Thanks to Net Galley and to Dogear publishing for providing me a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Choosing the point of view a story is written from must be one of the most difficult decisions, when it comes to writing. There are some books that one suspects may not have worked if written in any other way. And sometimes we wonder if others wouldn’t have worked better if someone else had told the story. And oh, the horror, the horror of the inconsistent point of view.
I have always been intrigued/fascinated by narrators. And that most interesting and talked about of all, the unreliable narrator. To my mind, even if you have the most detached of scientifically-minded experts telling you a story, there will always be something personal in the telling.
But like Adam Snow, the narrator of Madeleine’s Kiss, I digress. This novel is a first person narration; we could even call it a confession. Adam is a History of Art university professor. From the beginning we know he is on trial, and his trial has something to do with a girl he calls Madeleine (her real name is something we never get to know. Among many other things.)
The Madeleine the narrator tells us about is a fascinating creature. Perhaps deranged, with a huge imagination, or, as she believes, quite special. She is on a journey to try and find another woman, Rosa Lee, a long lost relative, and another fascinating character, whose story we only know through fragments, incomplete documents, and stories that might be real or not. How and why Adam gets involved in her journey forms much of the body of the story.
Adam’s voice is at times self-deprecating, at times defiant, but always fully aware of what others might think of his version of the story. He intersperses his recollections of the actions with comments about the past (as a justification for how and why he does things), about what is going on currently, and with works of art (his favourite artist is Georges Seurat) that open each chapter.
Although Adam appears to be an example of the saying “those who can’t, teach”, he is enough of an artist to create a story, beautifully written, to justify his predicament. If we believe him or not it’s up to us, although perhaps ultimately irrelevant. He is not the most sympathetic of characters, but his way to tell the story intrigues us enough to makes us want to keep reading until the end.
The novel reminded me in certain ways of We Must Talk about Kevin although I felt much less personally involved and there is no final great revelation. And if the narrator in Kevin might be completely unaware of her biases (even manipulation) when telling the story, there is no doubt that Adam knows full well what the readers might think.
Peter Gilboy creates a fascinating novel where facts are the least important part of the story and where an artist is born, even if not, perhaps, a painter.
This is not a whodunit kind of thriller, but rather an imaginative novel, not fast-paced, but a great psychological portrayal and a game of cat-and-mouse, but not with the possible victim, but with the readers.
Peter Gilboy is an author to watch out for.