Tuesday, October 3, 2017


Jessica, Bryce Courteney
Well holy moly!  This book had rave reviews from more than one member of my book club -- they'd read it as adolescents and felt forever-changed by it -- now I know why!  *gasp*  
I repeat: HOLY MOLY.  

Courtenay can really write.  He's also not afraid to really take to the trenches with his characters.  I feel as though Jessica's title (and cover art) don't accurately represent the kind of story you're in for; to me Jessica resembles (but does not match, I daren't profess!) an Australian East of Eden

If you take nothing else from that comparison, hear this: the characters do not travel easy roads nor meet happy ends.

Further notes:
  • In terms of parental guidance, this one's "new adult" or adult fiction all the way, for me.  I'd make this my personal designation not so much for the swearing and sensuality (although there's quite a bit of both of those, including masturbation and seduction scenes) as I would for the horrific and graphic violence (including violent actions, torture, and crime scenes described).  It's all story-relevant, but it is all as vividly told as every other image in the narrative, which is to say: holy moly (thrice, I know).  Genitalia are described without sensuality and more objectively, as an observation.
  • I ached over the tragedy of this tale.  There is familial pain, marital grief, racial injustice, cruelty towards those mentally-unwell, social snobbery, and many more causes for aching.  It's quite a ride, in that way -- it's like a prejudice salad -- having so many varieties of intolerance in one book.  I could see so many things coming and wasn't sure I could bear them.  I did, but...#stillhurting.
  • The protag is exceptionally well-developed and admirable.  For her time, she does an incredible job of seeing through the dogma, racism and gender inequality that are the norm of her time.  I wanted more wins than I got, but I see the beauty in what was achieved in terms of narrative. 
  • There are true villains in this one; people that make you want to scream!  They deliver a gamut of unkindness and prove uncharitable natures can also persevere.  I finished more than one night's reading in a very angry mood.
  • The Australian elements are just right.
  • The legal aspect was a pleasant surprise.
  • There's something honest and clear in the telling -- yes, it's sad -- but the details make it feel so authentic and alive!  The flies on a pony's rump or "veins knitting a bulbous nose together" -- wow!  
It has elements of Pride and Prejudice, A Time to Kill, To Kill a Mockingbird, Clan of the Cave Bear and The Poisonwood Bible, intermingling to form a strong character tale with a bigger picture message.  Overall, I'm glad I read it, but I don't think I'd care to again.  Nope.

This title is available via BorrowBox (Dunedin Library's electronic book platform), if you're a local reader.
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