Book Review: People Like Her

The Kierkegaardian concept of ressentiment is at the heart of Ellery Lloyd’s debut novel, People Like Her. Lloyd has married the concept to the digital era phenomenon, Instagram, which is relevant right now. The bones of the story are strong, and it is meticulously crafted. There is a sense of Gone Girl and a dash of Girl on the Train. There are even examples of modern Homeric cataloguing.

Emmy—one of the three narrative voices in the text—plays her  life out on social media. She is an ‘Insta-mum’ and has a million followers. She regularly displays photos of herself, her husband and children on the social media platform. However, once her husband Dan has narrated chapter two, the reader discovers that Emmy’s life has a warped sense of reality. Dan’s version of events is very different to hers. She is an unreliable narrator, whereas Dan appears to be reliable. Having said that, Dan’s version may also be questionable as he is oblivious to his own Kierkegaard ressentiment towards his wife; although, he recognises the concept in her followers.

A bent on existentialism bubbles beneath the surface of Emmy’s flawlessly crafted Instagram world. However, although Emmy comes across as a selfish unlikeable character, the reader can’t help but pity her. ‘The Truman Show’ facade begins to crumble when someone else notices, through tragic circumstances, that Emmy isn’t giving honest advice to her followers.

The third narrator—the follower— bears similarities to the underground man in Dostoevsky’s Notes From the Underground. Similarly to underground man, this narrator goes unnoticed and remains nameless through most of the story, which adds to the rising tension. 

I read a lot in this genre, so I usually have an idea of where a story is going; However, in People Like Her, the plot twists and turns, and flips the perceived outcome on its head. The aftershocks are already rippling through my social media usage. 

Haiku

Wind strewn rose petals
pale from red to pink when
winter bites summer.

Amanda~Louise Gilmour © 2020

Book Review: Storm Damage

Storm Damage is a collection of short stories written by John A. A. Logan. There is a surreal intent to many of the stories. Reality appears to straddle a dream-like world, which at times manifests as a sprinkling of the uncanny. These sprinklings are present in Sometimes all the World Comes Down. A man discovers an old fashioned metal spinning top lying on the road between him and a stag, sending him spinning into the past. Elsewhere a boy disappears into the desert; in another story, circus animals and performers revolt against the establishment. Some stories go further by dancing at the edge of magical realism. In The Orange Pig, a lonely orange pig climbs to the top of a hill with a long wolf. For the first time, the pig realises that the world has been pulled over his eyes when he sees a ‘silvered panorama.’ In The Airman, realms become so thin that the omnipotent narrator can see ‘the airman’s blood burn and spin.’

The stories slide between the first, third and omniscient narrator, and it becomes apparent that these seemingly separate stories are bound to one another by an intricate weave of interrelations. The metaphorical wolf appears in no less than five of the ten stories. Further to this, the ‘shimmering purple cloud’ from the first story appears again and again throughout in different forms, such as streams, cloaks, sails, cloths and carpets. This ambiguous metaphorical punch may be difficult for some readers to grasp; however, Logan’s beguiling prose is peppered with poetry and offers striking imagery and symbolism. In The Magenta Tapestry, the protagonist, ‘could still remember the feel of the dry fibres against her skin, like dead spider legs about to crumble.’ The protagonist in The Pond feels his lover’s fingers ‘lightly flutter in his palm like a tiny bird’s wings answering him across forty years.’

Storm Damage is thick with a perception that lies beneath the surface of each story. It is a philosophical enquiry into the nature of the human psyche and a rebellion against ideology in many forms. The stories are entangled with folklore and mythology—including the symbolic white butterfly. Although the narratives of each story are linear, there appears to be an overarching circular structure to the book as a whole. Each story encompasses a pre-echo of the final story, Sometimes all the World Comes Down, which is as much the beginning as it is the ending. The original trauma and betrayal occurred in this story, as a character ran across a purple carpet away from a metaphorical storm, and setting the scene for everything that was to come, including the title story Storm Damage. The stories and characters ‘end up so far from their beginnings there is no sense to be made of it’ though ‘souls are fortunate, whenever they find their respite, here and there along the way.’

Reviewed by Amanda@Bonny-Highlands 2020