So I've handed in the draft of my second chapter and finished (regular) work for the summer, and I'm rediscovering the reading of actual books, for pleasure rather than work purposes! I'm currently about halfway through Sixteen Shades of Crazy
by Rachel Trezise, with whose writing I have a kind of love-hate relationship. On the one hand, it's often pretty bad. Her prose is often stilted and riddled with clichés, she nicks lines from song lyrics and plonks them in where she thinks no-one will notice, and seriously, nearly every chapter in this novel begins in the same, "It was Wednesday night, and Ellie was walking home from work..."/"It was Saturday, and Ellie was on her way to the pub..." format.
However. Her first novel, In and Out of the Goldfish Bowl
, suffered from the same faults (uneven plotting, heavy-handedness, greeting-card shorthand) to a much greater degree, and -- aside from the ending, which I like to just ignore -- I loved it. It was a thinly fictionalised version of Trezise's own teenage diaries, and very much read that way, but it also had the kind of undisguised emotional rawness that's more familiar to me from confessional poetry and Courtney Love records than novels. Trezise writes about life in the South Wales valleys, and there's something in the way she captures it that really resonates very strongly with me. I'm from the Eastern Valleys, not the Rhondda (though I do spend a hell of a lot of time there) but at the heart of it I think the issue is the same. It's not just the unemployment and rampant drug use (which is worse there than here, I believe) but the sense of being caught between aspiration and a desire to get the hell out, and a wish to remain loyal to a national identity and a culture which can often be insular, somewhat sexist, and vehemently, proudly anti-intellectual. The way she handles that in the psychology of her protagonist, Ellie, has been beautiful so far. I'm actually almost afraid to carry on reading, in case the ugly revelations which will no doubt come out later in the novel hit too close to home. ;)
She also has an occasionally brilliant ear for dialogue. ("And rub ewer foundation in. Ewe look like a fuckin' baked bean." Something I've often felt the urge to say to say to girls on the valley line train, though not in so many words, they'd probably punch me.)
In other news, I'm heading up to sunny Cambridge tomorrow to visit my sister and hopefully imbibe quite a lot of wine. I'll post up the next section of The Deadly Light
sometime on Wednesday, I expect.