Intelligent and lively, Her Living Image offers two versions of what happens to a young woman about to leave school as she crosses the road on her way home. In the first version a post office van whams into Caro coming the wrong way down a one-way street; in the other version (which at first seems to be the first woman's fantasy), it just misses Carolyn. At first it is easy to follow: Caro is real and is in ordinary type, while fantasy Carolyn is in italics and is not real. Until the man who marries Carolyn meets Caro.
There is something profoundly uncomfortable about this scenario - Carolyn and Caro have Alan in common, but if there are two worlds there must be two Alans, two sets of Carolyn's parents, etc., unless there is just the one world, and there are two Carolyns? But Alan remains determinedly singular, as do the parents. So where does that leave the Carolyn that both marries and has three children as well as going into hospital for a protracted period, remaining single and going to live in a feminist household?
In the end I felt uneasy being asked to care about both Carolyns, one of whom was possibly not `real', and this spoilt my enjoyment. It wasn't quite tricksy enough to carry off its theme of a doubled life-trajectory. There were also some stylistic tics in dialogue that got on my nerves.
on 9 August 2010
I remember years ago picking up this book at random in the library and idly flicking through the first chapter. Before I knew it I'd finished the entire book and missed my classes for that afternoon. What an engrossing book, it's almost like peaking into someone else's raw thoughts. Think Sliding Doors but wa-a-a-a-y better. It's a very powerful critique of human relationships, and how there's no happy ever after scenario, just a very profound connection that has to be worked on.