A life too short – Ronald Reng
part of last year’s Mental Health Reading Challenge 2013
*warning potential plot spoilers*
Winner of the William Hill Sports Book of the Year, the biography of Robert Enke, the international footballer with the world at his feet who took his own life
Here, award-winning writer Ronald Reng pieces together the puzzle of his lost friend’s life. On November 10, 2009, the German national goalkeeper, Robert Enke, stepped in front of a passing train. He was 32 years old. Viewed from the outside, Enke had it all. He was a professional goalkeeper who had played for a string of Europe’s top clubs, including Jose Mourinho’s Benfica and Louis Van Gaal’s Barcelona, and was destined to be his country’s first choice for years to come. But beneath the bright veneer of success lay a darker story. Reng brings into sharp relief the specific demands and fears faced by those who play top-level sport. Heartfelt, but never sentimental, he tells the universal tragedy of a talented man’s struggles against his own demons – Goodreads
‘Speaking at a press conference at Enke’s club, Hannover 96, Teresa Enke, dressed in black, told journalists about her efforts to help her 32-year-old husband beat his depression. “We thought we were capable of managing everything. We thought love would make it possible. But sometimes you just can’t manage it,” she said.’ Read more here
A note from me. Before I get into this review, you’ll have noticed this has taken me a year to get round to reading and reviewing it. At the time I was so eager to do this challenge and decided to pick something completely different to what I would normally read. I borrowed it from the library and thought crikey, this is a fair size book to get through. It was at that time things started to change for me and the book sat there and stayed there, renew after renew, and then I just gave up. Not sure why. Then I decided about a month ago I would try get all unfinished books out-of-the-way and here we are.
This book for me was not an easy read. Not because of the subject being depression but it seemed to just be boring topics at certain points and part of me felt where was the drama going to be, but of course there was none. It was more about life, a personal journey. Not just one person’s but several all entwined.
‘But beyond the headlines, deep down, there was real pain, a profound paralysis. Robert’s death reminded both of us how little we understand about the illness that is depression.’
‘Depression, even today is a taboo subject, along with other illnesses it’s not fully understood. Nobody understands what’s going on in other people’s heads, not truly. We can explain how we’re feeling but never truly understand it. The best way we react is to tell the person to ‘Keep smiling’ ‘We’ll get through it’ ‘things aren’t as bad as it seems’ or the best one ‘there are people much worth off then you so get over it’
This book explores Robert’s life at so many levels. From childhood to parenthood to the pressure an international goalkeeper has. How even as a normal man he still had to ‘put up a front’ as they say. What annoys me the most was the fact as a goalkeeper, as someone to look up to as a football fan, He could not tell anyone outside his family what he was going through because he would have been seen as a failure. To me, as I read them words I got so angry I didn’t want to read the book anymore.
As a society, we’re rubbish when it actually comes down to dealing with mental issues. It’s because its invisible. There’s no physical item to mend, it’s trying to precondition a person’s way of thinking, feeling. To tell someone to ‘get over it’ could be the worst thing. From this story it just made me realise how much as individuals we shut out the world how we don’t want people to see us as week when everything seems to be going our way. To say Robert was unlucky at getting depression, to me seemed like the wrong thing to say. We’re human, not robots.
‘I don’t dare go home, because then I’ll have to face Terri and I won’t be able to pull myself together’
The book also focuses on in great detail on the world of German soccer, particularly the unique burdens born by anyone playing goalie. At the end of the day winning of losing comes down to one single person….the goalie. And that’s got to be one of the toughest jobs in the world. Football to me, has been something I played as a kid in the fields across from where we lived. A bit of fun, it also was one of the most annoying sports my Dad watched which I never understood because he got so upset at the tv and started shouting even though no one could hear him and if they lost put him in a bad mood. So initially it lead me to hate the sport and when I moved out I had to check the football score to see if it was safe to ring home.
Football is meant to be a team sport but a lost rest of the goalie. As you go through his book you can see the enormous amount of pressure Robert was put under, what any goalie is put under at any point in their career. What I liked most was how he tried helping a young goalkeeper after analyzing his match, and how he feared upsetting other goalkeepers if he took their spot on the bench or field especially when it came to the international level.
