Book Review: You and Me

The Unintentional Unreliable Narrator

You and Me, written by Nicola Rayner is a contemporary psychological thriller due for release later this year. The protagonist, Fran, lives a relatively simple life. She lives alone and works in a bookshop. Her mother is dead, and she misses her sister and niece who both live abroad. This all seems normal; however, Fran has a twenty year long obsession with a former school classmate, Charles.

Some reviewers feel that the story is slow to start; however, I disagree. The prologue is sinister, atmospheric, and like all good prologues, it subtly echoes the end. Chapter one begins in the middle of the action when a tragic accident occurs. I think rather than a slow start, there is a bit of a lull in the narrative drive while the focus is on the protagonist, Fran. 

Fran is a first person narrator who is defined by her lack of credibility to the reader. Her version of events is unreliable. While her unreliability is apparent early on, Rayner still takes time to handle Fran delicately by allowing these traits to build and surface gradually. As she narrates the story, Fran begins to contradict herself and it becomes obvious that her obsessive behaviour towards Charles is worsening. She views him through ‘rose tinted glasses,’ so therefore, her fallibility of perception may misdirect the reader.  Fran’s unreliability as a narrator is unintentional. She is an outsider and appears to have other issues, which garners the reader’s sympathy or empathy. The reader doesn’t really understand the true version of events—only Fran’s—so their expectations of the narrative may be upended.

The unreliable narrator is not a new phenomenon, but it is current. I enjoy reading psychological thrillers, and I often read so many that they all blur into one. However, I don’t believe this will be the case with  ‘You and Me.’ The narration reminds me to think critically about the unintentional, unreliable narrator in order to question events.

I highly recommend reading ‘You and Me.’ If the beginning of the story seems slow, like others have suggested, or you experience a lull, stay with it. Rayner is developing psychological depth in Fran’s character which is essential to the narrative. 

Reviewed for NetGalley by Amanda@BonnyHighlands 3rd August 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