Monday, July 15, 2013

The Panopticon Doesn't Sound Too Terrifying

My pile of unread books is magical. It never ends. Another one that has been sitting there for a while is Jenni Fagan's 'The Panopticon'. Bought it purely for the title. It already indicates horrors of an institution. (Read reviews here, here and here.)

Anais Hendricks is 15, and has been in and out of the social security and criminal system as a "young offender". Has she been misunderstood? Yes, and no. Is she blaming the system? I didn't get that. She simply wants time to pass faster so that she could finally be of age to live the life she wants, however crappy bystanders might view that to be, by their standards, not hers.

The Panopticon is a home to young offenders and in a way, ostracized children and teens. One scene where Anais was hauled to court because she was suspected of causing grevious bodily harm to a police officer who fell into a coma, it was telling in how the presiding Chairwoman of the hearing passed personal judgment on her, and the staff of The Panopticon, Angus, remained objective and tried to defend her. It told of a system that had failed. There're other characters in the story, in and out and around the home. Drugs, abusive boyfriends, fights and death. All par for course.

It ended in optimism. By no means do I claim to understand her world. But hey, this is fiction (or perhaps not), give me some leeway in thinking the best of her world. No matter how shady, it doesn't have to end in death, murder, or whatever. Much had been mentioned about Paris. At the end, Anais placed four flowers in the Thames somewhere near King's Cross station, for the metaphorical and real deaths of people who meant something to her- "One for Teresa, one for Tash, one for Isla," and the fourth for herself. She got onto the train from London to Paris. She's free of the system, and free to live her life, however it might eventually turn out. Never mind about the proverbial jumping out of the frying pan into the fire. New chapters ought to be celebrated.

Paris It is. 
I am Frances Jones from Paris. I am not a face on a missing-person poster, I am not a number or a statistic in a file. 
I have no-one watching me. 
All I own is a lipstick I stole this morning, several hundred quid - and a lucky domino. 
This is it: no more experiment, no more meetings, no files, no straight to a secure unit, no giving up, no giving out, no beating up, no getting fucked, no looking over my shoulder, no locked cell, no broken vertebrae. 
Paris - it is.

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