Today’s team review is from Terry, she blogs here http://terrytylerbookreviews.blogspot.co.uk/
Terry has been reading Fred’s Funeral by Sandy Day
4.5 out of 5 stars
Fred’s Funeral is a long novella, beginning with the death of Fred Sadler, in 1986. As he dies, his ghost floats up and observes his relatives at his bedside, and follows them to the funeral and back to his family home as they share their memories of him. The book then dips back and forth between present and past, to his childhood in Jackson Point, near Toronto, to his horrific experiences in the First World War, to the many years afterwards when he was trying to find his feet.
Fred led a difficult life, always the outsider. His family history is complicated, with many undercurrents, resentments and complex issues. Little went right for him after WW1, which was, of course, closely followed by the Depression. He suffered from shell shock for many, many years, but this was not understood in those days; his family tried to get him a disabled war veteran pension, or into a hospital for those who suffered with this malady, but they were to discover that the doctors were in cahoots with the military: if a patient was diagnosed with a different sort of mental illness, the War Office would not have to pay.
Fred is diagnosed with schizophrenia, and goes through much in the various hospitals he is sent to.
As Ghost Fred watches his family, he feels in turn angry, misunderstood, unloved and, occasionally, pleased by what he hears. He was thought of as ‘mad old Fred’, and there is much in this book that is so sad; it made me want to find the younger man and make everything alright for him. As the book dots about between times, I kept being lifted out of one era and put down in another but they fit together nicely, I became quickly engrossed in every snapshot of his life, and gradually the jigsaw fitted together.
The book is so readable and well written, and I enjoyed how the story built up, not only in Fred’s life but from a sociological history point of view. It’s interesting (if frustrating) from the point of view of family wrangles, and builds such a tragic picture of the poor men caught up in the pointless carnage of WW1. I really liked it.
Fred Sadler has just died of old age. It’s 1986, seventy years after he marched off to WWI, and the ghost of Fred Sadler hovers near the ceiling of the nursing home. To Fred’s dismay, the arrangement of his funeral falls to his prudish sister-in-law, Viola. As she dominates the remembrance of Fred, he agonizes over his inability to set the record straight.
Was old Uncle Fred really suffering from shell shock? Why was he locked up most of his life in the Whitby Hospital for the Insane? Could his family not have done more for him?
Fred’s memories of his life as a child, his family’s hotel, the War, and the mental hospital, clash with Viola’s version of events as the family gathers on a rainy October night to pay their respects.
Sandy Day is the author of Poems from the Chatterbox and Fred’s Funeral. She graduated from Glendon College, York University, with a degree in English Literature sometime in the last century. Sandy spends her summers in Jackson’s Point, Ontario on the shore of Lake Simcoe. She winters nearby in Sutton by the Black River. Sandy is a trained facilitator for the Toronto Writers Collective’s creative writing workshops. She is a developmental editor and book coach.