The blurb asks, ‘Fiction or autobiography?’ and sort of replies, ‘both, neither?’. The whole point of this extraordinary created work is to ask, and attempt to answer, some basic questions relating to literature, storytelling, identity, and life itself. It’s an ambitious aim and one I suspect many readers will find difficult, demanding, upsetting and maybe even incomprehensible.
We begin in the first person in the company of a young boy, live with him through his early teens and schooling, a huge loss and tragedy, and his fate as the isolated offspring of high-flying achievers, his early experiences of sex, identity, and the casual physical and mental cruelty so often associated with boarding schools.
Abruptly, we are plunged into the life of a young woman in her late teens, still in the first person. Surprisingly, this overnight transition, both physical and mental, I hardly questioned, apart from a short pause during the reading to reflect on the nature of gender. We then travel with this developing young woman as she experiences life, love, sex, disappointment, and all the joys and sorrows life can throw at a sensitive, intelligent, questioning, and creative soul who dares enter the world of writing. Her journey as a budding novelist will strike a chord with most who have travelled that difficult and demanding route.
She encounters real love in an unexpected but joyous and serendipitous relationship. But her entire life is effectively ended by a violent and graphically portrayed rape that is the most emotionally disturbing such account I’ve read.
The novel ends on an indeterminate note, leaving the reader informed, curious, astounded, educated, elevated, disappointed, and despairing but no nearer to the answers posed by the original questions, merely, perhaps, better equipped to consider them.
A challenging and engaging read.
[Any review is a personal opinion. No reviewer can represent the view of anyone else. The best we can manage is an honest reaction to any given book.]