Thursday, 22 March 2012

Compelling, disturbing, bleakly funny

There has been much buzz around 99 Reasons Why because of the choice of eleven endings, however, I quickly forgot about this quirk when I was reading the novel, I was so drawn in to 22-yr-old Kate’s world, a world that would be unremittingly grim were it not for Caroline Smailes' voice - she is brilliant at broken, abused lives, with just enough  humour to keep you from turning away. I laughed out loud a few times. Kate’s Princess Diana fantasies (her collection of eBay memorabilia heartbreaking ), her ‘job’ of spying on the nursery across the road, and the extreme lovelessness she experiences don’t add up to much of an existence, but the narration is compelling, and the chapters are wonderfully titled - and short (I love short chapters!).  At one point Kate describes a police visit to her home: ‘The blue lights are going, bouncing into me bedroom.’ A gorgeous image for a grim situation.

When the choice of endings came, it felt slightly dislocating as I’d been so engrossed in the story - but it also made me think about what we expect - and need - as readers. Then I felt excited. I tried three endings, the third one satisfied me most, I felt it was the rightful piece in the jigsaw. I decided not to try the rest, it could become addictive (though I don't want to miss any of them, and  will  go back). I think Caroline is to be congratulated on the boldness and cleverness of this novel. I loved it.

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