Author of AGAINST A DARKENING SKY, THE EMPTY ROOM, OUR DAILY BREAD, and others. Find out more at www.LaurenBDavis.com. I read as if my sanity depended upon it.. . . oh, wait, it does! Snort.
Anakana Schofield's first novel is intriguing, complex and rewarding. Both the point of view and the voice are compelling.
"Our Woman" is Irish, a farmer, a mother, a wife. The novel explores her emotional, mental, sexual journeys and anxieties. There are a number of allusions here to the great literature, art and history of Ireland, including nods to James Joyce's Ulysses, and I'm sure I didn't catch the half of them.
Upon discovering her husband, "Himself", has been unfaithful with a woman she refers to as "Red the Twit", and that her adored son, Jimmy, is gay, Our Woman becomes obsessed with her own sexuality, and sets out to discover how it might empower her. Some of the passages I think I was expected to find humorous I found a little uncomfortable, which may be what the author intended (or it might just be me).
The structure is episodic and elliptical, making the book at times slightly denser than perhaps it needs be, but I didn't find that a hindrance, merely an enjoyable challenge, although at times it did draw a little too much attention to the author. Snapped me out of the story a bit, even as I admired the way it reflected Our Woman's interior world.
Schofield switches tenses and POVs quickly, and the narrators are all unreliable. This works, however, particularly since her themes concern relationships, what one knows and what one hides, even from one's self. It works less well during the periods when "Our Woman" suffers a breakdown -- because the mechanics of the novel have up to this point already been herky-jerky and scattered, Schofield is unable to find a prose rhythm and structure here to match "Our Woman's" mental state.
The ending trailed a little bit for me, and I think the publicity department has done the book a disservice as billing is as "uproarious" and "hilarious". I didn't find it so. Although at times I did find humor in it, more than that, I found it thoughtful, intelligent, moving and sad. Schofield's a fine writer. We'll be hearing a great deal more from her in the future.