Wednesday, 16 October 2013

The Long White Sickness by Cecelia Frey

On a remote lonely mountain, Constance skis toward her death and Harry Weinstein loses himself in an avalanche. Meanwhile, back in the city, Gully Jillson is the suspect in the investigation of a murder that has taken place in Constance's high-rise condo. The collision of this strange menage a trois is at the heart of Cecelia Frey's latest novel of love and death, sex and life. Complicating matters for Constance in her pursuit of a recalcitrant and perfidious muse are the ongoing intrusions of Sgt. Rock, homicide detective with ulterior motives; daughter Lara and her rock musician partner, Rowlf, fugitives from a California religious cult; and 84-year-old Aunt Olive, one floor down, who shoots from the lip, and the hip, if anyone messes with her boyfriend, Fred. In the ensuing hijinks, Constance becomes a character trapped in her narrative, which is hijacked by her former husband. Ultimately, a novel about how to find a way to live in the world.
Publisher's description.

This is a fun book to read, whilst at the same time it tackles some serious subjects. When I came across a review in the Calgary Herald, I was pleased to see that this is a book written from the point of view of a 60-year old woman and so when the review also mentioned that the book has a magic realist twist, I approached the publisher to ask for a review copy. 

The magic realism comes at the end of the book and is in the metafiction strand of magic realism. As the publisher's description says above: Constance becomes a character trapped in her narrative, which is hijacked by her former husband. Writing and in particular the struggle women writers have with other demands on their time is at the heart of the book. One gets the impression that Cecelia Frey is writing from bitter personal experience as children, elderly relatives and the demands of husbands all contribute to Constance's inability to write. 

Much of the fun in the book is in the interplay of characters. For starters Constance is an unreliable narrator, and as each character arrives we see her through their eyes and vice versa. We realise how Constance and the others are continually developing narratives (which are often contradictory) about themselves. The characters at times seemed to me a little stereotypical, but then is that because of the way Constance sees them. 

Add to that a murder mystery and fraught love life and you have a fun read. 


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