What I'm Reading
A story of maturing relationships - in purple prose.
There are lots of examples of emotionally expressive words and phrases. Some are imaginative, such as 'memories like blisters under the skin' but there are lots of cloying and mawkish ones like being 'soft like syrup'. The level of sensitivity reflects a young girl as she grows up, leaves her northern English hometown and goes to university in London.
The chapters are disjointed and short, a few being little more than a couple of paragraphs, perhaps an indication of the process of snatched memory. Or maybe an attempt at the poetic novel. The time hop combined with different locations (Sunderland, London and Ireland) and the occasional nameless man, keeps the reader on their toes.
The relationships theme starts at the beginning - birth - 'I am wet and glistening like a beetroot pulsating in oil' and chronicles how mother and child separate from then on. There is a deaf brother, an estranged alcoholic father and a 'silver' grandmother as well as sexist colleagues and new experiences with boyfriends. None of the characters are drawn deep, rather their interactions with the girl as she sees them.
The strain of poetry is too obvious although fairly original. The story of a girl growing up without anything significant happening is treading a familiar path without anything new to offer.
WINNER OF THE PORTICO PRIZE
Published by Sceptre Books (Hodder & Stoughton) 16 May 2019. Advanced review copy supplied by the publisher.