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April Fool's Day (1998)

April Fool's Day (1998)
4.13 of 5 Votes: 2
0140272933 (ISBN13: 9780140272932)
penguin books australia
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April Fool's Day (1998)
April Fool's Day (1998)

About book: April Fool’s Day was a book I wasn’t sure that I wanted to read initially for several reasons – I don’t read as much non-fiction as fiction, surely Bryce Courtenay’s talent lay in fiction and it was probably out of print. Enter a Popular Penguin edition and an edict from my mother that I must read this book and she knew I would enjoy it immensely. I started reading this on my daily commute but soon I was hooked. Such a powerful story – all completely true, you can’t make up this sort of thing and an incredibly emotional, harrowing journey for the Courtenay family.I always respected Courtenay as a writer before this, but after reading this book, I have the utmost respect for him overall. The story of his son Damon, born a haemophiliac who contracted HIV through a blood transfusion and later died of AIDS related complications is compelling for so many reasons. Damon was a brave battler and his strength while living through chronic pain, bleeding and countless infections is to be commended. The rallying of the Courtenay family and Damon’s partner Celeste around him is a testimony to the strength of the loving family (from going along with Damon’s delusions to taking him to the hospital on many occasions). This book is a celebration of life and love – the good, the bad and the ugly.From a medical point of view, this book is also exceptionally interesting for several reasons. One, to read about diseases, hospitals, doctors and treatments from the patient and family point of view was an eye opener. The way Damon was treated on occasions by medical ‘professionals’ was awful. Secondly, to read about the medication side effects from the actual effect on the patient – also interesting. What may be classed as minor to those not taking the drug can have a huge effect on the quality of life on the person (such as Damon and diarrhoea with AZT). Finally, it was amazing to see the comparison between HIV and AIDS treatment today and in the late 80s / early 90s when Damon was being treated. So much progress has been made and I felt so sad that if this had happened 20 years later, it may be Damon telling his whole story, rather than his father. It was also interesting to see how attitudes to the gay community have changed and how more widely educated the public is about HIV and AIDS. (Damon was mistreated by nurses who mistakenly thought that AIDS equals gay. Thank goodness we have moved on from that.)Bryce Courtenay is brutally honest in this retrospective of his son’s life. He laments of the lack of time spent with his kids in the early years (due to a job in advertising that really does sound a little Mad Men-esque) and losing his temper when perhaps he shouldn’t. These made me as the reader warm to him more – it’s not a rose coloured view. I hope it was cathartic for him to write this.The ending was a tear jerker. Despite you knew it was coming, it didn’t make it any easier. It was lovely to read the postscript from Celeste and her life post-Damon.In short, April Fool’s Day has it all – the happy times, the funny times, the awful times and the sad times. What a lovely thing for a father to create for his son.

