Tuesday, 3 July 2007

Chapeau à toi Caroline!

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.


trousers said...

Good, level, pithy review. I wandered over here via the link on Caroline's site.

DOT said...

Thank you, trousers. I was beginning to wonder if anyone had read it. I have just come off the phone to my husband-in-law, as I call my ex's fella, who is a musician and very level-headed, moaning how I would achieve anything of Caroline's standard.

He level-headed head-butted me and told me to get on and do whatever I was doing and not worry about the consequences. Good advice!

If it's crap, it's crap but it is my own crap.

hesitant scribe said...

dot - lovely review. you've lost me with the husband-in-law/ex's fella but good review!

and yes - we like things to be our own crap ;-)

Zinnia Cyclamen said...

That is a lovely review. I haven't read ISoA yet and although I want to read it I have also been, well, dreading it is a bit strong, but, y'know, the subject matter... I feel less anxious about it now that I've read your post.

DOT said...

Thanks hesitant and zinnia for your kind comments, do read this book, the subject matter is not the easiest but it is so worth the effort.

hesitant scribe said...

Zinnia - don't be scared! It is harrowing in places, but it's okay. Caroline has managed the material so well that Jude will hold your hand all the way, and make you brave enough.

Plus it's very beautifully written throughout.

Plus the end - the end is pure genius.

sorry Dot - just had to say that to Zinnia!

DOT said...

Be my guest. And I agree with everything you say.

Jen said...

Ooh, I have ISoA sitting on my desk as I type this... I feel almost afraid to dive in...