You Paperback – 10 May 2012
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'A meditation on the lengths we will go to for love ... Briscoe is brilliant at conveying the obsessiveness of teenage love, ratcheting up the tension until the reader is every bit as involved as the character ... beguilingly good' (Observer)
'Briscoe weaves compelling fiction. The prose is rich, the setting evocative ... To be hooked by a book is a treat, and I certainly enjoyed my time in this one's tangles' (Guardian)
'Addictive' (Daily Mail)
'A haunting, richly satisfying novel that plays with disturbing complexity on the question of how far it's possible, or even desirable, to escape from the past' (Literary Review)
The new novel by Joanna Briscoe, the bestselling author of Sleep With Me.See all Product description
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Plenty of ITV-drama-friendly stuff in there already, but just to nail the deal, Briscoe also throws in a 'Lost Baby' plot as well.
Don't bother with the book if you're after anything original - the characters and use of the setting ('this strange, wild place') are all too familiar. The story is one-note since both central characters are dealing with the same emotions. The writing is patchy, including probably the gristliest sentence I've read this year - 'It was all too easy to regress, to become irritated and sulky yet self-sacrificing in Dora's presence, using abnegation as a passive weapon in the face of Dora's intractability.' That'll stick in your teeth alright. Characters continually 'colour' and 'flush', 'stiffen' and 'soften' and 'swallow'; hearts 'speed' and 'plunge'; lips are always being 'pressed together', eyes habitually 'shine with moisture' and there are many sentences that sound poetic but are actually meaningless: 'The raw air caught her breath.' Eh? 'Katya was there...her hair with its green tinge from the water's copper drifting about her small solid body.' You wot? 'His narrowness defined by the blackness of his eyebrows.' Come again? 'She put her arm around Romy's shoulder and swiftly murmured reassurances to her as she ran along the passage to Izzie's room.' Mutually exclusive actions, surely? A character throws leaves at a window to alert someone inside...leaves tend not to go where you throw them and what kind of noise would they make anyway? You can see the book's 'reveal' a mile off and Izzie, Cecilia's adopted, 'indie' daughter shows Briscoe's tin ear for the way young people speak...it's all 'babe' and 'lush' and 'Chill, Mum!'.There's a pointless piece of melodrama involving Ruth, Cecilia's youngest daughter, towards the end of the book.
But there are also good insights into the dangers and terrors of love, the unreasonableness of emotions, the pull of the past, and nice writing about ageing, responsibility and the beauty of wild landscapes.
The people, the place, the hippy school where teachers called Idris and Kasha encourage the love-children of fading rock stars and cash- strapped hippies with the right connections to follow their fancy in jazz dance and naked swimming, the subsuming obsession of an adolescent girl's crush on her English teacher, and the same woman's anger and compassion for her young self twenty years later - all are described with such truth and originality that there comes a point where you simply forgot you are reading at all. You are living in this book.
This is one of those agonising books that you can't put down but don't want to finish. Exquisite torture.
Dora realises she did the wrong things "by attaching myself to someone who cannot be pinned down."
This novel is beautifully and subtly written, haunting and mysterious to the last pages, when it all falls into place in an ending you'd never guess (however hard I tried...) but makes perfect sense.
Offsetting that, however, is the long drawn out tale of Cecilia's mother's own rather improbable passion for Mr Dahl's wife.
There is much that I enjoyed about this book and Briscoe has a deliciously light and satirical touch when describing the rather awful `progressive' school that studious Cecilia is sent to, and the `hippy commune' atmosphere of her home life.
So this is a mixed book for me: the `present' story, particularly, feels like there are too many stories pushed in which perhaps don't get the space to breathe as much as they should. This is overcome, however, but some excellent emotional writing, and the compelling, utterly gripping schoolgirl affair at its heart.
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