THE HA-HA by Jennifer Dawson


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A first novel deals with the frangible world of the schizophrenic with exceptional imaginative skill, so that its fragmentation of intense perceptions, its flickering images and private voices, all have a sometimes terrifying, sometimes wonderful, awareness and acuteness. This is always a difficult theme- but it is much more viable than in Janet Frame's autobiographical novel- Faces in the Water (p. 557) earlier this fall. Here, Josephine, almost recovered and ready to be ""regraded"", is given work in the town near the small hospital where she has been a patient. She meets and spends evenings in the ha-ha on the grounds with Alasdair, a rather unfeeling young man but still her first contact. He also persuades her to attend the party given by an old friend from Oxford, a party where she is ill at ease in her unfortunate jumper and skirt, and where the snatches of conversation soon provoke a cacophony of sounds and mirage of visions. She goes back to the hospital, realizing she has intruded in a world where she doesn't ""know the rules"". And her later seduction by Alasdair, and his abandonment of her, completes her relapse, her violent resistance to treatment (shock again), and her desperate attempt to recapture the one time she had ""existed""- with Alasdair.... It is alternatively macabre, bitter, touching, and deserves a market its subject does not assure; its title may be an additional liability.

Pub Date: Oct. 18th, 1961
Publisher: Little, Brown