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Novel About My Wife by Emily Perkins
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's review
Jun 26, 2011

really liked it
bookshelves: top-2011, literary, general-fiction, nz, crime-mystery-thriller
Read from June 26 to July 07, 2011

Well, first impressions: damn the girl can write.

I knew this already. Emily Perkins tutored me in the sixth form. Ok, not actually (that would have been too cool) but through her work she most definitely did. My mum had been studying Not Her Real Name at the time (Perkin's debut--a collection of short stories). To my sixteen year old blank-slate-of-a-self, fresh off the bat from reading Go Ask Alice and those awful (truly awful) Flowers in the Attic books, Perkin's stories, her writing, was exactly the inspiration I craved. There was a particular one, written entirely in second person present tense, that I emulated in style in a short story of my own. So Emily helped me rock my sixth form portfolio with the highest possible marks (ecstatic young me and ecstatic teachers who were left puzzled as to who had taught me second person present tense). You know, these defining moments in your young life that set you up for your future--my love for literature and writing may well, in part, be due to this little marker. One of many along the way.

So, I know Emily. ;)

And while eager to read this book I was also a little apprehensive. I knew it would be worthy of selection for one of my Women's Lit papers: gritty, far from feel-good, character driven, packed with symbolism, things unsaid and focussed on the human reaction. I knew it was going to make me work to read it. Which I'm not opposed to (far from it at times) I just need to be in the right frame of mind.

So in a way I was pleasantly surprised. The pacing never lagged and, from the get go, I fell right in to the world of Tom. I now have a love/hate relationship with the man. I didn't love him but the way he was written made me giddy. I had to put the book down and take a breath at times, or laugh out loud while shaking my head at the brilliance of Perkins. Tom is truly alive on the page. Every sad little self absorbed inch of him. I could read Tom over and over just to delight in how perfectly executed he is.

Perkins is a master of the human reaction. I could feel and see my own reaction in so many of her descriptions. She has a truly remarkable way with words. It's hard to explain without examples. I was tempted to highlight or fold over the pages of some of my favourite lines but I never did and now I don't have the energy to flip back through the book looking for them. Note to self for next time.

I am confused about exactly what happened to Ann. But so was Tom and I am, after all, reading his book. I am content with my own guesses. Maybe it's just that I was never reading this book for the plot in the first place, I was too swept up in the characters. I looove a good action packed page flipping saga (believe me) but I knew from the outset that this wasn't going to be one. And I can say that I love this book for what it was. And what was that? I don't know. An engaging, shocking, beautifully constructed glimpse into the life of a real person.

I don't love this book in the way that I love my old favourites. But I give it four stars for the way it moved me through both prose and content. [Note: I can count on one hand the number of people I would recommend this baby to, so if it doesn't sound like your cup of tea I suggest you don't even go there.]

And while I would like to pick up another of Perkins' novels it will not be any time soon. I am in need of something completely different. In fact this book's polar opposite (in trilogy form, no less) is sitting up on my bedside table right now. And the thought of that is making me itchy to get this mumblejumbled review finished and head upstairs with a cup of tea.

So that's exactly what I'm going to do! :)
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