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Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
It's taken me a while to fully understand my feeling of dissatisfaction with True Things About Me, even though much of its focus is done rather well. Meg is a less than stable woman who embarks on a dark, dangerous relationship with a man recently released from prison. Using the first person narrative device she charts her descent into increasing instability and isolation, and into an increasingly abusive and obsessive relationship with her lover.

Part of the problem is the inevitable comparison with another book charting female breakdown. 'It's like The Bell Jar for the twenty-first century' claims the publicity on the cover. Indeed, it was that quote which lured me to read this. And it isn't. Plath's book is rooted in an every day and well defined reality, which is recognisable and plausible. Her protagonist IS normal. It is the juxtaposition of 'everywoman normality' and the plausible, understandable decline which is so shocking, disturbing and unsettling in Plath's book - which lingers in the memory precisely because it could so easily be the reality of many an everywoman.

Although Deborah Kay Davies book also charts a recognisable journey - the sometimes destructive nature of sexual passion and a pattern which is not necessarily a rare one - sado-masochism, her protagonist is so clearly pretty unhinged from the start that there is little tension in the predictable decline. The basic reality just doesn't work well enough to anchor the journey. Her vaguely described job in some sort of 'claimant service' is a plot device only to enable the characters to meet.

Many questions nagged at me as I read: How does she afford her lifestyle? Her government agency employer seems remarkably laissez-faire about her. Exactly how does the disappearing for weeks man always only appear at social engagements so that our heroine can be further publicly isolated and abused? How does he know the addresses to come to, and the precise times and dates where gatherings are happening? What about the unusually saintly and forebearing best friend Alison, who appears to be a good mother and yet entrusts her children to Meg's care? Given what we know of Meg, from the novel, how plausible is the ending? From a 'plotline' the ending was pretty predictable - but I'd suggest not really plausible.

Too many coincidences, too little external reality, despite some good psychological insights into her central character, turned this into a better-than-average schlocky chick-lit. The Bell Jar it ain't
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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.
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Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
The unnamed narrator is at work one day when she meets an attractive man just out of prison and a few hours later is having sex with him in a carpark... From the blurb I expected a book about a woman's conscious decision to immerse herself in a dangerous sexual relationship but the story that's actually told here seems to me to be very different. Yes, the narrator's `relationship' is certainly dangerous and reckless (not to mention sordid) but it doesn't seem to me to be a decision at all, it's something that she drifts into without any conscious thought.

The second story, or maybe the main one, is about this same woman's breakdown or the fissures in her psyche (I don't know what the correct psychological language is for this) which leave her alienated from both herself and the world around her. What I felt was unclear from the text was the important question of whether she drifts into the `relationship' because of her mental state or whether her breakdown is itself precipitated by the man she meets. I tend to think it's the former which actually makes the sexual relationship a by-product of her mental vulnerability and therefore actually a bit gratuitous.

Certainly the author manages to capture the alienated state of the narrator's mind with her deadpan, staccato sentences and her inability to make sense of the most normal things. There is an emotional black hole at the centre of the book which conveys the emptiness of the disturbed narrator very well. And on the edges we see the pain she is causing her best friend and her parents who, it appears, are unable to get to grips with her mental fragility and send her off for the help that she needs.

But despite some good stuff this feels unfinished as a book: the two strands of emotional breakdown and reckless sex feel forced together rather than meshing organically, and I was left with the feeling that the author hadn't quite clarified the relationship between them in her own mind. The end was also both predictable and a bit overwrought, as well as too abrupt so that it felt like the author had just thrown her pen down at that point rather than having crafted an ending.

So overall there is some interesting stuff here and the book itself is easy to read but it feels incomplete and not fully thought out to me.
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VINE VOICEon 31 January 2012
I found this to be a very dark story, which crawled inside my head leaving me feeling a little disoriented and led to some pretty disturbing dreams. I felt the writing style and certain stylistic choices made by the author combined powerfully to create this effect. There is a lot that isn't said in the book, even the narrator isn't given a name, and this leaves us readers filling in the blanks in our own heads, making the story live there and take up space.

The story is about a woman who was probably living a fairly humdrum life - routine job, a nice friend, caring parents (we don't get much of her back-story but this much is hinted at). One day she meets a man at work who waits for her outside and they go off and have sex - just like that. It's a violent encounter and she leaves the scene hurt. That's when her obsession with him starts. From that point onwards, her whole life begins to centre around him to the detriment of her friends, parents, job, everything. We are not told why she feels this way about the man - it's not clear if the encounter is the beginning or if she was becoming detached from reality before and her willingness to go off with him was a step along that journey.

There is a feeling of inevitablity running through the story - there really are no points where you feel she could be saved by a well-meaning friend or parent. You know there is nothing they can say to make her see sense, to shake her out of whatever she is going through. The fog she is in seems almost tangible and impenetrable as she lazily swirls towards her own destruction. She isn't complicit in what happens - she seems to have no control of her life, thoughts or actions and no awareness of a world outside herself and this man. The black humour in the book underlines her detachment wonderfully - at moments where most people would scream with despair, she makes glib remarks that betray her complete lack of awareness of the peril she is in.

I couldn't help feeling that this also reads like a metaphor for mental illness, with the abusive man representing the illness battering her psyche, the unborn baby marking the return of hope and her destruction of the man representing the regaining of control and the first step towards recovery.

