I have this minute finished reading Caroline’s Smaile’s In Search of Adam. I picked it up this morning at eleven o’clock and have not put it down since. I thought, while still reeling under its influence, I would set down my thoughts in a formal review.
In Search of Adam is an astoundingly courageous book. From its concept, to its style, to its presentation, it crosses a landscape littered with potential pitfalls. In the hands of a lesser author it would have fallen flat on its dust jacket within five pages. Caroline Smaile, however, has negotiated all with a sureness that is masterful.
For a start, its subject matter, child abuse, is not the most comfortable to confront, neither as a reader nor as an author. But to deal with it from the point of view of the child, and to trace the path of that child as she grows older, without once resorting to sentimentality on the one hand, or sensationalism on the other, requires not only great sensitivity and insight but, above all, control of the material, in fact all the qualities that Caroline displays.
Caroline adopts a very individual, stylised form of address. Again it is a high-risk option that could so easily subtract from the substance. Yet it doesn’t. On the contrary, it lifts and colours the psychical topography of the young Jude, the protagonist, so that what is, in essence, irrational in her behaviour and outlook becomes, if not rational, at least comprehensible to the reader. Her fractured way of thinking becomes yours.
Finally, Caroline plays with the typographical layout, another dangerous strategy that, when tried elsewhere, has proved, at best, irritating and, worse, pretentious. Not so here. It adds to the whole as a form of visual metaphor that underscores whatever is taking place on the page. The eye absorbs it barely aware of the mood it helps create.
With this book, Caroline has marked all our cards as a serious new contender on the literary scene.