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Compelling Not Comfortable
on 12 June 2011
One of Deborah Kay Davies most powerful tools in her debut novel is to have a nameless narrator. In fact the narrator of `True Things About Me' isn't just nameless; she is really a blank canvas. This means that whatever horrendous things befall her there is a distance between us and her, a space for us to put our own feelings and emotions. It's a risky manoeuvre for an author; people might find the character cold or have to work a little bit harder rather than put themselves in that persons place. Add short chapters and sparse threatening prose and, like with this novel, the risk pays off - you have your reader hooked.
When we meet this unnamed woman she is working as a benefits officer with a night out to the cinema with a colleague, and best friend, Alison later that evening. That is all we know about her before one of the claimants comes in, flirts with her, waits for her outside of work and drags her off for a quick risky sexual encounter in a car park before bundling her off into a taxi. It is this moment that she seems to have been waiting for, this is the moment of her undoing. Afterwards, even though she knows she shouldn't, she searches him out and lets him into her life again, something she will regret as it only brings obsession and abuse.
There is a real sense of threat throughout the book from the moment that this blonde curly haired mystery man enters her life. We know as little about him as we do her, in fact weirdly as the book goes on you feel you know her parents, best friend Alison and Grandma better than you do the person telling you the story, but then they are the observers and the outsiders to her so they should be to us, especially as she goes on isolating them the further into a breakdown she goes.
I realised I have made this book sound really, really dark and depressing. In many ways it is yet it's the compelling nature of the story, her obsession becomes the reader's addiction as she becomes more and more outlandish, that keeps you reading along. There are also some big scenes of humour which make you laugh out loud along with feeling rather mortified. For example there is a scene in a bakery when she is babysitting which made me laugh loudly and also a blind date which she is sent on by Alison and her husband which proves to be a drunken mortifying experience.
The only slight issue of `True Things About Me' was the lack of background. I wondered just why she had randomly had sex with this man, and the fact that I never quite got the answer did rather niggle at me I have to say. Maybe it was just one of those inexplicable moments of chemistry, maybe it was something she had been lacking in childhood something psychological, or maybe she was simply bored? I would have just liked that to have been a little clearer as with knowing her motivation would possibly have come more understanding.
`True Things About Me' isn't a comfortable book, it is one that should you start will have you gripped to its inconclusive but very dramatic dénouement. It's a book that leaves you with a real variety of emotions and possible endless questions. You will be angry, shocked and rather appalled - possibly because you laughed along the way on occasion. I am still not sure whether I liked the experience or not, but I feel that's exactly what Deborah Kay Davies wanted to achieve, and indeed she has.