The fault in our stars

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The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars,
But in ourselves, that we are underlings“.

(William Shakespeare, Julius Caesar)

 

 

 

 

 

A month ago, I was hanging around in Waterstones Bookshop in Bristol like an unleashed dog in a meatball shop… when my Bookaholic Friend put this novel under my nose.

–      “Do you know this?”

(The tone didn’t leave any space to hesitation).

–      “Ehmm… no, I don’t”

–      “Then you buy it. NOW. It’s on sale today, thus if we buy two books, one is 50% off”.

–      “What is it about?”

–      “It’s wonderful. Heartbreaking in the reality… but then it cheers you up. Just buy it”.

–      “Ok”.

(You know, among Bookaholic Friends this is quite a normal conversation).

I started reading it a couple of days ago and Ifinished it after 316 pages, two sleepless nights… and a lot of laughing and crying. In such a case, I really can’t understand why a Certain Publishing Industry insists on deciding which books are addressed to children and which ones to adults, anyway this divisionist mania has decided that The fault in our stars is addressed to “young adults”.

Thus I invite you – Young and Old Adults – to read between the lines. The fault in our star is about teenagers who speak about love, life, illness and death. They speak and love irreverently, as only children and poets still venture to do. And this is quite embarrassing… so please, scram and put yourself in the Children Shelf.

Here’s the plot. Hazel is sixteen and lives in Indianapolis with her parents. Her favorite book is An Imperial Affliction by Peter Van Houten. She has been suffering from a thyroid cancer with mets to lungs for three years now, but Phalanxifox – a phantasmagorical drug whose name echoes the invincible Roman phalanges – is giving her an undetermined life bonus.

Prompted by her parents, Hazel attends a Support Group for cancer kids. The only person over eighteen in the “Circle of Trust” of the “Heart of Jesus” is Patrick, the social worker, who time after time begins the meeting recalling the cancer which has left him without balls but still alive. Hazel has a friend, Isaac: an unusual eye cancer and thick glasses which make his eyes unnaturally huge. They don’t really appreciate Patrick’s sessions and communicate almost exclusively through sighs. But one day Isaac shows up with a friend. It is Augustus Waters: osteosarcoma, a prosthetic leg and wonderful blue eyes.

Time won’t make the rules. Hazel and Augustus know that pain demands to be felt but also that Infinity – as William Blake once wrote – can be hold in the palm of your hand. Hazel wants to know what happens to the characters of An Imperial Affliction after the protagonist’s death and Augustus will be able to give her an answer.

Acknowledgments. This is a work of fiction but the novel is dedicated to a real girl. Thus don’t make another mistake of labeling: this is not a novel “about cancer”. It is cancer, if anything, that enlightens all the rest. The book cover is clear: “The Fault in our Stars is award-winning author John Green’s most ambitious and heartbreaking work yet, brilliantly exploring the funny, thrilling and tragic business of being alive and in love”. Where being alive firstly means to have little time, but above all means to be able to notice the complex beauty of the universe.

So have a good time reading. Have a good time reading a novel in which a couple of teenagers show the adults how to live their lives, how to love, and how to die. Have a good time reading… a children book.

 

To see a Wolrd in a Grain of Sand

And a Heaven in a Wild Flower,

Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand

And Eternity in an hour“.

(William Blake)

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