The Novel Cure: A ReviewThe Novel Cure: An A - Z Of Literary Remedies by Ella Berthoud and Susan Elderkin with Indrajit Hazra
Bibliotherapy, or using fiction to solve life’s ailments, seems more theoretical than practical. Sure, the regular non-fiction self-help book is always handy. Crawling towards you from bookshelves, the pages of these books shudder with advice. Their authors profess (quite unashamedly, in my opinion) that they can mend all your bad habits and provide you with a step-by-step guide to success. These books might be able to eradicate your levels of procrastination, but can they really heal the soul, the mind and the body? In ‘The Novel Cure’, Susan Elderkin, Ella Berthoud and Indrajit Hazra claim to do just this. Calling it a medical handbook with a difference, it is a book that calls to the higher powers that reside in fiction novels. The prescription is quite simple, really. Elderkin, Berthoud and Hazra will push their readers towards stories, characters, and settings that they are certain can provide cures or deliver relief from symptoms.
For me, these dosages of the written word proved to be a cure-all. I picked up my copy of ‘The Novel Cure’ at a time when I was struggling to recover my reading habits. The year was 2018. At the start of the new semester, I was succumbing to the demands of the full workload of an upperclassman. I found myself in a labyrinth, trying to navigate through mountains of assignments, a dearth of sleep, and the anxieties that accompany a 20-year old’s social life. The comfort that I had once found in fiction was something I didn’t have time for anymore. Grappling with existential angst and looming deadlines, I turned to Elderkin, Berthoud and Hazra’s expertise for a classic case of an inability to cope. To unpack my moments of confusion, ‘The Novel Cure’ recommended ‘August’ by Gerard Woodward. ‘August’ tells the story of Colette at a testing time in her life. Colette’s ability of multi-tasking and remaining calm in the face of crisis, that comes naturally to the mother of four, starts falling apart when she finds an escape in sniffing glue. It is an addiction that unsettles the stability of her home. Soon, her husband and children struggle to cope with her muddled behaviour and their individual problems. Still, the novel retains the love shared by the family. Colette’s story reminded me to re-think my priorities and to plan the rest. As promised in my prescription, the novel helped me remember that all my mental faculties were intact and in its comforting manner, supported me in unravelling some of the racket in my head.
Along with providing respite from many problems like mine, the book also offers advice on reading issues. If you are not able to find the time to read, or wish to find the most important books of the decade, ‘The Novel Cure’ provides the perfect remedies. In this Indian edition of the book, the authors have expanded their treasure. One can easily find solutions to some purely desi problems like an obsession with cricket or the big question of an arranged marriage.
About the reviewer
Shubhangi Verma is a graduate of English from Shiv Nadar University, Greater Noida. She is an avid reader, who loves to cook and play Sudoku in her free time. When going gets a little tough, she can be found gladly indulging in Netflix, chocolates, and coffee. She has interned at Roli Books twice, and aspires to be a book editor.