Saturday, 28 February 2015

Review of Alice and the Fly

Alice and the Fly
By James Rice



A spellbinding debut novel by an exceptional new young British talent. 

This is a book about phobias and obsessions, isolation and dark corners. It's about families, friendships, and carefully preserved secrets. But above everything else it's about love. Finding love - in any of its forms - and nurturing it. 

Miss Hayes has a new theory. She thinks my condition's caused by some traumatic incident from my past I keep deep-rooted in my mind. As soon as I come clean I'll flood out all these tears and it'll all be ok and I won't be scared of Them anymore. The truth is I can't think of any single traumatic childhood incident to tell her. I mean, there are plenty of bad memories - Herb's death, or the time I bit the hole in my tongue, or Finners Island, out on the boat with Sarah - but none of these are what caused the phobia. I've always had it. It's Them. I'm just scared of Them. It's that simple.

Source: Goodreads

My rating: 4.6 / 5
My Thoughts:

This is the kind of story that haunts you even after you’ve finished reading it. I first thought that the main character was a girl because of the attention to detail, the thoughtful and quiet personality. Only when he introduced himself as Greg did I realise that this boy was rather odd. 

The book is written from two perspectives: Greg's entries in his journal, which are interspersed with the Detective's interviews. Greg has been advised by Miss Hayes to write his thoughts in a journal, in an attempt to help him overcome some of his issues, and by reading these we glimpse a snapshot of Greg’s day, his obsession with Alice and his unusual habits.

Each interview is conducted with someone linked to Greg, such as his classmates, family members and teachers so that the Detective can learn more about Greg’s personality. The interviews take place after an 'event' unknown to the reader and the journal entries all lead up to this same 'event.' This mixture of journal entries and interviews, past and present, kept me guessing as to what actually happened, though I had my suspicions earlier on. With each interview, the reader is given another clue about the event but it’s not until the very end that the gruesome details are fully revealed.

How can I describe this book and do justice to the amazing writing? Honestly, I've never read anything like it. The detail in which James Rice captures Greg’s episodes and the panic that suffocates him is surreal. Clearly, Greg has issues and violent outbursts, but from his journal entries it’s near impossible not to sympathise with his character. He has no friends, his family treat him like an embarrassing burden and he is constantly bullied at school, referred to as ‘psycho.’ He tries so hard to be normal but it is almost like his body doesn’t listen to his brain. On numerous occasions, Greg tries to speak up and prove he is normal, but he can't bring himself to speak, and it's sad to see how his silence always makes things worse. 

As you might have guessed, Greg is the fly from the title of this book. I thought this was a most appropriate likeness, given that Greg is always hovering near Alice in a stalker-like fashion so that no one notices him and those that do just get annoyed by his existence. 
The only problem I had with this book was that I became a tad bit bored during the middle of the story because I felt that the build up was being dragged on longer than necessary. Alice and the Fly was a powerful read opening my eyes to the extremeness of some people’s phobias. Although it isn’t a book I plan to re-read given the depressing nature of the story, I will be looking out for further releases by James Rice because his writing style for his debut novel was amazing.
Zed (:

To finish off, I'd like to ask some questions to my friend (and sole book club member) Bird to see her take on this read:

1. What was your rating of Alice and the Fly?

2. Favourite scene / chapter?

I don’t think this is a book that you could say you really liked or didn’t like. It’s beautifully written, very moving and difficult to describe.
But the interactions between Greg and Alice really stood out for me, particularly the one with the two of them at the park.  Despite the serious and dark subject matters there are some really moving parts of the book.

3. What didn't you like about this book?

Although he is surrounded by people, Greg feels alone and isolated. You get a glimpse of the cruelty and unkindness young people can leash on those who they deem weird or different then them. He shrugs off the hurt and pain, almost as if he’s resigned to it as his fate. But what I found most disheartening was the desertion-like sentiment he experienced from the two people who should have been there for him- his parents.

4. Apart from Greg, who shocked / surprised you the most?

I was shocked to find that despite the apparent aloofness he experiences from his own family, I found I didn’t judge them. Through Greg’s naïve insightfulness you gain an understanding of their own struggles and demons.

5. Three words to describe Greg?

Isolated, haunted, honest
Favourite Quotes:

It's not people so much that bother me. It's Them. I heard once that a person is never more than three metres away from one of Them at any time, and since then I can't help feeling that the more people there are around, the more there's a chance that one of Them'll be around too. I know that's stupid.

It doesn't bother me silence. People talk too much.

And even if I didn't smile back at you at the time, imaginarily or realitarily, it didn't matter, because even through my sickness and my shaking and my headaches and my chattering teeth I kept smiling for the next three days.

'I can't bump into her,' Mum said. 'Not like this.'I couldn't work out why. Mum was wearing her heels and her hair and makeup were perfect. She looked beautiful. She kept repeating the word 'No,' over and over, under her breath. 'No, no no, no, no.' Then she turned to me and said, 'Just promise me, if she sees us, just promise me you'll try and be normal.'I didn't reply to that because I didn't know how to reply, I didn't know how I could promise something I had failed to do my whole life.

This is what happens when I don't see you. this is what always happens to pure perfect things, given time. Circumstances change. People change. The world moves on and I am left behind.

I've been pulling out my eyelashes. It's a new habit. Dr Howard advises against it. She says it's a problem, but not such a problem, considering my other problems. 

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