The Art of the Body by Alexander Allison review – cruelty versus compassion
Sean is in his early 20s, an art student, and lives with cerebral palsy. It’s the cerebral palsy that gives him an “accent” – that’s how Janet, the young woman employed to care for him, describes it. Janet has learned to distinguish “biscuits” from “business” and, as the narrator of this skilful debut novel, she translates Sean’s experience for us just as she navigates the world for him. But there’s an unsettling air of detachment to her own voice that allows her to describe Sean’s pained body and the unlovely work of care – baby wipes, bibs, suppositories – with an unflinching precision.
Is it really possible to provide care and feel detached? And what happens to your own life when it is put to the service of another? These are some of the difficult questions that Alex Allison compels us to consider. The answers are not easy. Finely written and thoughtfully devised, this is also a disquieting and unsettling read about the balance of power, cruelty and compassion in the relationship between a carer and their charge.Continue reading...