‘Trust Damon to die on April Fool’s Day.’Damon Courtenay was born on 4 November 1966, and died on 1 April 1991. This is his story, written by his father and published in 1993. Damon was the third son of Bryce and Benita Courtenay and was born with classic haemophilia. ‘Its not a disease, so you must put the idea of a cure from your minds immediately. Haemophilia is caused by a factor missing in your child’s blood, the ingredient which causes it to clot.’‘It’s not something we can ever fix.’ In 1983, the Courtenays were advised that Damon had become HIV positive – most likely because of the blood transfusions he had required to treat his haemophilia. In 1988, he experienced his first real AIDS-related crisis after undergoing surgery for the removal of his wisdom teeth.‘I picked up the AIDS virus from the blood product that I use regularly for control of haemophilia. It seems such a bitter irony that the medicine that has saved my life became the poison that may soon end it.’It was indeed a bitter irony, and Damon’s story is a heartbreaking one. But it is not bereft of joy or of love.I have had this book on my bookshelf for 17 years: I knew, broadly, what the book was about but couldn’t bring myself to read it until recently. And now that I have read it, I am saddened by the medical circumstances: of haemophilia; of its treatment and of the fact that the source of Damon’s AIDS appears to have been a consequence of contaminated blood donations. A blood donation process – since changed - which did not exclude groups at high risks of AIDS infection from donating blood.I found this book moving and upsetting. It describes both the best and the worst of the medical profession: many dedicated people helped Damon even though the medical system itself seemed to move very slowly in recognising the need for change to its processes and systems. Damon Courtenay may have lived a brief life, but one consequence of it is, as I discovered, a perpetual trust fund (the Damon Courtenay Memorial Endowment Fund administered by the Haemophilia Fund Australia) which provides grants that can be used for the care, treatment, education and welfare for people with bleeding disorders and (or) their families. This fund was established by Damon’s parents in 1993 in Damon’s memory.Jennifer Cameron-Smith
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April Fool's Day, about the life and death of Bryce Courtenay's son, is a powerful emotional novel that is difficult to read at times because of its heavy subject matter. Bryce Courtenay confronts the malpractice of the blood banks in Australia that led to the infection of haemophiliacs with HIV. He is both critical and respectful of the medical profession, not surprising given his extensive experience with it. He treads a fine line in creating the characters of his wife Benita, and Damon (his son)'s girlfriend Celeste. Apparently, Celeste was not fond of Bryce's hyberbolic methods in creating a storyline for her. I feel that he made the right choice, however insensitive, as to tell the story (Damon's story) he had to make his characters sympathetic, and the way Courtenay writes pathos effectively is to tell a tale about something very mundane and then smack the reader in the face with tragedy or irony. So, Celeste and Benita become a part of this story-telling. It sounds to me as if Celeste was a very good friend for Damon, and the love between them is beautifully rendered in this novel, as it is never melodramatic. It is the story of the great tolerance Celeste had in dealing with the tragedy of a long drawn-out disease, and how Bryce observed this spirit and their dynamic and wanted to capture it in writing, believing the most important thing about life to be compassion.
Diana E. Young
This book, written by Bryce Courtney, is unusual because it is a non-fiction book. Sadly it is a true story about his young son who developed AID’s as a result of an infected blood transfusion, which he received because of his hemophiliac disease. The story is set in Australia, his native home. The narrative is told from different perspectives...Bryce, the father, the mother, the victim Damon and his girlfriend, Celeste. Each adds their own voice to the unfolding of this deadly disease.It is a sad tale, written in memory of Damon, to be an expose on the lacking state of the medical system in Australia at the time. Although the medical system should have known better, they did not take adequate care by banning AID’s patients from donating blood, as other countries had already done. In addition, AID’s was almost treated like the plague, where you were an outcast. Courtney openly admits that it was still easier on Damon who contracted AID’s through medical treatment and not his sexual lifestyle. Nonetheless, Courtney manages to capture the blatant ostracism of anyone with AIDS. I enjoyed reading the book and felt moved as a parent to bear witness to the life and struggles of Damon. His strength dealing with life as a childhood hemophiliac was inspiring. The unfairness of developing AIDS was heart-wrenching and sharing the journey with Damon’s girlfriend, siblings and parents was at times hard to read, but that was because the writing was so poignant that there was little left to the imagination as to their true feelings. Damon’s mother was openly honest as she admitted to being angry and totally raw with grief. Courtney was brave enough to admit that he may have put the writing of his current book ahead of flying home with the family when Damon was so sick.I would recommend this book highly as creative non-fiction. It not only educates you on hemophilia and AID’s but also shares a powerful love story of not only the couple, but of Damon’s brother and parents. It is a sad story, but one that needed to be told. The writing compels you to keep turning the pages. I was already a fan of Bryce Courtney having read both the Power of One and the Potato Factory and look forward to reading his other novels.
I can't remember the last time I cried so much reading a book; my husband couldn't understand why I was putting myself through the ordeal of reading it, and yet it was such a special and important book that I had to finish it. This was an amazing tribute to Courtenay's son Damon, a haemophiliac who died from AIDS in his early twenties, transmitted from one of the many blood transfusions he required. It is the story of their short time together, the love they shared, and of his son Damon's courag
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