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What really goes on in court.....,
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This review is from: The Book of You (Kindle Edition)
The Book of You is a skilfully written evocation of psychological, physical and sexual bullying and terror. If that sounds nasty - it is; but then any novel exploring this territory had better not dodge the realities of being stalked, and of rape victims being pilloried in court, and of the complex mind games being played every day by people with no conscience. The nastiness is necessary, never gratuitous.
Clarissa is in her late thirties and works in University administration; when we first meet her, she's recovering from a failed relationship with Henry, a poet and academic, with whom she desperately - and unsuccessfully - tried to have a baby. (Fertility and sterility, literal and metaphorical, are themes that run through this novel, like faults in marble.) Clarissa is being stalked by Rafe, an academic and colleague, who, we realise as the story unfolds, has probably drugged and raped her after a book launch; she wakes bruised and disorientated, and from there on, the tension is ratcheted up in increasingly unsettling ways. When Clarissa is called up for Jury service, she's relieved to have time away from her work-place, but the case is appalling - a young woman, Carlotta, claims to has been kidnapped and gang-raped. One of the many things I admired about the book was the way it revealed what actually goes on in court for a Jury - all the waiting around, being sent out of court while Barristers argue over points of law, the use of a screen, the surreal exhanges.....and the bickering behind the scenes, the friendships and allegiances, the way 'ordinary' people are removed from their 'real' lives to engage in this strange drama that is the UK justice system. Usually in fiction and film, it's all about the 'high drama' moments, as though there are no 'limbo' periods. The descriptions of the defendants were chilling - their psychopathic calm and bare-faced lying - I felt as though I was watching them, willing the result to be different. Rafe, meanwhile, is going through Clarissa's bins and recycling, sends Clarissa increasingly disturbing gifts, including photos of her he's taken during their 'night together'....and when she's finally amassed enough evidence to go to the police, who are kind and sympathetic and act appropriately, it seems that the justice system will support her, and this part of her nightmare is over. But this novel isn't just about two individual women who are harmed, psychologically and sexually, by aggressive men; it's about imperfect systems, human error, power and corruption. It doesn't offer any easy or comforting resolutions or epiphanies; just as real life is frequently messy and unjust, there are unanswered questions, lingering doubts. This is a bold and unflinching novel, concerned with questions of justice and retribution as well as sex, love and longing.