My September reads is the shortest round up of the year because I only managed to read two books. A combination of brain fog and life, got in the way. October is already shaping up to be a better month and I’m still ahead on my Goodreads challenge, so it’s not all bad.
The Invisible Life of Ivan Isaenko by Scott Stambach*
Seventeen year-old Ivan Isaenko who has spent his life in the Mazyr Hospital for Gravely Ill Children in Belarus. He doesn’t know who his parents are or when his birthday is. Ivan is physically disabled; he was born without legs and only has one arm. To keep himself occupied he manipulates the people around him and turns everything into a game that he must win at all costs.
Things change when Polina arrives. At first Ivan resents Polina, but he is soon drawn to her in ways he doesn’t fully understand. Ways that make Ivan want to live a different life.
My reaction to The Invisible Life of Ivan Isaenko* is complicated. Laughter, intrigue, frustration and sadness all played a part while I was reading it. I wanted things to work out alright for Ivan or as OK as things could work out under the circumstances. I was caught up in Ivan’s world and his relationship with Polina. It was only afterwards that I started to look at it objectively and the flaws became clear.
Polina is a classic Manic Pixie Dream Girl, her entire existence is to help Ivan realise that being in the Mazyr Hospital for Gravely Ill Children isn’t an excuse for not living his life fully.
Add to this the one dimensional portrayal of people with disabilities and I’m left trying to balance my initial enjoyment of the novel with wider issues of representation in fiction. Being set in, post Chernobyl, Belarus may explain some the negative attitudes to disabilities, in their various forms, but where Scott Stambach had the opportunity to add nuance he instead chose caricature.
Death at the Seaside by Frances Brody*
I’ve already written a full review of Death at the Seaside*, so I won’t go into too much detail here. Death at the Seaside* explores the dynamics of life in a small town and how newcomers and outsiders are perceived, especially once a crime has been committed.