White Bodies by Jane Robins
|White Bodies by Jane Robins|
|Reviewer: Sophie Diamond|
|Summary: A tense and uncomfortable thriller from an original perspective; you won't know who to believe.|
|Buy? No||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 384||Date: December 2017|
Callie and Tilda are very different twins. Callie lives a quiet life, with a menial job, whereas Tilda craves the spotlight, and is a moderately successful actress. Callie is awkward, suffering from a lifetime of acne, weight issues and comparing herself to her sister and her beautiful white body. Callie has very strong feelings for her sister, envy, admiration, anger, love, and Tilda laps all of these feelings up. They are grown, and see each other with relative frequency. But now Tilda has met a new man, Felix. He's smart, charismatic, successful and very intense, very particular. At first Callie loves him, loves the way he includes her in their relationship, but after a boating trip, fun turns into something more sinister, Callie begins to worry about this dynamic, to obsess ...
White Bodies is a very dark book about obsession, love and doubt. Callie is a very intense and strange narrator. The breadth of strong emotions Callie feels for her sister are wonderfully conveyed by Robins; as a reader I felt very uncomfortable with Callie and her relationship with Tilda. It was like she was telling me all her darkest secrets and I wished that she wouldn't. Callie loves Tilda to madness. It's as though she loves and envies her so deeply she wants to consume her. Because Tilda is everything Callie isn't. But Tilda isn't perfect. Something which Callie both knows but sometimes doesn't want to know.
The book is sort of a story within a story. Callie is the narrator, so we're witnessing her story, but she in turn is witnessing Tilda's. Subsequently, we're getting Callie's very skewed and subjective opinion of Tilda's relationship. Both sisters are unbalanced, but it is Callie who is our unreliable narrator. It was a clever technique of Robins', because it adds to your general sense of unease and mistrust of everything you're being told. The outside perspective adds a new layer to what could be seen as a familiar thriller.
Tilda's story, although providing the outline of the book, is overshadowed by Callie's character. She's a very, very weird central character and I couldn't confidently call her a protagonist. I didn't like her, I didn't cheer for her, in fact she has all the characteristics of a tragic antagonist. I spent most of the book wishing Callie would go and get some psychiatric help. It's a compliment to Robins' writing that I felt so strongly about her. You must feel something for characters in stories and it is much harder to pull off an unlikeable central character than a likeable one. And like I say, while I though Callie was raving mad, I still didn't know whether to believe her story of what was going on, and that kept me reading. One thing that did irritate me about this however, was that other characters describe Callie as 'good', while all I ever saw her to be was obsessive and destructive.
I think this story really is an interesting psychological study on so many levels. I did predict where it was going later on so I can't say that it shocked me, but I thought the subject matter was very shocking. And it's written in such a brave and brazen way.
This book is very well written and conceived, it's an excellent piece of fiction but I didn't like it. I didn't find reading it an enjoyable experience and I could put it down. I think it was because I didn't like any of the characters, there was no sane person to grab hold of. I've read books before with complicated central characters, but there was always someone else likeable in there and I think this book sorely missed that.
Other great thrillers of the ilk, are The Girl on the Train and Gone Girl. If you like the idea of an unstable narrator and would like to try something different, please read the amazing The Book of Human Skin by Michelle Lovric.
You can read more book reviews or buy White Bodies by Jane Robins at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy White Bodies by Jane Robins at Amazon.com.
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