the SURGERY is now
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PREGNANT AND ALONE

Dear Ella and Suse,

First of all: thank you for your wonderful services. I believe you should replace, or at least figure upon, every website available for symptom checking and self-diagnosis.

I am a young woman who is 33 weeks pregnant. I am also alone, since I broke up with the baby's father soon after we found out I was pregnant. We are still friends, and I am in no way heartbroken, or in doubt about my choice. I am however a little worried and certainly very humbled by the thought of being a single-mom/solo-mom/parent alone, whatever you like to call it. I am overwhelmed by the enormous responsibilty that comes with being a parent. And overwhelmed by the thought of a tiny person, my new family, residing inside of me, only to come out in a little over a month, and to live with me, and to have me as a caregiver. And as an idol. And a friend. And as "the adult" in his life. And as the person who shall introduce him to this world, and show him how to find his way in it.

Please, do you have any books in mind with good advice or perhaps an
inspiring protagonist for me?
Yours,
Solo
Dear Solo,
Thanks for your positive thoughts about our services, and for reaching out yourself at a moment of great excitement and trepidation in your life! We can well understand the feelings you must be having as a lone parent to be, and it is great that you are thinking about iterary routes to calming your worries. We do have some good ideas for reading, for inspiration, reassurance and courage. Firstly, we would like to recommend the brilliant "The Last Samurai" by Helen de Witt. This excellent novel describes a young woman having a baby,very much like yourself, without a man around, but happily alone. She brings up her son with great joy and intelligence, and he soon reveals his amazing intellect and capacity for learning. He learns Greek by age 5, then moves onto Hebrew and Arabic very rapidly, masters the fundamental laws of maths before he is 6, and is a constant source of fun to his mother Sybilla. The novel explores their relationship and his search for a father figure, with great sympathy and wisdom. We hope you will recognise yourself in Sybilla.
For inspiration about ways of mothering brilliantly, revisit or read for the first time Gerald Durrell's My Family and Other Animals. Benign neglect could be a way of describing Durrell's childhood, as he grew up in Corfu and ran wild at a time that the island was idyllically remote and unspoilt by even the thought of a tourist. This book will encourage you and help you to feel the sheer delight of a child discovering the world around him, and in this book too there is no father figure.
If you feel a need for some fluff, indulge yourself with The Friday night Knitting Club by Kate Jacobs. Single mother Georgia is a great role model for a good mother looking after her daughter Dakota, a pre-teen, who goes through all the usual challenges that kids do, living in New York. This is not great literature, but indulgent, a hot chocolate of a comfort read - but full of great characters and quite a lot of good advice.
Finally, look to Atticus Finch - read To Kill a Mockingbird, to remind yourself of the perfect single parent. Don't spoil the image by reading Go Set a Watchman.
Good luck!
All the best,
Ella and Suse
We prescribe - The Last Samurai by Helen de Witt
My family and other Animals by Gerald Durrell
The Friday Night Knitting Club by Kate Jacobs
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

INABILITY TO SIT STILL AND ANXIETY

Dear Ellla and Suse,

I have two forms of anxiety, Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Panic Anxiety disorder. My anxiety stems from lots of things, from assignments to full blown existential crises and wondering why on earth am I here. Often times I find it really hard to literally, chill out and sit still long enough to do anything relaxing. Since being in college in 2011, I haven't really had the time to leisurely read anything aside from BuzzFeed. And when I do have the time to read, my attention span is short and I find myself 5 pages deep in
Game of Thrones, and don't remember a single word I read, due to my mind's restlessness/constant running thoughts. Is there anything you recommend as a literary cure for someone like me?

Thank you so much in advance!

Sincerely yours,
Miss Tweak
Dear Miss Tweak,
We have a few suggestions for you. Most crucially, disconnect yourself from the internet, and give yourself 2 hours to read, either during a weekend or a day off if you have such a thing. Create a reading nook in your home where you can sit comfortably for this period, with no interruptions from wifi or phone, if possible curtained off from other people. Then immerse yourself in a great novel. One that is almost guaranteed to hook the most inveterate twitcher in, is True Grit by Charles Portis. It's instantly gripping, beautifully expressed, and short enough to read in one sitting. The book will also still your anxiety to some extent, as the heroine is so very focused and lacking in any kind of anxiousness, that her attitude will rub off on you. Alternatively, try one of the lovely Pereine Press books, which are expressly desligned to be read in the same period that it would take to watch a film.Reader for Hire by Raymond Jean is a great example of these. 
Another way of stilling your restless mind, would be to listen to an audio book while doing something with your hands like knitting, or doing the dishes, or gardening. Having two activities on the way can be an oddly satisfying way of quelling your flighty, fluttery mind. A gripping, tightly written novel would be an ideal first listen. Try The Thirty Nine Steps by John Buchan. If you enjoy this, your road to recovery may be short.
With calming thoughts,
Ella and Suse
We prescribe - True Grit by Charles Portis
Pereine Press Books 
The Thirty Nine Steps by John Buchan

