Author: Jane Hersey
First copyright date: 2012
Type of book: Poverty, food, deprivation, lack of love, child caretakers, Great Britain, mental illnesses, 1960s, Judaism in Great Britain
General subject matter: Child caretakers, poverty, fear, attachment
Special features: N/A
Price: 7.99 pounds
Settling down on the bed, I stroked the plump, still body, watching my mother's face just to make sure she was still breathing.
As a 6 year old that was all I wanted, not toys or chocolates or comforts, just to know my mother was still alive was enough.
Jane Hersey's biography is told through the thoughts and voice of a traumatized, isolated child, enduring the stresses and strains of day-to-day life under difficult circumstances in 1960s Manchester. As a six year old child with sole care of a mother suffering with clinical depression, diabetes and eating disorders, Jane is ostracized by the Jewish community and the community at large. Breath in the Dark is the heart-rending story of a girl socially isolated, neglected, physically, emotionally and sexually abused and living in poverty.
"From the first lines of Breath in the Dark, there is a powerful sense that this is special. The simplicity of Jane's style, the clarity of the child's voice and the intensity of emotion fired in those few words had me hooked from the start. [...] Jane expresses the beautiful mix of confusion, faith and fear that characterises her childhood effortlessly... There is so much I could say about Breath in the Dark, it's excellent narrative, incredible intensity and the unfakeable ring of truth it carries. [...] Every part of it is an extremely powerful reading experience: it is heartbreaking and fascinating in equal amounts." - Review by Harper Collins
Author's Purpose: I think there are two reasons she chose to share her story; one is to bring attention to what its like to be a child and caring for a parent who's suffering from an illness, and another is perhaps a personal reason of trying to come to grips with the reality. Considering the delicate subject matter and the writing, I really do hope to do justice towards this book along with its sequel.
a. Why did the author write on this subject rather than on some other subject?
I would guess that her account can serve as a way to help other children that are stuck in similar situations, as well as what worked and hadn't. I personally found the story to be heart-rending, and it made me appreciate how far the society has come since 1960s.
b. From what point of view is the work written?
This is written in first person narrative completely from Hikey's (Jane's) point of view and takes place from 1959 up until she leaves Jewish community in her late teens.
c. Was the author trying to give information, to explain something technical, to convince the reader of a belief’s validity by dramatizing it in action?
I think the author was trying to give information as well as explain how and why she became the way she has. She details her childhood from the time she was six up until she becomes a teenager and shifts into working and trying to take care of herself.
d. What is the general field or genre, and how does the book fit into it? (Use outside sources to familiarize yourself with the field, if necessary.) Knowledge of the genre means understanding the art form. and how it functions.
The general field it would go into is children taking care of parents and childhood abandonment and neglect, as well as memoir and autobiography.
e. Who is the intended audience?
The intended audiences are those who want to be psychologists or who look after children like Jane used to be.
f. What is the author's style? Is it formal or informal? Evaluate the quality of the writing style by using some of the following standards: coherence, clarity, originality, forcefulness, correct use of technical words, conciseness, fullness of development, fluidity. Does it suit the intended audience?
Although I felt that the style tended to be informal, it is very powerful and gripping. I would guess anyone can read it and understand. She really enforces us into her world and not once have I felt a disconnection between the narrative and the today so to speak.
g. Scan the Table of Contents, it can help understand how the book is organized and will aid in determining the author's main ideas and how they are developed - chronologically, topically, etc.
There really isn't a table of contents, but it is linear. It begins with a preface, ends with chapter 28 and is divided into two parts; the first part detailing her life with her mother and brothers while the second part is focused on the life she has to live with an aunt and people following the aunt.
g. How did the book affect you? Were any previous ideas you had on the subject changed, abandoned, or reinforced due to this book? How is the book related to your own course or personal agenda? What personal experiences you've had relate to the subject?
I was shocked by many things the author wrote down. Many times I wanted to reach my hands through the book and comfort the childhood her. I don't mean to make a joke or to make light of this book, and I hope I'm not, but when you start reading it, be sure to have a pet or something to cuddle while your heart is breaking for Jane.
h. How well has the book achieved its goal?
I think the book has achieved the goal well because this is an issue for people to study and to pay attention to. Perhaps it can be used as a blueprint to create working systems for children who are stuck in Jane's situation.
i. Would you recommend this book or article to others? Why?
I really would recommend it to others, although its not a light read and despite the lack of psychology jargon, it is very powerful. The reason I would recommend it is because its very memorable, and perhaps it can inspire people to do something, or at least give them ideas on what the kids are like when they have a neglectful childhood.
a. Theme: The theme is the subject or topic. It is not necessarily the title, and it is usually not expressed in a complete sentence. It expresses a specific phase of the general subject matter.
Love is very important to children
b. Thesis: The thesis is an author’s generalization about the theme, the author’s beliefs about something important, the book’s philosophical conclusion, or the proposition the author means to prove. Express it without metaphor or other figurative language, in one declarative sentence.
More attention and love needs to be given to those who come from a traumatic childhood.
Quick notes: I would like to thank the author for the opportunity to read and review the book.
5 out of 5
(0: Stay away unless a masochist 1: Good for insomnia 2: Horrible but readable; 3: Readable and quickly forgettable, 4: Good, enjoyable 5: Buy it, keep it and never let it go.)