But through his life and career Robert had plenty of support and not everyone gets that. Although he went into himself and there was only signs showing that he was struggling, sometimes it just didn’t seem to help him. But again this is real life and not a fiction book. Like his wife Teresa and his best friend, they gave everything they could. But in the end his illness was to strong and Robert was lost to depression.
This book is worth a read especially as it give you insight not into just one person’s struggle but several, the person with depression and the people around him who feel helpless and just want their loved one to be ok. It also gave fantastic insight into the illness itself referring to a articular subject ‘the black dog’.
Through book club and the various challenges that have been set I have read several books on depression and didn’t realise how many fiction books let alone non-fiction are actually based on it. With this being a non-fiction book it also gave insight into other people suffering from depression. Another famous person being Winston Churchill.
‘Depression wasn’t a weakness of character but an illness, moreover an indiscriminate illness that afflicted people without regard to their status, success or strength, and regardless of whether these people had all these qualities and possessions we think are necessary for a happy life. One of the most steadfast politicians of the modern era, Winston Churchill, suffered from depression just as much as any unknown secretary.’
“Black Dog” was Churchill’s name for his depression, and as is true with all metaphors, it speaks volumes. The nickname implies both familiarity and an attempt at mastery, because while that dog may sink his fangs into one’s person every now and then, he’s still, after all, only a dog, and he can be cajoled sometimes and locked up other times.”
“I think this man might be useful to me – if my black dog returns. He seems quite away from me now – it is such a relief. All the colours come back into the picture.” – Winston Churchill
A good article here about Winston Churchill read more
Oh and if you haven’t already, you need to read this book – I had a black dog
There’s a quote towards the end of the book that I would like to share. Once again its realising we never fully know or understand each other and why they can’t just ‘get on with things’. It was what was printed int he paper after his death:
‘Afterwards lots of newspapers mistakenly used the German word Freitod-literally, ‘free death’. The death of a depressive is never a free decision. The illness narrows perception to the extent that the sufferer no longer knows what is means to die. He thinks it just means getting rid of the illness.’
And this is what broke my heart and I started crying. Like I said before it was a tough read, more because of the amount of information in it than the subject. We make life so complicated when we don’t need to, we think we’re all the same because we have 10 toes, two legs etc yet forget the one important element…. We’re all wired differently, we may have the same genes in most cases but how we process thoughts, how we learn things, how we seen things, is a completely different aspect of being a human being and we must not forget that. Yes some people are better than others and sometimes we should not show off or be jealous we should just see how we can improve our selves and support others in what they do. After all we’re only human.
Music to match the book
‘ And I don’t want the world to see me
‘Cause I don’t think that they’d understand
When everything’s made to be broken
I just want you to know who I am’
Thank you for all your help and support this year with LBCPuffins I love the turn out for this group. I’m keeping my fingers crossed there will be no more changes from now on.
The day for LBCPuffins is now the third Wednesday of the month meeting between 6-6:30pm for a 6:30pm start, I understand it can be difficult for people to get away from work, and we work round that, just send me a tweet as usual and we’ll begin when you arrive.
Hopefully this will spread the clubs out a bit and everyone has a bit of variety in what they read.
Next year I hope to find some more picks from people’s childhood, we’ve had some cracking books turn up this year and hope to see the same again next year.
So pens at the ready these are the books and dates. Hope to see you there.
17th September – The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 3/4 – Sue Townsend
15th October- Howl’s Moving Castle – Diana Wynne Jones
19th November- The Graveyard book by Neil Gaiman
Meet at the
6pm every second Sunday
Yes we’re glad to say we’re going back to monthly meetings. *CLAPS* *SHOUTS OF CHEER
We have some interesting choices for September, October and November and quite a good pile of unpicked which people can read at there leisure.
Augustus by John Williams
A brilliant and beautifully written novel in the tradition of Robert Graves’I, Claudius, Augustus is a sweeping narrative that brings vividly to life a compelling cast of historical figures through their letters, dispatches, and memoirs.
