Sectioned: A Life Interrupted
by John O'Donoghue
‘SECTIONED is my story' says John O'Donoghue on the dust cover of his book. We read about MPs lining their pockets; hear about orphan children being abused; the richest diamond field in the world is being patrolled by Mugabe's troops in starving Zimbabwe; and humiliated families are forced to leave their precious animals to die in the Swat Valley. But still, in the face of all the brutality in the world, we should still be moved to tears when a 14 year old boy is sent to a lunatic asylum for being disturbed and depressed by the loss of his parents, and later jailed for shoplifting an 80p roll of bin bags from the Co-op.
Where, the book suggests, were the do-gooders, the charities, the quangos, and the overpaid council executives? Where ever, we might reflect, is the simplest grain of compassion and common sense when bankers run off with billions, MPs aren’t satisfied with £90,000 a year and all possible perks, our rulers think it necessary to bomb an idea from 30,000 feet, and the Queen sits for a photograph dressed up like a Christmas tree in her diamonds? Don't they know the difference? Or is it just too inconvenient for the rich to consider the poor? "Never was so much owed to so many by so few..." is a hideous inversion of "Never was so much owed by so many to so few..." The "few" (referred to by Churchill) who died or were scarred by flames were often boys hardly out of their teens.
SECTIONED is written simply, elegantly and with wit and irony. Dispassionately, and with his tongue in his cheek, John O'Donoghue holds a mirror up to the charities, to corporate greed, to the writers of leaders in the Times, and to us, the lower orders who should know better - in fact, to all of us who failed him, and are failing others like him every day, because we let it happen. There really is enough to go round (although I know it is old hat to say so). It's just that it all ends up in too few pockets, and the worst pockets at that. And so it is a miracle that one of the most disadvantaged of us all can sit down and write a very interesting and well written book, with originality, wisdom and wonderful understanding. As if proof were needed. But if injustice is meted out to the undeserving, and not, as some would say, to those who deserve all they get because they are feckless, brainless and unwashed, O'Donoghue's humour, which enlivens the pages of this tragic book, is living proof to the contrary, and I, for one, felt privileged to read it, and greatly enjoy it.
But let us not forget, at our own peril, the other fourteen-year-old boys who endure grief, loss, humiliation and despair, but who cannot write a book, or even write at all. They may yet wield a weapon far mightier than a pen.
Review by Paula McMaster of the Downs Book Group, Brighton