FOMO (FEAR OF MISSING OUT)

Dear Ella and Suse,

Perhaps you have both heard of the modern day ailment known as FOMO - fear of missing out? Sometimes considered the other side of the coin of YOLO - you only live once.

I often suffer from FOMO. Maybe it's because I have lived in quite a few places and so miss these other worlds and the people there. I wonder what my friends from past lives might be up to. It also afflicts me in my immediate environment. What might I miss if I stay in this evening?

So, I'm wondering - do you have any suggestions of literary cures for FOMO?

Sincerely,

Miss FOMO
Dear Miss FOMO,

We were so happy to get your message. We had indeed heard about it – and indeed had heard that many people suffered from it – but as yet no-one had come to us to ask for a cure, and we were beginning to have the feeling that the cures were being sought elsewhere, and that we ourselves we missing out on the experience of being a part of that interaction, and... and... well! Thank goodness you came to us when you did, because we were about to take ourselves off to bed with a chronic case of FOMO each.

Needless to say, our close shave with FOMO gave us time to work out a cure and we are happy to report we are now free of it.

We discovered that FOMO can be cured in one of two ways. The first is to BECOME where it's at – the life and soul of the party, the place where everyone else wants to be; thus passing on FOMO to all your friends and acquaintances wherever they may be in the world, while being rid of it yourself. If you want to choose this somewhat cruel but safe option, read Ragime by EL Doctorow which is all about accepting new inventions, new ideas, new attitudes, new everything – being a Yes person to all that comes along. You will become the epicentre of the energy, and everyone will spin in your orbit. 

If this sounds too exhausting, or you don't want to inflict FOMO on those you love, you need to choose the second option. This is to opt out completely and discover the joy at the heart of an existence which relies on very little. For this, read I was Amelia Earhart by Jane Mendelssohn, which tells the imagined story of what might have happened to the famous aviatrice if she had not been killed while attempting to circumnavigate the world another time, but survived with her navigator on a desert island. Driven almost crazy by loneliness and frustration, the two castaways eventually discover the pleasure of a life lived out of the spotlight. Their sensual, heady, primtive selves start to emerge and discover that life is very much more satisfying than it ever was before. That, in short, there is nothing TO miss out on in life, except being oneself.  

The life they find for themselves is described with such appeal that it almost gives us FOMO just to think about it... 

Ella & Suse
We prescribe - Ragime by EL Doctorow
I was Amelia Earhart by Jane Mendelsohn 

A SLUG WITH VISIONS OF HUMANITY

Dear Ella and Suse,

I've had an issue swelling for the last nine years or so, and it seems to be coming to a climax. I used to live amid a good deal of strife and was resilient, inspired, productive, mature, intelligent, funny, and interesting. The last few years, however, things have been calm and good: I have love, a few good friends, enough money, space--but I can't seem to find the will to do anything I enjoy. I'm a skilled artist (and writer, I've been told), but I can't bring myself to draw or write. I'm in love with and attracted to my wonderful long-time boyfriend and never feel like having sex. I don't read anymore. I rarely leave the house except to go to work. I  feel vulnerable, self-conscious, cranky, ugly, and boring. I don't call my friends because I don't want to subject them to me. I usually have a
headache. I spend most of my time looking at art, watching films (good ones, at least), and feeling guilty. To be fair, I do still have moments of fun and glory, and I'm never hopeless (I always think tomorrow will be different), but I inevitably sink back into the muck. I'm a 30-year-old woman. Jitterbug Perfume is my favorite book. Any suggestions?

Thank you!

