Genres: Based on a true story, history, family, New Zeeland, Susan Tarr Format: Paperback, 330 pages Publishing date: March 22nd 2013 by Ocean books ISBN 9781272159 Edition language: English Purchase link: Ocean books, Wheelers
Wheeler book blurb:
1926-54. When his mother died, Malcolm, at 6 years old, became one of the 'lost' children, those forgotten or abandoned by their families. He grew up mirroring many of the mannerisms of the other children, while knowing he was different from them. His young life was spent in SEACLIFF MENTAL HOSPITAL. Malcolm's story is of immeasurable sadness, when considering the tragedy and abuse of his wasted earlier life, and yet, with an admirable strength, courage and innate resilience, he ultimately rose above it all, and was able to 'free the regular boy within' as he had always wanted
REVIEW: Malcolm lost everything in life when his mom died and his dad abandoned him at the train station. As trauma after trauma manifested in this young boy's life, his brain closed off this section when his memories became too much to handle. As a result he became more quiet and eventually stopped speaking altogether. He had to endure terrible odds to survive, but had the presence of mind to know what was actually happening with - and around him. He was admitted to the Seacliff Mental Hospital. It was also known as the Loony Bin or Booby Hatch, where "Malcolm gleaned that mad people shouldn’t speak. It only caused trouble and more work. They should sit and be quiet. Quietly mad. They lived in a world full of silent people in The Building – that’s what the hospital was called.
He suffered and witnessed the aftermath of experimental treatments, including the embarrassing concept of Eugenics, on people and at one point decided to take control of his own destiny by hiding his pills in his pocket seams and not drinking his medicines, in the hope of improving his memory, which was constantly destroyed by The Treatment. With all The Treatments they had to endure through the years, and all the medicines fed to them to calm them all down, some of the 'inmates' lost their mind altogether. A little voice in him encouraged him to fight back in his own silent way.
The book is not only a commemoration of the historical building, Seacliff Lunatic Asylum in New Zealand, but also a detailed description of the lives and characters who graced it with their presence as either the 'rejects' of society, or the staff who worked there for many years. The characters are so endearing, I almost felt like going to them and saying "I am so sorry society treated you this way".
The story winds through the historical facts with ease and a gripping tale is introduced to the reader. The tale is very well written.
This book reminds me of the movie "One flew over the Cuckoo's Nest", which also had me laughing and crying like this book. Eventually Malcolm's spirit would triumph and in his case it became a celebration, after confirmation, of hope which never died:
"Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies." --(Movie quote from: The Shawshank Redemption (1994) - Andy Defresne (Tim Robbins)
Susan Tarr has been writing for 25 years. The author started writing when she lived in Kenya, far away from home, writing letters to her mom about her daily life and adventurous experiences in this African mileu. She decided to turn it into a book.
The stories in "SEACLIFF: A Regular Boy Within" have been blended from recollections of what probably did happen during the book's setting. She worked in Mental Health, Govenrnment Printing, Education Board and Social Welfare before sailing to Kenya, where she raised her family. While she always has a book or two on the go, she is also busy proofreading for others. Her favorite genres for writing are historical fiction and romantic comedies.
She draws her characters and inspiration from personal experience and other peoples’ anecdotal stories. Her characters take on a life of their own, becoming larger than life. Various stories in this historical fictional taleSeacliff , have been blended from recollections of what probably did happen during the book’s setting. To protect those people still living, changes were made where necessary, but the the dates, places, and names are otherwise correct.
FROM THE AUTHOR: "As a child, I knew Malcolm, who was a gentle, intelligent man. Dad often invited him to our home. We followed his compelling journey from childhood to adulthood, and even after he was discharged back into the community, where he married his sweetheart. This is Malcolm’s story! "
More info on Susan Tarr and her personal relationship to the book: Susan Tarr was raised in the community of Seacliff Village during the 50s. Young patients from the Seacliff Psychiatric Hospital often attended her little primary school. Once they turned fifteen the children worked up at the hospital helping in the canteen, laundry, wards or Occupational Therapy. Most of her family worked at the hospital at some time. From a young age, they absorbed stories; it was difficult to know where the truth ended and fiction took over.
To separate the two at this stage would be an impossible task as many have died, so Tarr has blended various stories in this narrative based on her family's and friends' combined belief of what probably did happen during the period this narrative covers. Where possible she has used correct dates, places and names. Where there is doubt, in her mind, she has changed the names and details to protect those still living.
As a child, she knew Malcolm, who was a young man by then, since her father often invited him home for meals. He was one of the 'lost' children, those forgotten or abandoned by their families. Tarr followed his story from childhood to adulthood even after he was discharged back into the community. Malcolm's story is of immeasurable sadness, when considering the tragedy and abuse of his wasted earlier life, and yet, with an admirable strength, courage and innate resilience, he ultimately rose above it all, and was able to free the regular boy within.