'There is what I remember, what I know, what I think, and what I imagine.'
This novel is narrated by main character Rachel throughout, stuck in her lonely room, staring out of the window and watching the builders working on the site across the way from her. I inferred from what we learn of her that she may even not really go out much anymore. She is attempting to write about an affair ten years ago, the memories of which evidently affect her very deeply even now. Whilst in a long-term relationship with her partner Johnny, she embarks on an affair with work colleague Carl, who has made quite plain his attraction to her. We learn that the affair came to a tragic end, but we don't know how, or what exactly happened, until we have read the whole book. The narrative style is short, sometimes very short, chapters, with paragraphs that skip about in time; at one moment Rachel is telling us about something that happened at the start of the affair, and then immediately she jumps to writing about something that happened after the affair. This non-chronological approach is very unsettling for the reader, and gives the whole novel a disjointed feel.
Rachel pours her thoughts and feelings out, and they scatter onto the page in a disordered fashion, and this gives us an insight into her mixed-up thinking; jumping backwards, forwards, backwards again in time. She readily admits that what she remembers may not all be true, or may not be quite what happened. She looks to the notebook that she has from the time of the affair, and thinks back to her dreams. But the notebook is not a full record, and she can't be certain about what she remembers of her dreams. What should we believe? What is true, and what is incorrectly recalled? At one stage, Rachel tells us that she is 'not telling us the story so much as finding it, making it.' This all makes for an uneasy, unsettling experience for the reader; when our narrator no longer knows what is genuine, where does it leave us?
I found this an interesting read; it's brave of the author to present us with such an unreliable, not particularly likeable narrator throughout, and clever to present all of the recollections in such a fragmented way. It keeps the reader interested and keeps you guessing as to the truth, the lies, and the outcome. I certainly was intrigued enough to want to finish the story. It reminded me a little in terms of the style and narrator of the Deborah Kay Davies novel 'True Things About Me'. For me, it was an interesting book, perhaps not a favourite, but I'm glad to have read it.
Published by Picador on 12th April 2012.
This debut novel is one of the Waterstones 11 picks for 2012.
See my reviews of some of the other choices here:
The Snow Child
The Land of Decoration
The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry