Sunday 19 February 2012

Signs of Life by Anna Raverat

Anna Raverat is a descendant of Gwendolen Raverat, a celebrated English artist and member of the Bloomsbury Group.

Signs of Life is Anna's debut novel and has been chosen as a Waterstone's 11; their pick of the best debuts of 2012.

Signs of Life is a dark, but compelling story of an out-of-control love affair that happened ten years ago.

Rachel writes her story as she sits in the window of her new flat, now alone, her memories and her writing are fragmented and patchy.  

It is a very clever and talented author who can create such an obnoxious character, yet also create a feeling of compassion towards her from the reader.

Not since Zoe Heller's Notes On A Scandal have I disliked a narrator so much, but just like that novel, Signs of Life draws the reader in.  

From the beginning of Rachel's story it is made clear that her love affair was doomed, as she recalls the events that have clearly shaped the rest of her life the reader gets a feeling of impending disaster, it is clear that Rachel's lover Carl was both damaged and damaging, it is also clear that although Rachel knows that she often acted selfishly and  dishonestly, she is trying to justify all of her actions.
Anna Raverat

Rachel feels that to write down her memories, will be to cure herself, but even so there are times during the telling of her story when she struggles to relate the whole truth and in fact realises that the affair will always be a part of her history, no matter how she re-tells it, or how she may justify it.

This really is a remarkable debut, with imagery that is at times quite startling.

The writing is both seductive and tense with an edge that is quite unique.

Signs of Life is a well-deserved choice for the Waterstone's 11.  The other titles chosen for 2012 are:

  1. The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach
  2. Shelter by Frances Greenslade
  3. Care of Wooden Floors by Will Wiles
  4. The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey
  5. Absolution by Patrick Flanery
  6. The Land of Decoration by Grace McCleen
  7. The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce
  8. The Lifeboat by Charlotte Rogan
  9. The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker
  10. The Panopticon by Jenni Fagan

1 comment:

  1. Unlike many lists, this one looks very carefully chosen. Thanks.