cover with beautifully embossed letters, a snazzy back cover with a picture of her on and an ISBN and everything. Without asking, and without doing much to make it happen, Harriet Rose has become a published author.
It's an unconventional start to what then unravels as a rather brilliant and beautifully written story. With Publicity and Sales (the aforementioned mother and grandmother) on her side, she is soon taking the local bookshops by storm, racking up numerous press appearances, juggling school work with photo shoots and trying to keep fans, critics, and random French admirers at bay. The free trips to country house hotels and helicopters with giant headshots on the wings must be just moments away.
As a book within a book, you get two stories for the price of one, though Harriet's musings are short snippets rather than long sonnets.
May today be filled with joy So that tomorrow it can join A multitude of happy yesterdays I am myself Nothing can change me I am myself. You can legislate, defy, manipulate, But whatever lies ahead, You will not change me. I am myself.
Cor blimey, imagine thinking up stuff like that as a 14 year old! I know I was never that profound at that age, and would struggle to be now. Maybe my mind just doesn't come up with stuff like that, but as you read this and get to know Harriet, you can truly imagine that hers is the sort of mind that does.
Though she's likable in lots of ways - she's honest, intelligent, witty and entertaining - it's Harriet's gumption I admired the most. When she goes into a bookshop who have previously declined to stock her book, and, impersonating a member of the public, asks them (a) if they have it in and (b) if they could check with Waterstones when they confirm they don't, it's genius, as is the finishing touch (Waterstones up the road do stock it... as do 54 of their other branches - cue suitably repentent sales assistant). She's a girl you want to root for immediately, someone you really want things to work out for, and whom you're just so happy for when things go right. The strong female work ethic in the book (there are no men who really feature in the story, except for Jean Claude who is really just a bit of eye candy) is refreshing precisely because you don't get either extreme rubbed in your face - it's not a "look at us women, we can do anything, who needs a bloke?" kinda story, nor a "oh no, there's no man around to help" one.
Similarly, the book manages to be about a family who are quite unique and kooky, whilst also portraying that same threesome as your average run of the mill, loving family unit. This book doesn't try to pretend that a teenage girl's life doesn't revolve around friends, enemies, boobs and boys, it just nudges you gently and reminds you there are other things out there too.
Harriet has a brilliant naivety that manages the delicate balance of being hilarious beyond belief while still reasonable and believable. Every so often she'll just say something or think something that makes you see the illogicalness of or ambiguity in the world, in ways you never noticed before. With a 14 year old heroine this could be classed as a teen book but I think it's more than that, as I think you can appreciate it as much, if not more, as an adult, à la Mark Haddon's Curious Incident.
This really is a rather special book, that is hard to do justice to on paper, but in my infinite wisdom I recommend that you do get a copy. I would of course also like to thank the publishers for their infinite wisdom in sending the Bookbag a copy.
You can read more book reviews or buy The Infinite Wisdom of Harriet Rose by Diana Janney at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy The Infinite Wisdom of Harriet Rose by Diana Janney at Amazon.com.
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