The Pause by John Larkin

I knew what I was getting into when I read The Pause by John Larkin. Ok, I only borrowed it from the library because it was long-listed for the Children’s Book Council of Australia Book of the Year for Older Readers 2016. After reading the blurb, I momentarily considered sending it right back, instead I stepped into the void, knowing full well the consequences of my folly.

If, like me, reading about suicide is triggering, you might want to turn back now and never pick up The Pause. Or you could forge ahead and see if you come out the other side. I did!

What if you could stop before a momentous decision and experience both options, then make your choice. Would you make a better choice or would you wonder still, What if?

It’s here I feel my life split in two. Part of me carried it through, but the part of me that wanted to live, the part that knew that at some point the agony would stop, was stronger. Just. And although I have to stop the pain, this is not the way. So I pause.

Declan is depressed when his girlfriend Lisa’s Kraken of a mother packs her off to family in Hong Kong. While waiting for a train he decides to end his pain, but somehow his life cleaves and he experiences both the consequences of his untimely death and his life if he didn’t jump.

John Larkin has humour covered. I never thought a description of suicide would make me laugh, but when the dead person narrates his demise with witty condescension, yes it’s funny. This makes The Pause important, the comedic turns meant my trigger happy brain could cope with the dark issues. (Or perhaps knowing the fabric of space-time had somehow been breached.)

“Relax? That’s easy for you to say. She doesn’t want to barbeque your testicles and serve them with fried rice.”

“Boiled rice, Declan. Testicles don’t work with friend rice.”

The Pause shares themes with More Than This by Patrick Ness and Wasted by Nicola Morgan, both of which wrenched my heart in jagged pieces. Writing that spirals through the surreal and into the sublime. I wanted as much from The Pause but my expectations didn’t match the page.

About when Declan ends up in hospital, reality crashed back down and The Pause never reached those lofty heights. Things became kind of pedestrian, thank god for second chances.

Blah blah blah¹

I agonized over whether to blog my negative opinions (too much positive thinking crap in Group Therapy) but this is how I felt while reading, as much as I laughed. Also the snark just wants to be free.

The girl with all the murder in her family – sensationalize much. So glad Psych Hair and Makeup were on hand for her arrival. (Danica gets a name later on but her first cameo is solely there for Declan’s gaze.) Statistically, beautiful people are as likely to visit the psych ward² as ugly people, but no matter your beauty baseline, everyone looks awful the day after arrival, in many cases, their whole stay through.

Antidepressants take 4-6 weeks to start working and often dosage/drug type have to be tweaked (don’t get me started on side effects). Ten days after, life is rosy for Declan – isn’t fiction great (or is that the point?) And who still has a Nokia!? (Even my mum’s upgraded.) Do they make smart phones? Although I agree a Nokia would survive being thrown at a wall, not sure smart phones are this durable.

Of course, the minute you start to stop thinking about it, you start thinking about how you’ve stopped thinking about it and that starts you thinking about it and then the agony washes over you again.

There were times I wondered what John Larkin was smoking while writing, which I loved! but i don’t think The Pause is award worthy. I could discuss my views on books with boys and mental illness as bait for CBCA judges, but I’ve used my allocated words.

Read and laugh with The Pause and remember

Always choose life.

If reading this has triggered difficult thoughts or emotions and you need to talk to someone right now contact

headspace
Lifeline
beyondblue

  1. Seriously, that’s a direct quote.
  2. I wanted to scream every time Declan called it the psycho ward.