Hearing Karen Joy Fowler on We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves

by Jamie Klingler

The lovely people at Profile Books and the publishers of March’s choice, We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, gave London Book Club members tickets to see Karen Joy Fowler, the author, speak at the South Bank Centre last week.

LBC member and intrepid reporter at large, Daniella, went along…

After a slight bit of confusion over the venue (a last-minute change of room had three of us scrambling around the maze-like Southbank Centre) we settled down to hear Karen Joy Fowler talk about We Are Completely Beside Ourselves.

Fowler started with a reading from the book, before asking the audience if they had read past the twist on page 77. I was slightly worried that we were going to ignore what most of the novel was about for the sake of a spoiler-free evening, but thankfully Fowler continued regardless as most of the audience questions were based around the fact Fern was a chimpanzee.

It was very interesting to hear Fowler’s motivations for writing about such a seemingly random subject, with the author discussing her own background and her thoughts on the use of animals in science. It was also interesting to find out that Fowler had heard from several people who had grown up with chimps themselves, and it seems her portrayal of the experience has been broadly accurate.

If you hated the book then this event wouldn’t have made you feel any differently, but as somebody who enjoyed the book I found the event gave me a greater understanding and appreciation of the novel.