Cover Image: As You Were

As You Were

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date:

Member Reviews

This book was very emotional although quite a tough book. a great way of portraying kindness, and what people go to to cover up hurt and pain in life. Relatable to life. Beautifully written.
Was this review helpful?
This debut novel has garnered much praise – wildly funny, desperately tragic, amazing, tour de force, thrilling and so on – but I found it none of these things. Original and inventive, perhaps, but essentially I found the basic premise unlikely and baffling. The book opens with Sinead Hynes in hospital with terminal cancer. For some inexplicable reason she hasn't told anyone she is so ill, not even her apparently devoted husband. Why not? It doesn’t seem at all likely that a young mother with three children would deliberately deny her illness and all chance of treatment. Surely the days when cancer was considered something almost shameful and not to be talked about are long gone. So there she is in hospital with a motley collection of fellow patients, and the novel proceeds to wander along chronicling life on this ward and the thoughts in Sinead’s head. Now I recently had a hospital stay myself and if my ward had been filled with such entertaining and eccentric characters my stay would have been much enlivened. But what are the chances of each and every fellow patient being so extreme and with such back stories to tell? One of them suffers from dementia, and unfortunately she seems to be there to provide some comic relief, which I felt inappropriate. Be that as it may, there is real tragedy and pain amongst these people but it is hidden by overwritten passages, often florid language, an attempt at black humour, some farcical elements and a general unfocussed and rambling approach. It doesn’t help that Sinead herself is so unlikable and unrelatable. Not only has she been an unfaithful wife and neglectful mother, putting her career as a property developer over family life, but she treats her husband appallingly for no apparent good reason. Why should we care what happens to her? The book could have been a serious and thoughtful exploration of, and meditation on, illness, health, self-determination and health care in general but the author’s style seems to undercut this at every turn. I did stick with it to the end but felt alienated and unengaged throughout. Not for me, this one.
Was this review helpful?
This was a really interesting novel and not an ‘easy’ read. I made the mistake of starting it late one evening and couldn’t get to grips with it but when I started it again the next day, I quickly became engrossed by Sinead’s stream of consciousness and the struggle she has in accepting her illness. I particularly liked the glimpses of the woman she was before - clearly strong, confident and powerful - which went some way to explaining her unwillingness to admit the situation. The supporting cast were also engaging and I felt there were more stories to be told. A poignant, sometimes painful account of the premature end of a life, full of metaphors and vivid in description.  I’m interested to see what this author does next!
Was this review helpful?
As you Were is the story of Sinead  who has been diagnosed with cancer but has kept this from her family. and is currently in hospital. Although this book was beautifully written I found it very hard to engage with the style of writing and the main character. It is an honest, raw and blackly funny book but just not for me. 

Many thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for a digital ARC.
Was this review helpful?
I was drawn to this book by the beautiful cover and the blurb drew me in.
I really enjoyed how it was written,  although it took me a little while to get into and figure out who was speaking or if it was present time or in the past, but once i worked that out I was absolutely hooked.
It was such a lovely book, although dealing with difficult subjects and at times sad, it was written so well that I was smiling even when it made me cry.
I really liked Sinead and wanted things to be different for her.
I also really liked how  Margaret Rose came across.
My heart was broken for poor Jane, I found her to be a little bit of comic relief even though she was in the grip of dementia, but then because of that i found her back story was all the more devastating. 
Having put me through a rollercoaster of all the feels, I'm a bit devastated to have finished. 
Thanks to Netgalley and the Publisher for my eARC in return for my honest review.
Was this review helpful?
Sinead, a wife and mum of three young boys in Ireland, receives a terminal cancer diagnosis but keeps it a secret, refuses treatment and doesn’t keep medical appointments. Ending up in a mixed hospital ward, she gets to know the other inhabitants, all seriously ill, and learns their stories, while reflecting on her own life, especially her childhood with an abusive father. It sounds like a depressing read, and yet it definitely is not. Despite experiences that include abortion, infidelity, dementia and domestic violence, the characters emerge as warm, loving and ultimately strong. The informal writing style (the author is a poet) brings a freshness and immediacy to the story, and it is unflinchingly realistic but  full of a generous humour. Ultimately, it is suggested that we are all doing our best, we bear the scars of our past and despite the hurdles that we face throughout our lives, we go on with hope and with love.
Was this review helpful?
I’m afraid I wasn’t able to finish this as the style just wasn’t for me. It just seemed like too much hard work at the beginning to work out who was speaking and what was going on and I don’t need to add to my level of effort; reading is meant to be relaxing for me.
Also, note to self: STOP getting books that Marian Keyes raves about; you NEVER like them even though you love Marian Keyes’ books!
Was this review helpful?
Thanks to netgalley and the publishers for this read.
From the blurb this book looked perfect for me. Unfortunately I found it next to unreadable. The main problem being the style if writing. The book us written in a half prose - half poetry style as Elaine Feeney is a poet.
This is just my personal opinion and I was unable to finish this book.
Was this review helpful?
Thank you to Netgalley, Random House Harvill Secker and Elaine Feeney for this ARC. The poetry shines through, stunningly written book. Beautifully crafted story and Elaine's talent shines through in her ability to make such a sad situation both funny and endearingly heartbreaking.
Was this review helpful?
This is Elaine Feeneys first novel.
A great read, that took me a few chapters to get into, but once I did, it was totally worth the read.

