Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Book Review: And This Is True by Emily Mackie

And This Is True is the first book by Scottish Emily Mackie. I chose it on my recentish holiday to Adelaide for three reasons. 1: the cover; 2: the title, 3: the blurb.
Once upon a time there was a boy whose home was a van and whose world was his father.
Be warned: this is not a fairytale.
Although it does contain love,
And most important of all, a kiss.
But you have to be ready for an unpredictable journey through a realm where nothing is black or white. That, of course, is why you should take the first step.
A startling new voice shows us a painful truth: you can't help who you fall in love with.
Doesn't that just sound utterly magical? I thought so. I thought that it was going to have a magical element (despite the fairytale warning) and was going to be about this delightfully wonderful forbidden love, and I would laugh and cry and be dazzled by the storyline. I wasn't though. Perhaps (definitely) my expectations were way to high and obviously way off the track so it isn't the book's fault, much less Emily Mackie's, that I didn't enjoy this one.

And This Is True is the story of introverted Nevis Gow who has lived in a van with his father since the age of 4. They lead what Nevis considers to be an idyllic lifestyle, moving from place to place, playing games, learning about science, while his father madly writes and writes. That is until the kiss. And this is where my little balloon of magical happy story was seriously popped. The kisser was Nevis. And the kissee was his father. That's right folks, this is a book about incest. After the kiss, Nevis' father (Marshall) crashes the van and tries to integrate Nevis into normal society. Following the crash they take up lodging at a nearby farm belonging to the Kerr family who are mourning the recent loss of a beloved family member.

This was my second ever experience of "oh my goodness this is an incest book!" and both of them have really snuck up on me. My first was with Ann-Marie Macdonald and 'Fall On Your Knees' (again, chosen for the title). It took me almost to the end of that book to realise what was going on (perhaps too young to be reading that one at the time) and I was quite horrified when I discovered the truth. Again here. Now now. I really must stop focusing on that 'I' word. There really was a lot to this book apart from the kiss. It is a fascinating exploration of an unconventional childhood, grief, loss, adolescence, love and incest.

The best bit about this book was the Kerr family. Underneath the experiences of Nevis and Marshall, the lives of the Kerr family twist and disintegrate until they reach their tragic fate. Father Nigel is mourning the loss of his wife Catherine, and their son Colin (the Duckman) appears to be becoming a troubled, delinquent young man. Come to help out are relatives Elspeth and Ailsa, both of whom Nevis abhors.

Emily Mackie is a young writer (27) and this is her first novel. And despite my misgivings, I must say, hats off to her. Although I didn't enjoy it, I have never read a book quite like this one and I think that hers is a name to remember. She tells this story unashamedly and really gets into the head of young Nevis. I was impressed with her writing style, her ideas and even the plot. I just didn't love it.


Nymeth said...

That beginning (which I love!) would have given me the wrong impression too. Expectations can definitely be treacherous!

Ash said...

The cover is lovely, I must say that. I agree with Nymeth, expectations can totally ruin a book for you! I still think this sounds interesting though, and maybe with a warning I'll enjoy it.

Elise said...

Ana, expectations are sometimes the downfall of what could have been a wonderful book. I'm so rarely disappointed!!

Ash, I'm sure you could enjoy it. I just couldn't see past the icky incest, which frankly wasn't that overpowering!!