Beautiful language for those looking for a very subjective reading experience

20 - Vatsal Surti

Thanks to Net Galley and to Hybrid Texts for offering me an ARC copy of this book that I freely choose to review. They were also conscientious enough to inform me that an updated version was available, that is the one I review.

This novel is like a confessional/stream of consciousness diary of a young woman, a fashion model who lives alone and who records her thoughts, feelings and impressions over time. The book is divided into chapters and follow the seasons, but as we spend most of the time inside the head of the protagonist (although the story is written in the third person) sometimes, as we all do in our own minds, she might go back and forth in time, and other times, due to illness, substances and her state of mind, we don’t know if something she’s experiencing is happening at all in the real world. There are also fragments of the book told from the point of view of a young man she meets, whom she falls in love with, but these are not many.

Despite the beauty of the language, I found it a bit difficult to engage with the story (that is not really a story). Perhaps it is, as some reviewers have commented, partly the fact of not knowing the name of the main protagonist or her beloved. We get to know the name of Natasha, a friend who invites her to live with her, but we don’t know much about her. We don’t know where she is, know little about who she is, and her circumstances. I imagine it might be an attempt at universalizing the story, but most readers enjoy living other lives, even if completely different to theirs, rather than a very subjective but somewhat blank one.

What I thought at times while I read the book was that I remembered having similar thoughts and feelings when I was an adolescent, at a time when everything feels new, unique, and we believe nobody has ever gone through similar experiences or knows what we’re going through. Everything is measured by how it affects us and we live inside a bubble of our own making that few things can pierce. In the case of the protagonist she suffers a very traumatic event that depresses her (although it seems to be more a matter of degree rather than the nature of the emotions she experiences, as some of her thoughts were very similar before the said event) but in a way it seems to help shake her up and realise what life is really about.

To give you a taster of the language, here I share a couple of sentences I highlighted:

A few miles above them, a plane took off, breaking the sky that had begun falling to night once again, like love inside youth.

Her eyelids closed, and behind them, her eyes shone like stars.

In summary, a book that requires a very special type of reader, and that I suspect will connect better with younger readers (YA, NA). Not a book recommended for those interested in a good story and engaging plot, but for those who enjoy descriptive, subjective and sensuous writing.