Friday, 16 October 2009

The shutter of snow (Holmes Coleman) 45

Having enjoyed The ha-ha, which deals with the theme of madness, I was recommended The shutter of snow by Emily Holmes Coleman. This was another interesting book, based in part of Holmes Coleman's experiences of incarceration in a mental institution for two months after the birth of her child and was reminiscent of The Yellow Wallpaper which also deals with postnatal depression.

It deals with the circumstances of Marthe Gail who we meet in a state hospital suffering from chronic psychosis after the birth of her son. She believes that she is Jesus Christ and has lost the ability to maintain relationships and look after herself. As the book proceeds, Marthe attempts to make herself heard and struggles to regain her identity; she works her way "up" through the hospital from the basement where the illest patients stay to the less restrictive and quieter ward upstairs. She continues to have psychotic episodes but eventually gets to go home to her husband and new baby.

I liked the style of the writing, which lacked any punctuation apart from full-stops. This made it feel very fluid, and almost as if it was a stream of consciousness even though it was written in the third person.

This is the only novel that Holmes Coleman wrote, she was a poet primarily, and continued to write poetry and journals throughout her life. It's just been printed the once by Virago, with the above cover.


  1. This isn't a VMC that I have come across before and it sounds fascinating; one to look out for I think.

  2. I didn't get on with this so much (have been meaning to write my review for ages). I could see what she was trying to do, but I found it more wearying than effective... though perhaps that is the effect she was going for?