The back says: Chief Bromden, half American-Indian, whom the authorities believe is deaf and dumb, tells the story of a mental institution ruled by Big Nurse on behalf of the all-powerful Combine.
Into this terrifying grey world comes McMurphy, a brawling gambling man, who wages total war on behalf of his cowed fellow-inmates. What follows is at once hilarious, tragic and ultimately liberating.
I say: I was a bit reluctant to start reading this because I had seen the film twice and I never understood what all the fuss was about. The first time was in school at the age of 10 (what they hell was our teacher thinking?) and the second sometime in my early twenties – I understood way more that time and Jack Nicholson is awesome. I am so glad that I had to read this as part of my 100 Classics Challenge because I loved it.
Just absolutely loved it.
First of all, I just have to say that this was an incredibly intense read for me; so intense that I took me a week to finish it, because I had to stop along the way when it got too much and too heavy.
I love that Kesey chose to set the novel from “Chief” Bromden’s perspective since he was the silent and invisible observer and therefore offered what in the beginning was a neutral point of view. As mentally damaged as he may have been, he still had enough clarity of mind (most of the time) to be able to assess the situations and describe them with staggering beauty. And this is coming from someone who usually can’t stand novels written in vernacular.
Yes, I did notice the bad grammar, but it didn’t bother me.
Having seen the movie I already knew what was going to happen but, as always, it was different reading about it. It wasn’t over in 1.5 hours and therefore it became a slower and more intense process – and less obvious. Even though I knew and could discern that McMurphy was liberating the men and fighting Nurse Ratched, the subtlety of his actions were far more profound when observed through the eyes of one of the very people he was trying to free. Chief Bromden was by no means a stupid man, but because he had moments of hallucinations it made me question his interpretation in the beginning.
I could truly go on for days about this novel, and I probably will, but I’m going to finish off by saying that the reason this gets 5/5, besides the moving storyline and the brilliantly quirky characters, is due to all the layers that Kesey laid forth. We are all free to take from a novel what we please, but sometimes there’s only so much you can grasp.
With this the possibilities are endless.
I mean, the critique of the mental healthcare wasn’t subtle, nor was it meant to be, but Chief Bromden’s paranoia about constantly being watched and manipulated by “the combine”, the way he described how Native Americans were being treated by the government, the reason why Nurse Ratched ran the place with an iron fist and hired the men she did, the meaning of the title… the list is endless.
And I am passing this on to everyone I know so that we can have
merry heated discussions about it for hours.