An Imitation of Life by Laura Solomon

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An Imitation of Life by Laura Solomon

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Category: General Fiction
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Louise Laurie
Reviewed by Louise Laurie
Summary: The main character, Celia, is born with a serious medical condition where her body ages at three times the normal rate. The book describes how she tries to live her life as this freak of nature, meeting the good, the bad and the downright ugly, along the way.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 260 Date: October 2009
Publisher: Solidus
ISBN: 978-1904529439

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We are introduced to the baby girl, Celia with a detailed, blow-by-blow account of her dreadful physical condition, from her unusual eyes, her even more unusual teeth, her lumpy body and the ever-growing hump on her shoulder. Forget the Elephant Man, here we have elephant baby. Everything is stacked against her. She is abandoned by her mother, her father is unknown. And as if all that wasn't enough to make you weep, she is unceremoniously dumped on a doorstep - to die. But she doesn't. She lives. And what an extra-ordinary life Laura Solomon has mapped out for her.

Right from page one, I knew that I was in for an unusual read. I was triple the size of your average bubba ... Now if that doesn't engage the reader, I don't know what does. It certainly engaged me. Having said that, It also stretches the bounds of the imagination but I was open-minded and very happy to go along for the ride. I'm glad I did.

This baby is soon rescued by a compassionate woman, Lettie. Although married, she is childless and adopts Celia, but with huge misgivings. Her new daughter frightens anything with a pulse, basically ... the family cat, the family dog and also her new dad, Barry. He finds her grotesque. Not a good start to family life. It gets worse. Celia is relegated to living alone in the cellar for the sake of family harmony. It sort of works. Against all the odds, once again, she grows ... and grows ... and grows. But she is stunted in other areas of her life, she receives no school education and she has no friends of her own age. You could say Celia is living on her wits.

She is also a scientific phenomenon with a medical team popping round regularly to prod and poke her, collecting sample for their laboratory. Sounds of Frankenstein indeed. The evidence of growing at three times her normal rate is that, for example, she may be a precocious ten year old, but her body is that of a thirty year old woman, with fine wrinkles appearing and even the odd grey hair or two.

And once again, with her life so dismal, she may as well do everyone a favour and roll over and die. But she doesn't. She displays a talent for photography when she's unexpectedly given a present of a camera by a close relative. This talent offers Celia a life-line, a reason to live.

Solomon gives the reader plenty of sharp, witty and clever, creative writing. There are so many fine examples that it's difficult to restrain myself to just one. For example, when Barry (who runs a butchery) goes into partnership with his wife, Lettie (who runs a launderette) it spawns the wonderful name the Butchette. Unique. A bit like their adopted daughter. Solomon has great fun with other names too. Celia's surname is Doom. But her life is far from doom and gloom. In Celia's own words ... I learnt early the power of my freakishness. The whole book flows along on one big creative, tidal wave.

In parts, this novel is as surreal as a Salvador Dali painting. But it works. This novel is also very funny in parts, laugh-out-loud funny. As Solomon puts her grotesque giantess through various adventures, her style is razor-sharp and original. Other weird and wonderful characters in the book have their own stories to tell. Most of these are interwoven with Celia's. The book is very much about how she deals with life and its many problems.

I must confess that after reading the blurb on the back cover, I didn't expect to enjoy the book as much as I did. I gobbled it up in 48 hours. It's a joyous romp through the creations of Laura Solomon. I loved it.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to The Bookbag.

If this book appeals then you might also enjoy The Learners by Chip Kidd.

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