A Slug with Visions of Humanity
Dear Slug,
We feel you need something of a catalyst, a rocket under your deckchair, a book to blast you into action and energy. There are two approaches to this - the shocking-you-into-embracing-your-talents approach, and the inspiring-you-to-re-invigorate-yourself approach. For shock, we give you Requiem for a Dream by Hubert Selby Junior. This book will horrify you with its depiction of two young people sliding ever more into the mire, because they try to hold on to their dreams of painting and creating a happy life for themselves with a cafe to run, decorated with their own art, but go about achieving them in the wrong way - by selling heroine. This novel is so depressing that you will literally kick yourself into grabbing your paintbrush or pen, and making it happen, now. As an aside to this, I would also add that if you haven't discovered Keri Hulme yet, do so now - her interractive art books are really inspiring, especially if you have had a hiatus of non-creativity). Requiem is a painful, but purgative read. Then take the secondary approach to your cure, which is the inspirational one. We love it that Jitterbug Perfume is your favourite book, and that is one that we would reccommend to you- take a leaf out of Priscilla's life, and follow your passion! However, as you have already discovered Robbins, we urge you instead to read Archy and Mehitabel by Don Marquis. This is a book of poems, a novel of an unusual format, that will remind you to live your life to the max. If Archy the Cockroach can head-butt the keys of a type-writer in order to get his thoughts out, you too must crash through the pain barrier to get yourself out there again. Shed that cockrach carapace, and open your windows again - your friends have been missing you!
Yours,
Ella and Suse
We prescribe - Requiem for a Dream by Hubert Selby Junior
Archy and Mehitabel by Don Marquis

RESTLESS AND FLAT

Dear Ella & Sure,

Almost at the end of my studies, I went last year on a program to study abroad during a year. I spent my time through parties, meeting people from all over the world and travelling abroad, but most of it I met a girl I was deeply in love with. Our relationship finally ended because we both had to go back in our country.

Back home for a year now, it took me a really long time to heal and get over the depressing feeling of both missing the girl I loved and being back to normal life.

I know I'll have the opportunity to travel again, but I can't get over the feeling of sadness I got since I'm back.

I'm not sure if it's because I'll soon leave student life to work (as a professor) or because  I miss the life I had abroad.

Maybe you'll have something for me to read ?

Thanks for listening.
Restless and Flat

(btw, english isn't my native language, I'm sorry if I made some mistakes)
Dear Restless and Flat,
The sense of returning from adventure to normal life can indeed be one of dull grey normality, and if you have had a romantic liaison that has had a forced ending, it will be all the more painful. For this ailment, take an instant dose of Jamrach’s Menagerie, preferably in one gulp. (Actually if you commute to work, it will keep you entranced for days and have you eager to get back on the bus to carry on the story…). This novel is in a way a cure for Wanderlust, but it is also a great temporary substitute for travel, as the young hero, Jaffy, spends several months at sea having the kind of adventures we all dream of, encountering storms, unknown creatures, near death and love. It’s a story of high drama, but written with wisdom and sensitivity that helps to question our urge for travel, and our feelings on return - you can mull with Jaffy over his own transformative experiences, and ponder your next move in his company. We hope that you will feel more inspired about your life as a professor, which perhaps you will be able to combine with travel in a safer fashion than Jaffy manages to…
Yours,
Ella and Suse
We prescribe - Jamrach's Menagerie by Carol Birch

MAD SCIENTIST

Dear Ella and Suse,

I am a postgraduate student nearing the end of my PhD (or rather, near the end of having any money to do it, but without an end in sight). In addition to not having an income and having a very daunting body of scientific work to write I am terrified about my future. Science is notorious for having very few opportunities to overwork as an underpaid lab rat, but the pressure to work in a field that I have so heavily invested my time and money seems to come from so many angles. Some people think that I must have no time to read, and that I must devote all of my waking hours to this project, but the problem is that the more time I devote to this, the more waking hours I actually have and I fear the insomnia and stress is driving me insane. The other day I discovered that I had left the oven on for two days after cooking a meal. Is there something I can read to calm my mind about my future and help me focus on finishing this beast in my present?
Sincerely,
Mad scientist
Dear Mad Scientist,
Though we fully sympathise with your ailment, having been there ourselves in some respects, we urge you to remember that this time will pass - it is a short lived agony. Your best companion and friend is The Man who Planted Trees. This short, beautiful fable, that comes with calming woodcuts, will send a message of optimism and gentle reassurance. Take a deep breath, lie back and go on a journey with the man who decides to repopulate his land with the forests that have disappeared, acorn by acorn. By the time you reach the end of the tale, your own green shoots of optimism will be peeking out from under your workload.
Yours,
Ella and Suse
We prescribe - The Man who Planted Trees by Jean Giono

ADULT ACNE

Dear Ella and Suse,

I have been suffering from adult acne for the past nine months as a result of stress and over worrying. Although I am taking medication, I noticed that my acne got so much better as i was reading Harry Potter since the story was highly entertaining and really got me involved in the events. I do not particularly love fantasy fiction, but I wish you would recommend me something that would distract me from stressing over my acne all the time, like an good thriller or any exciting page turner.