Find out more on Goodreads
The Raw Shark Texts by Steven Hall
The Raw Shark Texts is a kaleidoscopic novel about the magnitude of love and the devastating effect of losing that love. It will dazzle you, it will move you, and will leave an indelible imprint like nothing you have read in a long time. – find out more on Goodreads
The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga
If anyone has any reviews still to do, can be as far back as 2012, please can you email or message Niamh at LBC @leedsbookclub or me @isfromupnorth and we’ll get them up asap. We are working hard to get everyone’s reviews up so please, we know you’re busy but send us your reviews!!!!!
Thank you Chief Puffin Helen :D
Trust your eyes’ by Linwood Barcley. 14/8
About the book:
The NAL debut and must-read thriller from #1 international bestselling author Linwood Barclay.
Thomas Kilbride is a map-obsessed schizophrenic so affected that he rarely leaves the self-imposed bastion of his bedroom. But with a computer program called Whirl360.com, he travels the world while never stepping out the door. That is until he sees something in a street view of downtown New York City. Thomas’s keen eyes have detected an image in a window…an image that looks like a woman being murdered.
Thomas’s brother, Ray, takes care of him, cooking for him, dealing with the outside world on his behalf, and listening to his intricate and increasingly paranoid theories. When Thomas tells Ray what he has seen, Ray humors him with a half-hearted investigation. But Ray soon realizes he and his brother have stumbled onto a deadly conspiracy.
And now they are in the crosshairs..
About the Author
After spending his formative years helping run a cottage resort and trailer park after his father died when he was 16, Linwood Barclay got his first newspaper job at the Peterborough Examiner, a small Ontario daily. In 1981, he joined the Toronto Star, Canada’s largest circulation newspaper.
He held such positions as assistant city editor, chief copy editor, news editor, and Life section editor, before becoming the paper’s humour columnist in 1993. He was one of the paper’s most popular columnists before retiring from the position in 2008 to work exclusively on books.
Between 1996 and 2000 be published four non-fiction books, including a memoir about growing up in cottage country, Last Resort, which was shortlisted for the Stephen Leacock Medal for Humour.
In 2004, he launched his mystery series about an anxiety-ridden, know-it-all, pain-in-the-butt father by the name of Zack Walker. Bad Move, the first book, was followed by three more Zack Walker thrillers: Bad Guys, Lone Wolf, and Stone Rain.
His first standalone thriller, No Time for Goodbye, was published in 2007 to critical acclaim and great international success. It has been sold around the world and is being translated into nearly two dozen languages. In Germany alone it has sold half a million copies. His second standalone, Too Close to Home, is coming out in the fall of 2008.
Linwood was born in the United States but moved to Canada just before turning four years old when his father, a commercial artist whose illustrations of cars appeared in Life, Look and Saturday Evening Post (before photography took over), accepted a position with an advertising agency north of the border.
Linwood, who obtained an Honours B.A. in English at Trent University, in Peterborough, Ontario, was fortunate to have some very fine mentors; in particular, the celebrated Canadian author Margaret Laurence, whom Linwood first met when she served as writer-in-residence at Trent, and Kenneth Millar, who, under the name Ross Macdonald, wrote the acclaimed series of mystery novels featuring detective Lew Archer.
It was at Trent that he met the woman who would become his wife. He and Neetha, who teaches kindergarten, have been married for more than 30 years. They have two children, Spencer and Paige. -Goodreads
Where the bookclubbers meet:
Outlaws – LBC Outlaws – City Centre
LBC regular reviewer Michael has been reading again…
Thanks again Michael!
THE SUMMER OF LIVING DANGEROUSLY
Alice Woodstock is a writer, or more precisely making her income from writing technical reviews of industrial products. She sees a job advert for guides at Eversley Hall, who spend the day being an character from the hall’s history and answering visitor’s questions. For Alice, the offers an escape, not just from her rather dull freelance job, but from her ex, who for some reason has decided to come back to the England from the States and move in again, despite knowing full well that Alice is barely on speaking terms.
Eversley Hall in 1814 is not just governed by the class system of upstairs and downstairs, and the social niceties of what is Jane Austen world, but by the owner, James Fitzwilliam’s, need to stick to what the history of the hall says is what actually happened to his ancestors. That is, until Alice gets involved and, by virtue of covering for a fellow servant girl’s fag break, decides to go off-script, with interesting results.
