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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Compelling Not Comfortable
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...
Published on 12 Jun 2011 by Simon Savidge Reads

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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Unsatisfying mashing together of two separate stories
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...
Published on 25 July 2010 by Roman Clodia


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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Compelling Not Comfortable, 12 Jun 2011
By 
Simon Savidge Reads "Simon" (Manchester, UK) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: True Things About Me (Paperback)
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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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Unsatisfying mashing together of two separate stories, 25 July 2010
By 
Roman Clodia (London) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: True Things About Me (Paperback)
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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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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Not really my cup of tea and disjointed story, 12 Aug 2011
This review is from: True Things About Me (Paperback)
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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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Disturbing, unsettling and in the end unsatisfying., 29 Jun 2010
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This review is from: True Things About Me (Paperback)
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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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Too True, 17 Aug 2011
This review is from: True Things About Me (Paperback)
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, `...you'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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Dark and nasty... but feels like emotional truth, 17 May 2011
This review is from: True Things About Me (Paperback)
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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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars well wrtten, but horrible, and no truth in it, 22 Aug 2010
By 
Dr. Nicholas P. G. Davies (Halifax, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: True Things About Me (Paperback)
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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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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars How not to live your life, 25 Aug 2010
By 
D. M. York (Manchester, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: True Things About Me (Paperback)
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As a book it is very difficult to establish whether I enjoyed this story or not. The main and unnamed character could easily be a poster-girl for youths everywhere advertising how not to live one's life, at many points through the novel I found myself becoming angry with the character and almost in a state of wanting to scream at the pages for her to wake up and do something. As a character the girl is a vacuous popinjay working a menial job and living a perfectly average life, until she (for an inexplicable reason) becomes involved with a man who turns out to be a violent sadist.

Whilst the novel highlights the obvious symptoms of domestic abuse, both the abused and the abuser seemed entirely beyond sympathy to me. The girl at times was so obtuse as to seem ridiculous whilst the man was portrayed as being so cruel and evil beyond reprieve that as a pair they were impossibly difficult to picture. It is an axiom that literature often relies upon extreme versions of personalities to make a point, though in this novel it did seem as though it was used to an extreme level. The story obviously made a point of showing how control over your life can entirely disappear when you are subject to domestic violence, though there never seemed to be any positive characteristics to the man to have caused her to tolerate the behaviour in the first place.

This was an irritating book to read, the protagonist is a frustrating character to deal with and there were times that I wanted to throw the book on the floor and groan under my breath "ridiculous girl!" However the book has been written splendidly and uses a style that I found extremely accessible and I have flown through pages as though it were a race. The story is well constructed and for that reason I think it does deserve its third star of approval; however you must be warned that this is a book that could have you tearing your hair out in frustration at the sheer idiocy of its protagonist.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Strange, or maybe I just don't 'get it'., 5 Aug 2010
By 
C. Colley (Lincs) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: True Things About Me (Paperback)
The nameless narrator of True Things About Me meets a man at work and they feel an instant attraction to each other. The man who also remains nameless is waiting for her when she leaves work that day and a sexual encounter takes place in an underground car park.
All the chapters are short in this book, and after the brief first chapter the narrator's behaviour becomes stranger by the minute. Her love affair and obsession with this mystery man makes her unreliable at work, time passes her by in a confused haze and her relationships with her friend and family become more disjointed by the minute.
I have to say I didn't really enjoy this book. I did read it to the end with some hope of it improving but my hopes were dashed. I normally enjoy a 'dark' novel but I found this book irritating and disjointed. I hope other readers get more out of reading this book than I did.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Dark rich and intense, 18 Jun 2013
This review is from: True Things About Me (Paperback)
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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True Things About Me
True Things About Me by Deborah Kay Davies (Paperback - 3 Mar 2011)
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