Thanks in advance.
Dear Acne-sufferer,
We are delighted to hear that you have found that your acne improved while you read Harry Potter, proving that, as with all medicines, bibliotherapy is most successful on those who really believe in it. As you are a lover of fantasy and perhaps young adult fiction, and need something gripping, we would like to give you the Cherub series of novels by Robert Muchamore. These excellent thrillers describe the transition of one boy from difficult trouble maker into a spy for MI5 - a plot-line that isn’t new to the realms of YA fiction, but one that is very modern, brilliantly told, and absolutely glues you to your seat. Even better, there are 15 in the series, and they get better and better. The positive by-product of these books is that they will incite you to take your body more seriously - and get as fit as you can- while our hero undergoes a series of gruelling physical tests. Though we don’t expect you to toughen up as extremely as he does, you may find yourself encouraged to get into the fresh air, swim and run, all of which might well also help with your self-image.
Yours, Ella and Suse
We prescribe - The Cherub Series by Robert Muchamore - start with The Recruit

DEPRESSED AND UNABLE TO READ

Clinical depression. Fear of rejection and loneliness.Suicide: these four things have been bugging me for the last year. I've discovered that I can barely make it through a book anymore.
Dear depressed and unable to read -
Go easy on yourself. Listen to audio-books, if you are finding it hard to actually read. Discover the joys of children’s books in adulthood - start with A Wrinkle in Time, read by Hope Davis, which not only is gripping and inquisitive into the nature of science and the universe, but also has a strong message of listening to the voice of reason and love within - that is of loving yourself, as much as anything. The strong heroine in this book begins by thinking that she is not capable of much, since her father has disappeared, her little brother is differently able and everyone thinks he is an idiot, and she herself seems to be lacking in any talent. She does, however, do great things. If you enjoy this, return to or discover The Secret Garden and The Little Princess, both of which contain great wisdom, disguised in a magical and friendly narrative.
Yours,
Ella and suse
We prescribe - AUDIO BOOKS- 
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine de l'Engle, read by Hope Davis

DARK NIGHT OF THE SOUL

I am writing you because it seems as though I am suffering from the Dark Night of the Soul. I feel as though my spirit is broken and I feel emotionally disconnected from things as the days wear on. What books do you recommend for that ailment?
Yours, 
Benighted
Dear Benighted,
We fear you may well have depression, in which case we urge you to seek medical help. However, we do have some excellent books up our sleeve which can help. One of our favourites is Milan Kundera’s the Unbearable Lightness of Being, which is a book with many layers, with great extremes of happiness and sadness, but is one which many people who have experienced severe darkness, have found much solace in, recognising their own feelings within the experiences of Tomas and Tereza. The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath is similarly one where you will recognise your feelings, and it is a surprisingly funny book. In The Novel Cure we have an entry on depression which mentions a handful of books- have a look. But also read “Reasons to Stay Alive” by Matt Haig, his own non fiction exploration of depression, which really does give you positive thoughts about existence. If you would rather stick entirely to fiction, read Matt Haig’s The Humans, which embeds many of the nuggets of wisdom found in Reasons to Stay Alive, in a highly readable, uplifting, and wise novel.
Yours,
Ella and Suse
We prescribe - The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera
The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
Reasons to Stay Alive by Matt Haig
The Humans by Matt Haig

NOMADIC FLANEUR

Dearest ella and suse,

I love what you do. my question is...I am a nomadic flâneur who roams around the world looking for a hOMe which suits my heart frequency, and even though every place feels like home, no place can ever be one.