Now, this novel is part contemporary suburban metropolitan, and part Pride and Prejudice, with some quirky humour as well, but there are some very unexpected really quite emotional chapters relating to Alice’s past which reveal why she split up from her ex, and why she is running away from reality.
Well written for the most part – there’s just one or two bits near the end where it seems to jump and miss a scene, but enjoyable.
* * * * *
Visit Michael’s Blog HERE
Book the 5th:
Charles Mason (1728 -1786) and Jeremiah Dixon (1733-1779) were the British Surveyors best remembered for running the boundary between Pennsylvania and Maryland that we know today as the Mason-Dixon Line. Here is their story as re-imagined by Thomas Pynchon, in an updated eighteenth-century novel featuring Native Americans and frontier folk, ripped bodices, naval warfare, conspiracies erotic and political and major caffeine abuse.
We follow the mismatch’d pair – one rollicking, the other depressive; one Gothic, the other pre-Romantic – from their first journey together to the Cape of Good Hope, to pre-Revoluntionary America and back, through the stange yet redemptive turns of fortune in their later lives, on a grand tour of the Enlightenment’s dark hemisphere, as they observe and participate in the many opportunities for insanity presented them by the Age of Reason.
Only one of us had managed to finish the book (and that might have been on a previous occasion), two of us has started it and found the experience akin to wading waste deep in rotting jelly and one had picked up the book, looked intently at the cover for a bit and then put it down and forgot all about it.
Honestly, we had tried but in the main, left it too late to make any traction. While we all continued to *want* to want to read the book…it didn’t happen this time round.
So we drank coffee, chatted about other books and comics we were reading, had our customary little foray into the Cumberbatch appreciation fandom and spent a merry hour or so nattering about nonsense. It was lovely.
And perhaps necessary. By the end of the hour we were all reinvigorated as a book club and very enthused to get stuck into our next book. Most of us have heard very interesting things about Zora Neale Hurston and her seminal novel There eyes were watching God. Perhaps more significantly, it’s not a huge tomb so shame alone should be enough to get us through it!
BLURB (FROM AMAZON)
In northern Iceland, 1829, Agnes Magnúsdóttir is condemned to death for her part in the brutal murder of her lover.
Agnes is sent to wait out her final months on the farm of district officer Jón Jónsson, his wife and their two daughters. Horrified to have a convicted murderer in their midst, the family avoid contact with Agnes. Only Tóti, the young assistant priest appointed Agnes’s spiritual guardian, is compelled to try to understand her. As the year progresses and the hardships of rural life force the household to work side by side, Agnes’s story begins to emerge and with it the family’s terrible realization that all is not as they had assumed.
Based on actual events, Burial Rites is an astonishing and moving novel about the truths we claim to know and the ways in which we interpret what we’re told. In beautiful, cut-glass prose, Hannah Kent portrays Iceland’s formidable landscape, in which every day is a battle for survival, and asks, how can one woman hope to endure when her life depends upon the stories told by others?
Confession Time: – I hadn’t actually gotten round to reading the book. So apologies in advance for any and all weird tangents!
Despite the somewhat morbid subject matter; this book was received very positively by the clubbers. While it could have been a mawkish affair, focusing on the murder, conviction and subsequent death sentence; the author chose instead to portray a familial story. Agnes – is a woman pigeon-holed from birth into a particularly low social position. After she was convicted of the murder of a man she had loved, she was forced onto an unwilling family unit due to a lack of appropriate prison facilities. She lives with them for nearly a year, reflecting on her life, the seasons and her growing relationship with each of the family members. Completing this unit is her spiritual advisor – a priest she picked purely because he had once showed her a simple kindness (outside of a religious environment – which I’ve noted was significant but for the time being, I can’t remember why). For the first time in her life, Agnes is listened too. From what I could gather, this story is about her finding her voice, albeit towards the end of her life.
The writing was highly complemented, particularly regarding the descriptions of Iceland, the landscape playing a significant role in the tale. More than one member noted a similarity – with regards to subject matter – with Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood, but all agreed that this story successfully survived the comparison. (While Grace spoke with a psychologist, Agnes found an audience with a priest. In fact, there is a passage apparently when the priest, several months into their meetings, is asked ‘have you prayed with her yet?’ and replies ‘oh no, we haven’t gotten round to that yet’. A starkly different tone from Atwood’s book.) This was further emphasised when a member revealed that this was actually a dissertation thesis and therefore début novel. Most indicated an interest in reading subsequent works by Ms Kent.
