Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Out of the Tunnel

After work finished last night I caught a bus to Oxford Circus and went to Borders. I was after a book that I knew had been published the week before and which I hoped would be on the shelves. I had already tried a local bookshop close to my office but their copies had not yet arrived. Unsure as to how the book would be categorised, I scanned the shelves of new books, local books, important issues, autobiography, summer reads. But to no avail. Defeated I approached the information desk and tried not to laugh when he directed me to the self help aisle. I can see why they put it there, I suppose, but I don’t think that hiding it amongst the self help titles is attracting it the attention that it deserves.

I started reading the book on the tube on the way home and was so engrossed that I almost missed my stop; walking home was a bit nerve wracking after what I had just read and I was pleased when I reached home and was able to curl up in bed to continue. I read for 2 hours before I finished the book and parts have stayed with me ever since. It was only by reading the metro and determinedly thinking of someone, something else, that I was able to pass Arsenal, Holloway Road, Caledonian Road, King’s Cross, Russell Square before emerging into the sunlight at Holborn wondering why I felt quite so strange. The events that had entered my sub-conscious happened 2 years ago. I travel that route every day and have done so for several months. But still, I felt odd.

On the surface Out of the Tunnel is an interesting insight into the mind and life of the person behind one of my favourite blogs; reading the book meant that I was able to see further and deeper into the life that she writes about on her blog and understand some of the background to the position from which she views the world. It was written well, flowed nicely and I only found one sentence which I would re-write (usually I find 10 or 12). It read differently to her blog though, it seemed more careful, more cautious, almost more simply written. I could tell which passages were lifted straight from her blog, although whether that was simply through recognition or through a shift in style, I am not sure.

Delve deeper though into the content of Out of the Tunnel and it is, at times, rather disturbing; I have never read such a vivid, descriptive account of rape that I could picture it, try as I did to wipe it from my mind. And if I can picture it my heart bleeds for anyone who actually has such an account imprinted on their mind. Some of the text was familiar to me, for I read Rachel’s Story in The Sunday Times, but that description seemed almost to have been censored in comparison to this. I never read the Marie Claire article, so I cannot comment on the content, but it was graphic enough for Rachel to have been re-living that night in 2002 whilst she was reading her story in the magazine on the tube on her way to work on 7/7/2005; the second date that would change her life beyond recognition at the hands of a Jamaican teenager with no care for anyone else other than themselves.

The description of 7/7 is vivid, yet somehow I also felt very removed from the situation, despite travelling daily on the same tube (now, not then, thankfully). I found it hard to picture exactly where she was standing, although I could imagine all to well the feeling of being able to almost lift ones feet off the floor in a packed tube carriage. What did strike me was the way that London pulled together to help each other; from the people involved to emergency services, the police, the general public. Rachel provided a glimpse into the awful world of PTSD, of survivor guilt, of good days and bad days. It is not something I know much about and I imagine that anyone suffering from similar symptoms would draw great strength from Out of the Tunnel.

Out of the Tunnel is not an easy read. It fills the mind with images that one would prefer not to think about, yet it is compelling reading and I couldn't put the book down despite wanting to sleep, to stop, to remove myself from the situation. I didn't, because I could.


Rachel said...

Thank you ever so much for that Rachel. I am sorry that the book is so disturbing - it is very brutal indeed for the first few chapters but it does calm down & cheer up in the end ( which was how it lived, really).

Borders made an initial mistake with categorisation and a directive has now gone out to all stores to put the book in the right place - biography/real lives, not self-help(!). It is infuritating that it was put in self help and I was really fed up when I found out! But apparently it happens all the time - last week, a book on Martin Luther, the 16th century German theologian was put into 'black history' by mistake
( they thought it was about Martin Luther King!)

It's interesting to read your flagging up as a blog reader about bits lifted from the blog. The whole thing was written from scratch, but there were some parts where I thought I can't really alter the way I wrote about it contemporaneously, it's authentic experience which I need to keep in - so I retyped what I wrote then in a few cases, rather than edit it and change it with hindsight. Ditto the description of being on the carriage, which was used in the Sunday Times and the book, but was taken from an original blog entry written as I was actually having a full scale flashback attack, so it was hyper-vivid and highly-detailed.

I am very grateful to you for reading and reviewing it, and I will put a link up on the blog sidebar to your review. And I hope that it doesn't disturb you too much - it's a hard balance between writing the truth, in a way that gets across how shocking it was and why PTSD developed - and actually traumatising people!

Rachel said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rachel said...

Thanks Rachel for your response. It is rather surreal receiving commentary on my review from the author herself!

It didn't traumatise me too much (!); I am glad that I read it. Despite having only the most tenuous of connections with 7/7 (in that I live here and that my boyfriend was on the bakerloo line platform at Edgware Road and heard that thud of the explosion - although he didn't of course know what it was at the time) I have found myself reading and reading and trying to find out information. Mainly I suppose because it could have happened to me, and being as I am, like to find out things.

Out of the Tunnel provided some of those answers for me and also highlighted the area of PTSD of which I know/knew very little. Very useful information which I hope I will never need to know.

I look forward to your next book which I hope will be a novel!