Monday, June 07, 2010
book review - Repeat it Today With Tears - Anne Pelie
Got to start by putting my cards on the table. I'm a prude. Yes that's right I struggle with reading sex scenes in books. It makes me feel uncomfortable and I know that's my problem not the authors but that's just the way it is. Put it down to a religious upbringing or something.
So it was with a deep breath that I allowed myself to be taken into this story of incest between a father and a daughter. I'm not going to try and fudge it I didn't like the sex scenes.
But this is not just a book trying to court some sort of shock value and there is something quite important being raised here about the sense of damage and how someone can long for a love so much that the lines between a paternal and sexual relationship blur.
The relationship takes up the central action of the book but there is the build up as Susanna sets out to discover her father and the post collapse of the affair that make this a study of an individual woman growing up and falling apart.
As well as the father and the daughter the other main character is 1970s Chelsea which is described so well this is almost like a historical travelogue at points allowing you to walk through a lost world full of colourful characters and real possibilities as the young dreamed of changing their lives and their parents partied and bed hopped their way out of boredom.
Neither the father or the daughter come out of this in a good position with one dead and the other institutionalised. But beyond the shocking incest the way that Peile handles the impact on Susanna is what makes this book keep your attention. The search for love takes her to places that really she shouldn't have gone but it is her fear of rejection and the need to be possessed by a love so strong it fills in all the gaps of her childhood that drives her to make a fatal decision.
Even afterwards it is the loss of that love that returns her to someone who is clearly mentally damaged. She had been all along but when there was hope of finding her father and filling the gap it remained hidden. With him gone she can never be healed.
I might have struggled with this book and found some of it deeply disturbing but in some senses literature should be challenging and brave enough to go to to the dark places and see what's lurking in the darkest corners. In that sense Peile has managed to deliver.