Girl Meets Boy, Ali Smith

Rating: ★★

“Like that poem I knew, about how you sit and read your way through a book then close the book and put it on the shelf, and maybe, life being so short, you’ll die before you ever open that book again and its pages, the single pages, shut in the book on the shelf, will maybe never see light again…”

Sadly I was disappointed with this book. As you can see from the image, I have quite an affection for the writings of Ali Smith, and my blog title is inspired by Artful. Girl Meets Boy, however, didn’t seem to meet the standards of those I had read previously and somewhat lacked in the enticement that first drew me to Ali Smith, with my first novel being How to Be Both. I finished it after a couple of hours throughout the day; it’s a short novel with large print.

The novel take its foundation from the myth of Iphis in Ovid’s Metamorphosis, and is essentially a postmodern retelling. The main themes are around gender and sexuality; taking an old story and placing it in the modern age. With a political and feminist agenda, this sometimes feels as though it gets in the way of the narrative. Full of interesting characters and what seems like could-be plots, the book feels as though it has been cut short, and perhaps should have been more extended.

The prose, as usual, was lyrical. Smith’s lack of speech marks gives her writing a stream-of-consciousness feel, and makes the reader pay more attention. Maybe because I was so hyped about Smith’s previous novels was the reason I didn’t feel so strongly about this one. The lack of plot made the book seem more like political agenda, which could have been more at home in an essay rather than a narrative.

Girl Meets Boy was whimsical, short, and sweet, and there’s not much else to say. While it didn’t make my top 5 Ali Smith books, it still managed to hold my attention, so I suppose that says something.

Hot Milk, Deborah Levy

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“I confess that I am often lost in all the dimensions of time, that the past sometimes feels nearer than the present and I often fear the future has already happened.”

Rating:  ★★★

I bought this book on a whim when I was browsing the Waterstones ‘new releases’ last summer, yet it became a sort of ‘meant to be’ decision that tied in with fate. I began the novel last summer in a rented car, driving down the southern coast of Spain alongside my two loud sisters and underneath the scorching sun. Coincidentally, this was where the book was set. Andalusia is a beautiful region of the country and to be able to visit the places while immersed in the prose was a kind of surreal experience, making the narrative feel extremely personal and real. Think white-washed buildings, deep blue skies and seas – the romantic scenery is harmonic and gives an atmosphere of serenity.

The novel depicts young woman Sophia, her mother, and a lot of Medusa jellyfish. Sophia has halted her Anthropology doctoral thesis to look after her sick, hypochondriac mother, with a mysterious illness and their last resort is to visit a specialist doctor in Spain. There’s a relaxed energy to the novel; Sophia spends much of her time waiting for her mother’s illness to be discovered. She is essentially free in her current position, yet feels trapped by her mother’s illness. Hot Milk seems a particularly relevant title, referencing the femininity which is so central to the text. Hot milk signifies the bond between mother and daughter, and perhaps the more sensual aspect of the female breast. There are several androgynous aspects to the character of Sophia, and we see her attracted to both a young male and female.

The story is dreamy, drifting from reality to the imaginary – Sophia often questions what is real and what is not, while the reader feels so vividly the breeze of the ocean and the smell of the sand. Sophia has lost focus in her life, and Spain becomes a sort of ‘in-between,’ serving as a kind of disconnected point in reality and out of sync with the world. The novel perhaps serves more as a journey, for a meaning of consciousness. Sophia wants to find her place, and a reason for her life. The prose is fresh, and the stream of consciousness aspect works well with a narrative that focuses primarily on the inner world of the protagonist.

The novel is bizarre and hypnotic, yet fluffy at times – there is a lack of plot to bite into. I feel there was perhaps a deeper meaning that I might have missed; I just wish I could have connected to it more than I had.

 

Also, I don’t know whether anyone would be interested but I am considering featuring a few posts on my journals and how I approach the art. If you like the idea please hit me up!