Sinead is a young Mum who is in a hospital ward with a interesting bunch of other patients who add to the story wonderfully with their stories. 

As Sinead’s story is told we learn about her difficult upbringing and her marriage, which has many secrets, including the reason she is in hospital.

Such an enjoyable read, with strong female characters who have had to make the most of life and do the best they can to get through for themselves and their families.

All brought together in exceptional circumstances, by being on the ward together, special friendships are forged.
Was this review helpful?
Sinéad Hynes is in hospital, ostensibly with a respiratory infection, but she's been aware for months that she has cancer, which is now spreading as she's refused treatment. Her family don't know, her fellow patients don't know, and at first even her doctors don't know.
For now, life is reduced to this one hospital ward - to the comings and goings of staff and visitors, and to the stories of fellow patients. Confined in one room, with little chance of physical privacy, the barriers that might have separated these people in normal life come tumbling down.
It's a mixed ward, but the two men are mostly silent, and the women take centre stage, representing different ages and 'types' of Irish womenhood.
Margaret Rose is a matriarchal figure, in constant touch with her large family via phone, trying to track down her missing husband and sort the problems her daughter has got into. Ex- teacher Jane, now suffering from dementia, can remember the past clearly - her one true love, and the awful toll enacted on unmarried mothers - but doesn't understand why she's here in this strange place - is it a shop, or a hotel? she wonders.
Sinéad is a more modern woman. The only girl in a family of boys, bullied by her aggressive father,
 she now seems to have taken on the male role in her family - her husband being more nurturing and home-centered than she - with her property business and a string of casual infidelities.

Within these stories Feeney explores what it is to be a woman, and the various choices life forces upon us. The narrative technique is unusual, mixing flashbacks to Sinéad's childhood with things she overhears on the ward, but perfectly conveys the random intimacies and sudden friendships when people are forced together. And, considering the setting, it's a story surprisingly full of life and hope.
Was this review helpful?
A raw and difficult read in parts but very enjoyable because the talent and style shines through,

The way the book is written makes it stand out.

The story is heartbreaking and relatable, the author puts you right in their shoes.
Was this review helpful?
As You Were is a book that leaves me in a quandary.  I genuinely don't know what I made of it. It challenges, but that challenge is not necessarily comfortable or welcome.  It made me laugh out loud in places, in an almost farcical way.  It made me appreciate the beauty of dialect and then in the next breath cringe at the choice of language and the lack of character.

This is a story that deserves to be told but I'm left confused as to how the author wished it to be received.  In the main, the tale is told through stream of consciousness prose, punctuated by poetic moments and then others that would be better suited to a stage script.

My biggest issue, however, is that I just could not connect to the main character and felt that Margaret-Rose rather stole the stage (perhaps akin to how Mercutio stole the show from Romeo before being killed off lest the titular character be forgotten).

This novel deals with dark subjects - mortality and cancer and how they play an unremitting role in family dynamics.  Too many of us have been here.  Whilst everyone's experience is different and everyone's tale is equally valid I felt that this tale fought too hard to put too much in - Sinead's story contains so much that it doesn't need propping up with secondary character stories that dominate at times.

I genuinely thank the author for this book - it did get me thinking but I cannot help but think that as a debut novel it might have been better to concentrate on the main character and her tale - there was so much to say.

With thanks to the author, publisher and NetGalley for the ARC.
Was this review helpful?
I was sent a copy of As You Were by Elaine Feeney to read and review by NetGalley.
What a gem of a book! I won’t say that it’s an ‘easy’ read – not the writing itself, but the subject matter, but what an absolute delight for the reader. I really wasn’t sure that I would be able to cope after the first couple of chapters, but the writing is so rich and the characters are so strong it was impossible to stop reading. The author has really got inside her subject and displayed it perfectly. I love Irish writing and this, for me, is up there with the best!
Was this review helpful?
Despite my star rating, I think this is a really good book and that Elaine Feeny has a great future ahead as a novelist but as beautifully written as it was and so funny and then moving throughout, it just wasn't for me. I actually think I might enjoy it more on a second read and I definitely think that this will be read and loved by many because of all of the above and the great characters and the unusual story we're being told. So, I'd happily recommend it to friends and probably will because I know people who will love it. Please don't let my star rating put you off reading this book because it is better than my enjoyment of it!
Was this review helpful?
Thank you to Random House U.K. Harvill Secker for an advance reading copy via NetGalley of ‘As You Were’ by Elaine Feeney.

“I didn’t tell a soul I was sick. Ok, I told a fat magpie.”

Sinéad Hynes is a thirty-nine-year old mother of three diagnosed with terminal cancer. However, she decides to keep knowledge of her illness to herself, not even telling her husband. Yet as her condition worsens she has a crises and is admitted to hospital as an emergency and placed on a six-bed mixed ward with other seriously ill patients. Here she observes her present and muses on her past while in mortal fear of her future. 

