Monday, 1 November 2010
Review: Entangled by Cat Clarke
Narrator Grace is the kind of character who, at first, will probably divide readers' opinion. On the surface, she's caustic and irreverent, recounting the story of her attempted suicide and abduction with an unnverving matter-of-factness. Even as a hostage, she's checking out the physical charms of her captor and sniping about the mother who'll barely notice she's gone. While this does mean she's perhaps not the most obviously sympathetic protagonist, her voice is real and authentic and arresting from the very first page. She might say things that make you uncomfortable, but you'll want to hear them. She'll definitely make you laugh. And as her story unfolds, you'll see that all her spikiness is actually armor. She needs it. Underneath, she's fragile and broken and lost.
However, the beauty of Entangled is that author Cat Clarke doesn't cast her main character as a victim. Yes, Grace has been abandoned and deceived, but she's not the only person in the story who has been hurt - and she's not entirely blameless herself. Her story is about control as much as betrayal; she refuses to see what the reader soon does, and makes it impossible for other characters to speak the truth. Yet there's still a huge twist in this tale, as we finally realise the truth about Grace's captor. It's the best kind of twist, too; the kind that clicks perfectly into place, even though you never saw it coming. The kind that, if you reread the book, will suddenly give a whole new context to what you previously thought were incidental little details.
Entangled is one of the most powerful novels I've read in a long time. I suspect that readers' interpretations of Grace's story will differ greatly, not just because of the complexity of Cat Clarke's storytelling, but also because when you come to care about a character deeply you can't help but mull over their motivations long after you've read the last page. Layered and haunting and heartbreaking, this is one remarkable debut.
Out: January 6th 2011, UK
Many thanks to the awesome Quercus for providing a review copy of this book.