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Today, I am going to review a book titled “Demi – Gods” written by Eliza Robertson. This book has also won the Commonwealth Short Story Prize.
Book Title: Demi – Gods
Author: Eliza Robertson
Total Number of Pages: 240
Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC
Publication Date: 2 Nov 2017
A bold debut novel reminiscent of Emma Cline’s The Girls; a story of love, lust and the spaces in between, from a ‘captivating’ (New York Times) new voice in fiction It is 1950, and Willa’s mother has a new beau. The arrival of his blue-eyed, sun-kissed sons at Willa’s summer home signals the end of her safe childhood. As her entrancing older sister Joan pairs off with Kenneth, nine-year-old Willa is drawn to his strange and solitary younger brother, Patrick. Left to their own devices, Willa is swept up in Patrick’s wicked games. As they grow up, their encounters become increasingly charged with sexuality and degradation. But when Willa finally tries to reverse the trajectory of their relationship, an act of desperation has devastating results. Unfolding between the wild freedoms of British Columbia and the glittering beaches of California, Demi-Gods explores a girl’s attempt to forge a path of her own choosing in a world where female independence is suspect. Sensitive, playful and entirely original, Eliza Robertson is one of the most exciting new voices in contemporary literature.
REVIEW BY SOHINEE DEY
Demi – Gods is a coming of age novel written by Eliza Robertson. This book is lyrical in its prose and skims over one of the touchy topics, that is, exploring one’s sexual feelings and the realisation that you’re capable of feeling it too. This discovery is often obtained on the onset of puberty/during adolescence; it confuses you and at the same time you are curious to know more. At times, a person might feel guilty because there is always a taboo associated to sex. In Demi – Gods, the narrative is such that it retains the dark vibe yet, doesn’t state anything explicitly which makes you more curious. The storyline is somewhat disturbing (not in a bad way), unsettling and obscure in its approach.
Set in the 1950s, the plotline mainly revolves around Joan and Willa who get drawn to their step-brothers when her mother finds a new beau for herself. Joan gets drawn towards the charismatic Kenneth while Willa, the younger sister pairs off with the solitary younger brother, Patrick. The book focuses more on the relationship of Patrick and Willa than the relationship between Kenneth and Joan. Willa, the nine-year-old, develops a dangerous attraction towards Patrick and well, her hormones are all over the place.
The book compiles the episodes, explaining the transition in the characters and accounts Willa’s and Joana’s reactions to the relationships that they indulge themselves to. Willa is torn between the eroticism of the relation and at the same time she is repulsive towards her own actions. She is surprised by the thought that Patrick has so much control over her. Eliza Robertson narrates the episodes and puts them together in short comprised chapters without letting off the complexity of the characters off the hook.
When I first started reading it, I was a bit confused with the plot due to the whole scene shifts. Gradually, as I kept turning the pages, the whole idea and the concept became clearer to me. The storyline has this summery beach vibe to it. The book covers the episodes over the time span, 1950 to 2001 and with each passing year, the transformation in the characters were visible to me.
MY FINAL VERDICT
I would say that this was a fairly disturbing read for me but I always try to keep an open mind and hence, I am not offended by any ideas, no matter how bizarre they might seem. Choosing to explore this concept, creating such complex characters and writing with such precision and laying out the details in such a compact manner is truly a sign of a seasoned writer. Though I was a bit taken aback by the multiple scene shifts which I felt created a disconnection in the plotline and for a concept as this, the narration could have been a bit more powerful and crisp but, I cannot deny the fact that this is indeed a good literary work because compiling down such thoughts, giving life to the characters, building up their complexity and presenting it before the readers, that needs courage and the author has done a great job.
For recommendation, I would say that if you choose to read this book, do keep an open mind.
POESY IN CHRYSALIS RATING: ⭐⭐⭐.8/⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
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