My heart sank a little as I realised that this was going to be mainly a stream of consciousness narrative. I know this approach is popular with writers of literary fiction and in recent years a number of novels shortlisted for literary prizes have embraced this approach. 

Still worthy of not, I am no fan of this rambling style and while no prude I also found the amount of expletives excessive. 

Here the subject matter is a serious one and I felt that Elaine Feeney captured the camaraderie that occurs on hospital wards between strangers along with its often surreal atmosphere. It was clear that like myself, she had experience of this first hand.

Overall, while not my kind of novel I recognised its importance as an intimate exploration of coming to terms with one’s own mortality. Plus, magpies... any novel with magpies wins me over a little even if I have stylistic reservations.

2.5 stars rounded up to 3.
Was this review helpful?
As You Were by Elaine Feeney

I don't know what to make of this book. In some ways it's desperately honest and lyrical and in others it's blackly funny but then it's a difficult subject. It's about what might best be described as a near terminal hospital ward where Sinead Hynes, the feisty narrator has ended up with a terminal cancer. Her companions in the ward have had a stroke, are suffering from dementia or also have cancer. To make matters worse, Sinead has not told her husband about her condition while the stroke victim, Mary Rose, is trying to manage an extended family with their own crises and the dementia sufferer, Jane, is desperately trying to make sense of her own life while being seriously confused. And, of course, the health service is on its knees being poverty stricken, short-staffed and underequipped.

It is quite an achievement to make this funny and it's also empathetic at times in the support the women provide for each other and their human kindness. They also look sympathetically on Patrick Hegarty, the final member of the group who is in a serious decline. The interplay between them all and the hard-pressed staff could be described as entertaining but, sometimes, the humour is lost in the physical indignities and the awfulness of the situations.

The book's strength is in the writing as we encounter Sinead in her current tragic predicament but also learn about her past as a property developer, her relationship with her husband Alex and with her children. Nothing is held back in terms of the unpleasantness of life on the ward but Elaine Feeney constantly stresses the humanity of those trapped in this sad, mad predicament.

Eventually the various crises in everyone's lives come to a head and, in an odd way, there's a sort of happy ending in the resolution that follows. I wasn't entirely convinced by that but it's a good book even if not a cheerful read. I'm not sure I'd recommend it as a book to settle down with during a pandemic!

(As You Were is published by Vintage. Thanks to the publishers and to NetGalley for an advance copy in exchange for a fair review.)
Was this review helpful?
I have been in a really quandary with regards to this book, and my reason being was that I wasn't very keen on it, and I hate leaving negative reviews, as I know that the authors see them on here.

I truly appreciate the skill and talent that goes into forming every single manuscript and so it is completely disheartening when someone like me comes along and says "I didn't like it" so for that I truly apologise from the bottom of my heart, but I did feel that on here, especially,I have to be honest, open and truthful, even when it doesn't sit right with me.

I think my main reason for not connecting with this story, or in the main character was because of the subject matter which is too close to home at the present time, so a lot of the reading made me feel uncomfortable.

I was also disappointed in the ending, which I felt was rushed somewhat with Sinead then opening up to her husband about her diagnosis, getting out of hospital and then changing her mind for treatment- I think I would have preferred the inevitable  ending with Sinead passing, but seeing how her husband Alex and her children coped with that.

Once again, I apologise for this review, but I know that there will be thousands, hopefully, hundreds of thousands of people who loved this book.
Was this review helpful?
This new literary fiction novel follows a tough, driven woman called Sinead, who throughout the book spends a lot of time in a failing hospital - but she is keeping the terrifying secret of her terminal illness from her husband and her sons. Unfortunately, I didn't enjoy this book as much as I'd hoped I would.

The book started off well - I was intrigued by the plot, I liked that it sounded character focused (something I love!), and it seemed as though it would explore some interesting themes surrounding mortality and family. I was also excited by the book's prose - it has a very disjointed, stream-of-consciousness style, jumping around in time from the present day to memories of the past. There are no speech marks throughout the book, so the speech is very interwoven with the protagonist's thoughts. 

While all of this was promising, I ultimately struggled to connect with the protagonist, Sinead. I didn't feel as though I got to know her as a fully fleshed-out character with likes, dislikes, passions and beliefs. Because of this, I couldn't build up a picture of her in my mind - and ultimately I failed to grow to care about her.

The writing also didn't work for me. I tend to love unconventional prose, and while there were moments of real insight in here, I overall found it to be too much - it was too confusing and too distracting. 

So while I wanted to enjoy this one, it unfortunately wasn't for me. I do, however, think that other people could very much enjoy it - so if these themes and this narrative style appeals to others, I would recommend they give it a go.
Was this review helpful?
I've really tried to get into this one but had to give up. I couldn't get past the disjointed way it was written. I know the author is a poet & some of the bits were very clever, poetic & beautiful. However I couldn't get involved with it & had to give up. I know it will appeal to many but not for me. Thanks to Netgalley & the publisher for letting me try to read it!
Was this review helpful?