This book has an atmosphere and a depth that wholly absorbed me. The opening is terrific, thrusting the reader right into the middle of a drama and utterly compulsive. Then, as the book unfolds, you realise that the real dramas are rare, but the imaginary ones proliferate.
I’m a writer, so I dived with enthusiasm into the themes around fiction, meta-fiction, what stories are valuable and which worthless, how people create their own narratives and characters, and how we fictionalise, romanticise and reinvent events.
Somehow, the setting of Dartmouth and Totnes seems perfect, an area I associate with esoteric introspection and Tarot cards. But the story is far from flaky and explores a plethora of complex ideas. In addition to opening the door to philosophical concepts and making your brain work, Thomas is extremely skilled at characterisation. Intelligent characterisation.
The main character of Meg isn’t entirely likeable and her passivity sometimes had me grinding my teeth, much like The End of Mr Y‘s Ariel. Yet I understand her strong-willed inertia, her passionate defeatism, her willingness to bob along in a torrent of possibilities. The only time she seems to come close to cracking that is in her relationship with Rowan and her row with Vi. A scene that stayed with me was Josh’s freeze in the card shop. A light yet exact reflection of Meg’s own stasis.
This book actually felt as if it were written for me, and about people I know. I relished every single page and gnawed away at the layered ideas and questions. A book about how an awareness of boundless possibilities can bind you.
One of my top five reads of 2011.