Book Reviews

‘The best moments in reading are when you come across something - a thought, a feeling, a way of looking at things - which you had thought special and particular to you. And now, here it is, set down by someone else, a person you have never met, someone even who is long dead. And it is as if a hand has come out, and taken yours.’ Alan Bennett

“Many a book is like a key to unknown chambers within the castle of one’s own self.” ― Franz Kafka

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Kiss Me First - Lottie Moggach

'God, I'm so glad the Internet didn't exist when I was younger,' said Tess.'

I found this debut novel clever, original and rather addictive. The originality of the story renders it a memorable book. It was fascinating to see how the story progressed. It's not easy to give a lot of detail without starting to reveal aspects of the plot that are best discovered as you read the book, but I'll try and summarise it briefly. It tells the story of Leila, a young woman who is persuaded to assume the identity of another woman, Tess, who is a bit older. The two have never met, yet Leila knows so much about Tess, from intimate secrets to her various friendships and more. Tess no longer wants to live, but in order to shield her friends and family from the shock of her planned suicide, she will maintain a presence through Leila, who will in effect become Tess as far as anyone else is concerned - answering her emails, updating her status and so on. Leila lives alone after he mother dies. She works from home testing software, addicted first of all to an online war game, and then she is drawn one day to the 'Red Pill' website, where she begins to engage in the philosophical debates on there, building up her profile and becoming a respected member of the site. Then she meets the site's founder Adrian, whom she finds impressive, and he assigns her the special role working with Tess and assuming her identity.

Leila is a genuinely fascinating lead character; very clever with technology, yet emotionally and socially inexperienced, naive, rational and logically minded, vulnerable to the addictive rewards offered in the online world, alone in the real world but not realising she is lonely.  Online, she has a role, she is important and she matters; in the real world, there is very little in her life; indeed, when she does experience sensations of love and desire it is completely new to her, and she even consults dictionary definitions of love to try and comprehend her unfamiliar feelings. Sometimes I responded sympathetically towards her, I felt sad and wanted someone to help her, at other times I wanted her to wake up, stop appearing to be so detached from everything and to think again about some of her actions, to see them differently. She makes for a brilliant narrator, because it's not always obvious how much to trust her thoughts. I felt sad for Tess in many ways, too. Through the stark contrast in the extent to which the two women have been engaged with the real word in their lives to date, Lottie Moggach highlights the stark difference between them. I questioned Adrian's motives; his actions certainly give the reader even more to think about. There was a bit of wry humour amongst Leila's thoughts that I enjoyed, about how the press report things illogically.

Kiss Me First has at its heart very topical issues such as identity and isolation in modern society, the internet age with all the various methods of social media that we use to communicate, being so connected and yet it can make us feel more alone, and the question of true identity and the potential to create a fake identity online, and whether it is possible to live your life more or less totally online - would it be possible to carry out this scenario? I don't know, but this novel certainly made me think, especially about how much we really know someone, if the only knowledge we do have of them has been derived via our computer.  

For me, the book raised issues of morality that are worth thinking about, too. At times it made me feel uneasy, which demonstrates the skill of the author's writing in successfully conveying this creepy, frightening situation. There's a good element of suspense too, which keeps you wondering just what has happened.

A dark, absorbing story of loneliness, vulnerability, identity and deception, deftly written with strong characterisation, in particular Leila; this is definitely a notable debut novel for 2013. 

Source - publisher review copy

Publisher - Picador
A short video with the author talking about the novel 
Amazing interactive trailer for this novel!
Views of other bloggers - Farm Lane Books |  And Then I Read A BookBeing Anne Reading  | 


  1. This is one of my favourite books of the year so I'm really pleased to see that you enjoyed it! I loved the way it combined creepy suspense with the dangers of social media use - so modern and original!

    It is a shame that it hasn't received more attention as I know a broad range of people would love it.

    1. I thought it was fascinating Jackie. I hope it does become more widely read. It is such a clever idea. I was glad to read how much you enjoyed it.

  2. This really does sound like a great idea. The world has changed so much in such a short time.

    Though different in many ways, it reminds me a little of Andrew Blackman's A Virtual Love. That story also involves a character assuming someone else's online identity.

    1. Thanks for highlighting the Andrew Blackman book, I think I'd like to read that one too, I'm going to look out for it.

  3. Oooh, this is next on my planned little TBR pile for my week off work! Glad to hear you liked it, I am really looking forward to getting stuck into this one.

    1. Great, I look forward to reading your thoughts and I hope you find it as interesting as I did. Enjoy your week off too!

  4. This sounds really interesting and thought provoking, will keep an eye out for it. Thanks for a fab review love.


    1. Thanks Lainy, I think you'd find this one interesting.


Thank you so much for taking the time to visit and leave a comment. It's great reading your comments and I really appreciate them :)