BTT: Fool

Booking Through Thursday is a weekly meme.

Since it’s April Fool’s Day, I toyed with different ideas of questions for today.

  • Who’s your favorite “fool” of a character, and why?
  • What authors have fooled you? By a trick plot twist? By making you think their book was any good when it wasn’t?
  • What covers have fooled you into reading books you hated … even though the covers were wonderful?
  • What’s the best April Fool’s Day trick you’ve ever seen/heard about/done?

Ultimately, I couldn’t pick … so choose the one you like best. Or answer all of them! Or make up your own.

Rather than talking about my experiences with April Fool’s Day, I’d like to take this opportunity to showcase a book that I heard about recently – called April Fool’s Day – which I think that more people should hear about. I read Courtenay’s The Power of One when I was a teenager, and it really left a lasting impression on me. From the description of this book, I think it will, too … on me and other people.

From a reviewer on

APRIL FOOL’S DAY was the hardest book Bryce Courtenay ever wrote, and it’s also one of the hardest books I ever read. I started it (the first time) on a Friday evening and did nothing but read (and occasionally try to sleep) until I had finished it — I couldn’t imagine stepping out of the middle of the story into my own life. I’ve read this book, given it away, bought it again, several times: it’s not a book you can forget.

Courtenay’s son Damon was born in Australia with severe haemophilia. Along with the moving story of an afflicted but strong-spirited boy, Courtenay paints a bitter and angry picture of the Australian medical community at that time, steeped in paternalism and political expediency.

Several times a week Damon would bleed into his joints, and his father would take him to the hospital for infusion of Factor VIII to induce clotting. In other countries families were allowed to stock Factor VIII and infuse at home, minimizing both disruption to the family and permanent damage to joints. This was not permitted in Australia, to the extreme detriment of haemophiliacs and their families.

Worse than this, the screening and fractionation of donated blood in Australia did not at that time meet safety standards known and required in other countries. Damon contracted AIDS from the contaminated Australian blood supply and died of that disease on April Fool’s Day in 1991.

The book is saturated with the author’s bitterness, and the reader can’t fail to walk his angry path with him. You WANT it to have been different, you WANT to find a justification or at least an exculpation for the medical mismanagement of Damon and the entire cohort of haemophiliacs in that time and place.

You’ll find a celebration of Damon’s spirit and his family’s faithful support. You’ll find love that fights tooth and nail for Damon. But you won’t find forgiveness or exoneration, and if you’re like me you’ll think you should, and keep reading the book again looking for it — in yourself if not in the author.

Courtenay’s work (THE POWER OF ONE, TANDIA, WHITETHORN, etc) appears not to be well known in the United States, although he’s highly regarded in his birth county (South Africa) and adopted country (Australia). APRIL FOOL’S DAY should be more widely known. It’s a challenging read with a personal message the reader has to translate and tease apart. Read it for that challenge.

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