One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest - Ken Kesey (Book Review)
Year - 1963
Ken Kesey's phenomenal first book on the complications and corruptions of a 1960's mental health institute.
Told from the perspective of one of the Oregon's psychiatric ward's patients, Cuckoo's Nest is a novel that opens the eyes of its readers. Kesey has the story told through the eyes of "Chief" Bromden, a tall inmate who is half Indian (Native American) and supposedly deaf and dumb. We see the Ward in which he lives on change with new inmate McMurphy who is not having any of the lies and corruption of the heartless, controlling Nurse Rached.
From this unique narrator the reader can see corruption from a man who acts as a grey blur in the background, as part of the scenery, very few people seem to notice Bromden, yet he is there to hear all the darkest secrets of corruption within the ward, this creates something never before seen in literature, Bromden and the writing style in which is narration is written by Kesey is insightful and fair yet at times the reader is reminded, this character IS not mentally well, from his visions, however what a reader gains from this is, yes he isn't "sane" but does that mean his opinion doesn't matter?
Kesey sets out to educate and inform from this novel, and he delivers well.
The novel cannot be summed into a single genre or tone, some parts are genuinely heart warming and funny, other moments fill the reader with hope and a sense of justice as the characters get back at the system, then of course there are moments which are infuriating due to the cruelty and injustice as well as moments that are heart breaking. Kesey created an emotional rollercoaster that is simply perfect, in balance, structure and feel.
Cuckoo's nest features drawings done by Kesey himself that add an interesting and different overall experience to the novel, adding a more depressing feel, as, personally, the drawings feel disturbing, showing the horror and affect of psychiatric wards on the patients.
Nurse Rached deserves to be discussed, an unconventional villain, purely being a woman that is a nurse, villain stereotypes are broken by Kesey, you as a reader will despise this woman and I challenge anyone to try and find good in her, though I am sure there are excellent interpretations that do so.
McMurphy is a character like no-other, the original anti-hero, none of this "Deadpool" stuff that is now considered an anti-hero, McMurphy is a lying, cheating gambler who likes to show his dominance and cause trouble, but he also wants to help and expose the corruption of the system within the ward, he may be coarse, but he's one hell of a character and a literary character that is inspirational, along with narrator Bromden.
One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest is an in-depth study/critique of behaviourism, a novel laced with controversy, from bad language to prostitutes, Ken Kesey wrote a masterpiece that will go down in history as an incredible classic in literature that truly attacks the corruption of hospitals and their methods, showing that mistreatment can happen to those who don't deserve it, everyone should read this novel.
rating - 10/10
by D.A. Clarke