I do, however, feel the need to settle somewhere and expand my roots, my relationships, my career. yet no place feels quite right and I can't find within me the strength to build those foundations anywhere.
Is there a cure for this soul ailment?
Dear Flaneur,
We love your nomadic complexity, and understand your need to put roots down at last. You need to remember of course, that home can be anywhere, and while we are in danger of prescribing Tove Janson’s Moomin books too frequently, we urge you to remember Snufkin. If you don’t know him yet, seek him out. Meanwhile, settle down for a longer read with A House for Mister Biswas, possibly Naipaul’s greatest book. In this vivid, teeming, tropical novel, Biswas struggles with his own need to put down roots and make a name for himself, as well as a place for himself, in the world. Go with him into various jobs, relationships and abodes of one sort or another, in his case all in Trinidad, but applicable to any nomadic wanderer to wherever they find themselves in the world. As he matures, you will see how Biswas does indeed forge his identity, and find a place to grow his own way of life.
Yours,
Ella and Suse
We prescribe - Comet in Moominland by Tove Janson
A House for Mister Biswas by V S Naipaul

TWEETS
@THENOVELCURE

A - Z
LIST
OF QUESTIONS

A SLUG WITH VISIONS OF HUMANITYABUSIVE RELATIONSHIP ENDED, LEAVING SCARSADULT ACNEAFRAID OF FAILUREALCOHOLIC DAUGHTERALONE ON A WIDE, WIDE SEAAlways wanted to be a writerANOREXICANXIOUS ABOUT SINGLE FRIENDAT A FORK IN THE ROADBEREFT OF A CATBOTHERED AND BEWILDEREDBRAIN SHRINKING MOMMABROKENBROKEN HEARTBROKEN HEARTED - TORN BETWEEN MALE AND FEMALE BEST FRIENDSBROKEN UP WITH GIRLFRIEND; FEELING BURNT OUTCAN’T MOVE ONCANDIDA REVOLTAIRECan’t afford to go on holidayCAST ASIDECHEATEDCHRONIC PAINCOLD HANDS AND FEETCONCERNED ABOUT DAUGHTERCONFLICTED PARTNERSCRAVING FOOD CULTURECYNICAL STEPSONDAILY ABUSEDARK NIGHT OF THE SOULDEPRESSED AND UNABLE TO READDEPRESSED DURING CHRISTMAS, AND LONELY NOWDESPERATELY WANTON GIRLDIRECTIONLESSEASILY BORED WITH NOVELSEMOTIONALLY SABOTAGED BY MY MOTHEREMOTIONS IN EXTREMEEVER THE FRIEND AND NOT THE PARTNEREXTREME ANGER AND FRUSTRATIONFADING AWAYFALLEN OUT WITH MY FRIENDSFALLING IN LOVE WAY TOO FASTFAZED AND CONFLICTEDFEAR OF CONFRONTATIONFEAR OF GETTING OLDFERTILITY PROBLEMSFOMO (FEAR OF MISSING OUT)FORGING A BRIGHT NEW FUTUREFRIEND WHO HAS LOST A CHILD LATE IN PREGNANCYFRIENDS DAUGHTER LOST TO SUICIDEFrightened of lifeGAPING HOLEGetting over a break-upGIRL OF UNCERTAINTY, BOUND BY RULESGIRL WHO DOESN’T FIT INGRIPPED BY LOSSGUILTY FRIENDHOPELESSNESSHOUSE AND LIBRARY DESTROYED BY FIREI love music more than booksI no longer commute – and therefore I no longer readI PEEK AT THE END OF NOVELS BECAUSE I WORRY THE CHARACTER MIGHT NOT MAKE ITI wish I were famousIN MOURNING OVER LITERARY DEATHSINABILITY TO SIT STILL AND ANXIETYINCONSISTENT AND NON-STUDIOUS- BUT AMBITIOUS NONETHELESSINDECISIVEINSECUREINTERESTED IN EVERYTHING BUT ACHIEVING NOTHINGINVISIBLE WOMANJILTED AND UNSUREJOB IN LIBRARY UNDER THREATKICKED IN THE HEADLEADENLIVING ON THE MARGINSLONE RANGERLONELY AND DEJECTEDLONELY IN LOVELONELY IN MONOTONOUS JOB, LOSING SANITYLOOKING FOR A SENSE OF PURPOSELOOKING FORWARDSLOSS OF A SISTERLOSTLOW WATTAGELOW-ENERGY PESSIMISMMAD SCIENTISTMARRIED TO A MAN, ATTRACTED TO WOMENMISSED THE BOATMISSING MY MOTHER-IN-LAWMUM GOING BACK TO WORKNEED TO LET GONEW CITY, NEW LIFE -BOOKS FOR 12 YEAR OLD BOY?NEW FRIENDSHIP WITH HOLOCAUST SURVIVORNIGHTMARISH COLLEAGUENOMADIC FLANEURPOST NATAL DEPRESSIONPREGNANT AND ALONEPREMATURE BABYPRESSED ROSEQUESTING FOR A REASON