A Place There is No Pain – Book Review
In Simon Bridges’ debut novel, A Place There is No Pain, we are plunged into the life of Robert Prior, a successful sports journalist. With fame and fortune, in the eyes of many he is living a perfect life. However, we soon discover that he hasn’t seen his kids in ten years, and while he is admired by his colleagues, he’s actually friendless.
At the beginning of the book, without even realising it, Robert is constantly trying to fill the emptiness in his life. He spends much of his wealth trying to impress several women, all of which quickly disappear or ‘betray’ him.
As the novel progresses, it becomes obvious that Robert has a problem with women. Following the failure of his marriage, he remains unable to establish consistent relationships with anyone he pursues. What’s more, he seems to see the women that he encounters in his everyday life as nothing more than an aggravation, and dismissively refers to them as those feminists.
After causing a disturbance in a pub, Robert is taken to a hospital where he is kept for twenty-eight days, and is finally diagnosed with type one bipolar disorder. This signals the beginning of the end of the life that Robert once had; slowly, his world starts falling apart. He is “degraded” into only working part time, he loses the trust of most of his bosses, and after a disastrous date, he is accused of rape and charged.
Although Robert swears that he is innocent, all of the evidence seems to point to him being guilty – and the fact that he can’t remember what happened after he left the date doesn’t help. Apparently fuelled by the stigma associated with mental illness, the public opinion is against him. With the help of his ex-wife and her husband, Robert leaves the UK and hides in Cape Verde, where a few shady characters seem to bring about a whole new set of problems. However, maybe for the first time in his life, Robert also makes some loyal friends.
I‘ll admit that I had some problems getting into this book; however, when I realized why I had these issues I was pleasantly surprised. My main problem was with the way that Prior saw women; I found him incredibly sexist and paranoid. He was constantly thinking that someone was going to harm him, and while perceiving himself as a “nice guy”, he seemed to be under the strange delusion that all women were against him. However, such behaviour made more sense when the full extent of his mental illness was revealed; Prior is a character not only suffering from bipolar disorder, but also from manic depression and paranoia. I discovered that didn’t have to like the main character to enjoy the book, but I needed to understand him – and I finally did.
In writing A Place There is No Pain, Simon Bridges has managed to get into the mind of someone who is not only the victim of bipolar disorder, but is also denied access to sufficient help or medication for months. As I was seeing everything through his eyes, I was more able to make sense of his paranoia. Taking into consideration his background as a former mental health nurse, Bridges does a fantastic job in his portrayal of mental illness, and the way in which it is seen – and often judged – by society.
If you want to solve the mystery of whether or not Robert is guilty, and gain an insight into the reality of living with a mental illness, this book is definitely for you!
(Featured image credit: Taken from Amazon.)