Structurally, not telling the story of the trial etc in real time, instead opening with letters before moving into telling Agnes’ story via her moral supporter Father Toti maintained momentum for our intrepid readers. One particularly optimistic member became more and more hopeful as Agnes was allowed to tell her tale. His delight at her story coming out led him to believe that there was a chance that she might receive a last minute reprieve. This despite knowing from the outset that she *was* the last woman executed in Iceland. Which lead to an interesting little side conversation about spoilers, the varying forms that they can take and whether they bother us (For the record, we tended to find the genera dictated our responses. Thrillers usually have twist endings so spoilers can be unfortunate. However in the main, the reading, the story is the point, not the ending). We also ended up comparing this with the superb Common which had recently been on telly.
The trial scene led to a pacey conversation about the variety of factors that lead to her being perceived so negatively by the public. Agnes was older, educated (to an extent – she could read) and came across as capable and intelligent – not ideal for someone who is supposed to be basically a serf. She was vilified while the 15 year old also on trial, the pretty innocent pliant and obedient feminine ideal, was acquitted. As the story revealed more of what had truly taken place; this became increasingly galling. Agnes’ victim was the most recent in a string of men who had abused and betrayed her. That her taking of his life was never in doubt meant that I was surprised by the humanity of the real motivations behind it.
The role of religion and superstition within the novel was also discussed in detail – however I’m afraid that absent of any context, I just got lost. Also – there was a brief discussion of the readers group question and answer section in the physical version of the book. Agnes’ surname also proved to be an interesting and significant point. Again – I knew nothing. So instead of elucidating on that – have a picture of Jennifer Lawrence – who will be portraying Agnes in the upcoming film release.
There was an element of political ambition that seemed to me to be cold and purely self serving. Holding Agnes in the central place with no prison facilities purely because the prosecutor wanted the death sentence to take place in Iceland (rather than in Denmark) seemed particularly cruel. Indeed, the character of the prosecutor as a whole seemed just foul to me. The precarious nature of the lives of the working classes; their dependence on positive referrals and the whims of the ‘master’ – the injustices throughout the book in fact began to wind me up a bit. Everyone assured me that it was a fascinating portrayal of a particular time and place; a journey that I would enjoy and learn from rather than read through clenched teeth.
Then they told me about the execution itself – decapitation by axe – wielded by a family member of her victim. It was a struggle to keep any faith in humanity at that point!! Although a passer-by hearing the roars of laughter from the other book club members would never have imagined it! However, it turned out that it was obvious brutal and horrific because…it couldn’t be described in any other way. What alleviated it from misery porn is that the life that Agnes lived in the immediate months before her execution mattered. The farm hands who had previously viewed her as a monster turned out to demonstrate their support and acceptance of her. It all sounded rather beautiful really.
- Only one member seemed to put in the effort to read the names as they ought to have been pronounced, the majority finding that it was an unwelcome distraction. For some reason this lead to my learning that the welsh for microwave is Poppity-Ping. This is the GREATEST THING SINCE THAT OTHER GREAT THING!
- If you could destroy one book from time and space, would/could you? And if you are monstrous enough – what book would it be?
Turns out that 3 of us are truly virtuous and couldn’t consider every destroying a book (outside of surviving in some dystopian nightmarish vision of the future).
Of the remaining 3, 2 of us were quite open to the idea of eradicating a book but couldn’t fix on which (though perennially loathed Medusa favourties Westwood and A Prayer for Owen Meaney were naturally mentioned). A Confederacy of Dunces and The Fault in our Stars came close to selection but we recognised that they were recent reads and our detestation might fade over time.
As for me – not only was I up for the challenge – I positively relished it! In face, I became downright devious.
I decided to remove Wuthering Shites…sorry Heights from history. That way – as an additional benefit – neither Twilight nor 50 Shades of Grey would exist and a whole generation of women might escape such poor yet oddly prevalent role models.