Or it can read as a metaphor for passionate attraction - the sacrifice of self and the complete surrender to another, no matter how unworthy, which is beyond foundation, reason or logic.

Definitely recommended - but with fairly graphic sex scenes, not for those who are easily offended!
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on 17 August 2011
The unnamed narrator in Deborah Kay Davies's debut novel, True Things About Me, is ethereal, purposely insubstantial. The man, also unnamed, whom she allows - almost encourages - to abuse and torture her is equally uncharismatic. As her obsession grows and her work, home and other relationships are destroyed, the only characters who come to life, with whom we can identify, are the people who try to rescue her: her parents and her friend, Alison.
Some readers may find this disconcerting. How can we care about a main character, in so much trouble of her own making, with whom we cannot connect? There are more questions than answers. Why has she only one friend? How can she afford a house and a car while working as a clerk in a benefits agency? How could she allow a new client - a claimant just out of prison - to take her into a car park for quick and violent sex against a wall? And what compulsion makes her take his address from his file so that she can pursue him afterwards?
The narrator tells her story in minute detail using short list-like phrases: `I kept my arm around his waist... Everything was so lovely. I could see how we looked together. After a while I asked him if he was having a good time; I'd begun to think he might be getting bored. But he didn't answer me. I don't think he heard. I started to feel jumpy and nervous. I had that feeling you get when something is slipping away, and you can't stop it. Like the light on a short winter afternoon. I needed something to happen.' Although this may seem like honesty, the only believable thing is that she is becoming increasingly unhinged and self-destructive. When Alison tells her, `'re not a bad person, ...just a mixed-up, self-absorbed one.' it is the truest sentence in the book.
Yet these devices, the unanswered questions, the two-dimensional characters are what make True Things About Me unputdownable and, probably, unforgettable. This is not a nice story; it's not supposed to be. It is supposed to disturb the reader. Its incompleteness and the self-obsessed voice of the narrator do exactly that.

Last year, Davies' collection of short stories, Grace, Tamar and Lazlo the Beautiful won the Welsh Book of the Year Award. The characters in the stories were as unsympathetic as they are in the novel. |Motives and actions were hazy. The difference is that while this approach was unsatisfying in the short stories, it works brilliantly in True Things About Me.
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on 12 August 2011
Brought this book as i fancied a change fromt he usual read. i can honestly say i will be going back to my usual style of books.
The story i found was very disjointed, no real time line of events to hold on to and to help you place the story. i also did not really feel there was anything in the story to make you feel for the main charector.
to be totally honest a bit of a 'nothing' book
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on 17 May 2015
Like the unnamed heroine to her cruel lover, I have gone back to this book many times since first reading it, without fully understanding why. The dual realities of her desire and her spiralling mental state make even the simplest domestic features of the narrator's world almost hyper-real and brilliantly described. But perhaps what's most fascinating about this story is how much it makes you relate to it's teller - how you come to feel that, under the right circumstances, you could do the same. This book isn't for the faint hearted, or the narrow minded. But to everyone else I recommend it highly.
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on 18 June 2013
I loved this story. From the first page I was hooked and could not put the book down. It is dark, raw, exciting, thrilling, deeply disturbing and very very sad. I felt such compassion to the central character, and found myself weeping at the end, because I just wanted to wrap my arms around her. Bascially it's the story of a girl, who falls for the wrong guy, and the effect that relationsihp has on her, and her life. One of the best books I have ever read, and an absolute favourite of mine. It blew me away.
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on 17 May 2011
This is a queasy and quick read - which fits the plot and protagonist well. It's a story about spiraling from a place of what might be safety or boredom (and the narrator isn't sure which) to something very different... You don't always like her, but there's something compelling and affecting that makes it difficult to look away, even when things get very, very nasty. The ending particularly surprised me! Definitely one to read in one sitting to get the full visceral force and impact.
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Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This is an odd book. It is well written and well presented. But at the end of it I am still none the wiser about why the book was ever written, or who it was written for, or what point it is making.

We have no idea why the unnamed female narrator falls for the man she meets so quickly and so completely.It seems to be on looks only, which seems unconvincing- a man perhaps, but women usually are looking for more than good looks. And women usually do their homework on a man better than this woman does.

The woman becomes besotted with the man, but the relationship is one sided- he takes advantage of her sexually, materially and then robs her and then beats her up. But she rather makes it all too easy for him to do this to her, and although anyone can make a mistake once, if they keep repeating it they are basically volunteering. We have no idea why she would want such a relationship, or why with this particular man. The male character is a crude sketch- a criminal with good looks- but we learn next to nothing about his background or motivation. He behaves according to type. Stereotypes do not make good characters.

The female narrator is a repulsive character with no redeeming features. It is a mark of the author's skill that she is so clearly described. But reading of one woman's extreme selfishness, her ability to wreck her job and her friendships and relationships is just sad. The book is called "true things about me" but actually the defining feature of the female narrator is that she never acknowledges the truth of her situation. She talks about "wanting to grow up" but actually is more juvenile by the end of the book than the beginning.

I am struggling to think who to recommend this book to. Maybe if you are a psychologist who enjoys the arcane workings of odd behaviour you might enjoy it as a case study.

But if you are wanting a good novel to read then I would suggest that most readers would spend their time and money more effectively if they look elsewhere.
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