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***Please be aware this is a book club discussion, so there is the possibility that my review or the comments left by others will contain spoilers***
by CJ Skuse
Incredibly bored and ambitious Rhiannon likes to make daily lists. Don’t we all, except her list are “kill lists”. She writes a list every day of everyone she would personally like to kill and at times she is able to tick off that list. A childhood trauma, left Rhiannon a minor celebrity and it is through this tragedy that we learn how Rhiannon has become the person she is today; a foul-mouthed, deadly and dark young woman.
What a lovely way to start our book reading year. I thought I’d throw us into the deep end with this shocking and graphic thriller. As the first chapter opens with the protagonist castrating a man and leaving him to drown, I knew I was on to a beautiful, enchanting start to our reading year.
So firstly, I found this book very easy to read. Yep, even with the shocking content of the book, I still carried on turning the pages and reading with ease (does this say more about me or the author?). It was the epitome of a “page-turner” though.
Red magazine described the book as Bridget Jones meets American Psycho. I think this is a perfect description of the book. While I don’t think I need to elaborate on why it’s similar to American Psycho, the diary-style chapters and the humorous references to weight and self-image certainly gave it an air of Bridget.
However, this is where the book falls down for me. With the author’s use of language, I felt she was trying too hard to be funny and shocking. Let’s be honest, I’m not one to be phased by profanity or crudeness. I wasn’t shocked by her use of these things. It just didn’t entertain me. I was a tad arms-crossed-you-think-that’s-shocking-you-should-hear-me-out-with-the-Mums-from-school-on-a-Friday-night about it. You can relax, we don’t go around castrating men or anything (not that I recall anyway). I think the point I’m trying to make is that, it reminded me of a teenager trying to act tough to impress people. I didn’t buy it.
I can’t decide if it was lack of direction or actually a clever ploy by the author, that my opinion of the protagonist was slightly conflicted. Generally, I couldn’t stand her and at times I thought the author wanted us to actually like her in a twisted way. My conflicted feeling about Rhiannon only came into play when I thought about her traumatic past that goes some way to explain why she does the things she does. It enabled me to feel a sliver of sympathy for her, but not for long as not one of the murders she committed was actually justified. In fact, I think her past actually just provided an understanding of her actions rather than feeling actual sympathy. I do feel the author partly wanted us readers to cheer Rhiannon on from the side line as she castrated a man (albeit an absolute wank stain of a man, who deserved a sharp kick in the balls and to be reported to the police), but there is absolutely no way I found myself warming to Rhiannon at any point.
What I do know is that she clearly wasn’t a well person. Now, I understand that a psychopath (and I’m not using that word flippantly), can function quite normally in the world, with many people not having a clue what they’re really like, BUT I’m still not convinced by the way the author portrayed the contradictions within her personality. The whole “just baked a lovey cake, now I’m just going to grab my knife and slice someone up that gets on me nerves” act was unconvincing. Maybe it’s truthful (I’m bold enough to assume I’m personally not a psychopath, so what do I know about how a psychopath thinks). I just wasn’t convinced with the way the author sold Rhiannon’s personality to us.
ALSO, I’m clearly not convinced by a lot of aspects of this book (man, I really am a cynical misery sometimes), but I wasn’t persuaded by the relationship between Rhiannon and Craig. They were so utterly incompatible, I just didn’t see why they got together in the first place. I understand, that the author wanted to show Rhiannon in an unhappy relationship, but I literally couldn’t fathom what they would have seen in each other at the beginning of the relationship. I think she could’ve been a bit cleverer about this relationship.
Now, you can completely judge me on the next point I’m going to make (if you haven’t already), but thank God she killed AJ off. He was such an irritating character, she did us all a favour there.
The ending was very satisfying for me. I would have been very upset if justice hadn’t prevailed. I also figured that the baby may have gone to AJ’s Aunt (as the next closest relative) to look after, which is actually quite nice after all the grimness of the book.
In conclusion, this is a cynical and bleak book. The attempts to make it witty and the protagonist likeable failed for me. However, I couldn’t stop reading it and it kept me gripped until the end. I prefer a book with more substance, but it was entertaining nonetheless.
February’s book is Hold Back the Stars by Kate Khan. I’ll be starting the conversation for this on Monday 5th March.
A list of all the books we’ll be reading for the first half of 2018 can be found here
I’ve finally sorted out my Goodreads page, so as a few people have asked, you can view it here