The front of my paperback edition carries the following strapline from a NYT book review :
'Resembles Tristram Shandy as rewritten by Sylvia Plath'
That is it, in a nutshell. Both TS and Plath's The Bell Jar (50th Anniversary Edition)
are, above all, wonderful and creative pieces of writerly craft. As is this. Janice Galloway combines the plangent, melancholy, mordantly funny, sharp-eyed anarchic WEIRDNESS of Tristram Shandy with the excruciatingly painful, honest, revelatory expose of a mind (very like yours and mine) cracking and giving way under the pressures of holding it together in a world which seems set-up precisely to force shattering in the first place - like The Bell Jar
A beautifully constructed book, which like Tristram Shandy uses the visual aspect of what a printed book looks like to express something of what the book is about - without giving too much away here, as i don't want to spoil the reader in their surprised response. This book, in non-linear fashion is the story of one woman and how she holds (and does not hold) together. Galloway, as I realise from having previously read two volumes of her later published autobiography This is Not About Me
and All Made Up
, has distilled some of her own life into this imaginative fiction.
The prizes and awards this first novel garnered are deserved and unsurprising. And, most searingly, the MIND/Allan Lane award. Aspects of mental health care are scorchingly shown.
Be warned, this book will have you laughing at the black humour of our protagonist at the very moment that the fierceness of her pain feels like a knife in the gut