I hate giving a low rating to any book. I have such admiration for authors – for the blood, sweat and tears that go into writing a book in the first place, then having to navigate the publishing world and subjecting themselves to readers who can lift them up or tear them down with their words.
If you are interested in reading this book, please don’t just go by my review. There are a lot of 5 star reviews for this book as well, and who knows, maybe you’ll be adding one yourself after reading it. My review comes from a place of confusion and ‘this wasn’t the book for me’ rather than malice. I applaud the author for successfully navigating the publishing world and for the many positive reviews I’ve read.
Having said that … my brain hurts! Had I borrowed this book from the library instead of requesting an ARC I would not have finished it.
You know those books that hoity-toity book clubs rave about with their “literary masterpiece” this and their “author stunned with their use of [some big fancy word that the general population can neither spell nor use in a sentence]” that? You may listen to these people and smile and nod, but on the inside you’re thinking, ‘How did you get that from this book?’ and ‘I must be completely stupid. I have no idea what you’re going on about.’ I think that’s going to be the unfortunate fate of this book; a polarising “most exquisite piece of writing ever!” or “what the hell did I just read?!”
Reading like a stream of consciousness, Peach (the novella) opens with Peach (the person) having just been brutally sexually assaulted and follows her down the rabbit trail of its physical, emotional and psychological aftermath. I came away from Peach having very little grasp on which words were literal, fantasy, hallucination, nightmare or flashback – and I’m not sure I was supposed to. I can handle gruesome, triggery books, I understand the internal turmoil following sexual assault and revenge fantasies, but I. don’t. UndErsTand. This. book.
Which brings me to the writing style. There are so many one word sentences, some sentences start with a capital letter and others don’t, words have randomly capitalised letters scattered through them. I expect it was deliberate, intentionally messy and disjointed to reflect the emotional state of Peach and her internal dialogue, but I just found it messy. I understood what was happening (sometimes) but I couldn’t figure out if the author was going for prose, poetry, some combination or something else entirely.
There’s the use of food to describe people, including:
- The rapist / stalker / maker of creepy hand delivered notes with words cut out of magazines, Lincoln, is sausage, pork, oily, greasy, slimy
- Mr Custard, college biology teacher made of custard
- Baby, Peach’s brother who remains unnamed is icing sugar, jelly.
Mam and Dad are overtly sexual, so much so that I found it as uncomfortable to read as I did the sexual assault. Speaking of Green, Peach’s boyfriend, the same evening of his daughter’s sexual assault –
“You make such a cute couple, and the sex sounds amazing, says Dad.”
Immediately following his daughter’s face flushing red with embarrassment,
“It’s okay, Peach. Sex is a good thing. Me and Mam do it all the time. We just did it now on the kitchen table. It’s human nature, Peach, don’t be embarrassed. Green is a lucky guy. Most girls won’t put out until they’re married. But not our Peach. and we’re proud of you.”
I’m sorry, what??? Then good ol’ Mam and Dad, along with boyfriend Green remain oblivious to what Peach is going through for the entire novella.
So, just two of my multitude of unanswered questions:
- Why does Peach’s stomach continually grow larger and larger and larger?
- What really happened in the end?
Colour me confused!
Content warnings include sexual assault, murder, animal abuse and possible (?) cannibalism.
Thank you so much to NetGalley and Bloomsbury Circus, an imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing Plc (UK & ANZ) for the opportunity to read this book.
Once Upon a Blurb
Slip the pin through the skin. Start stitching.
It doesn’t sting. It does bleed. White thread turns red.
Red string. Going in. Going out. I pull. Tug.
Tug the pin. In. Out. Out. Out. Blackout.
Something has happened to Peach. Blood runs down her legs and the scent of charred meat lingers on her flesh. It hurts to walk but she staggers home to parents that don’t seem to notice. They can’t keep their hands off each other and besides, they have a new infant, sweet and wobbly as a jelly baby.
Peach must patch herself up alone so she can go to college and see her boyfriend, Green. But sleeping is hard when she is haunted by the gaping memory of a mouth, and working is hard when burning sausage fat fills her nostrils, and eating is impossible when her stomach is swollen tight as a drum.
In this dazzling debut, Emma Glass articulates the unspeakable with breath-taking clarity and verve. Intensely physical, with rhythmic, visceral prose, Peach marks the arrival of a visionary new voice.