Literary reviews by Tim Love.
Warning: Rather than reviews, these are often notes in preparation for reviews that were never finished, or pleas for help with understanding pieces. See Litref Reviews - a rationale for details.

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

"Eva Shell" by Kate North (Cinnamon, 2008)

An epistolary novel, sort of, with e-mail posts, TXTs, poems, journal entries, letters, restaurant reviews, etc., not always presented in chronological order. But there's no lack of clarity, and the plot's conventional enough - 2 English sisters (Eva, a lesbian journalist, and Sally a pregnant architect living in France) break up from their respective partners at about the same time. Their mother had died when the youngest daughter was 6 and their father dies at the end having become a grandfather, leaving a pamphlet of poems behind that we're shown.

Once an author's released from the need for linear, mono-style narrative, I think it's tempting to make the most of the new possibilities, with more differentiation between the voices, letting the reader do more interpretation. That temptation is mostly resisted here. I liked the published restaurant reviews - they reveal as much about the reviewer as the food - but we're told the background to the reviews. There's showing and telling within the journal entries too - fair enough, that's how the characters might write: "I had decided not to tell her without even deciding. I can't have wanted to discuss it ... My lie was an automatic response" (p.103).

The journal entries are literary, composed as if written to be read (as journals often are, I suppose). On p.104 there's a section entitled "Sally shares an older sister story October 1991" which begins with "This is what he told me" but the tone after that is hard to identify the source of. It ends with "Matthew Michael Shell couldn't come to terms with his wife's death. He could never forgive himself for not understanding why his relationship was beginning to unravel. He felt the constant guilt of knowing that he would never be able to make it up with Laura ...". Sometimes the entries take bigger chances, use more private/pretentious language. For example, Eva splits with her partner in a letter containing this - "so it happened like that because we're not real you see. Real is about limits" (p.88).

Eva's a budding poet -

As we drive forwards
with sleeping shoulders,
our golden eyes narrow towards new dreams.

Time and years have colluded
with resonating laughter to release
the anchor that holds brain and heart in stasis

There's a rash of typos (I think) - "Thanky ou" (p.130), "I'mn ot" (p.131), "Soundsh orrible" (p.132)

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