Ever since ‘Rebecca’ I have loved an unnamed narrator. It somehow pulls me closer to the character, when you are in close companionship with somebody you don’t really say their name when in conversation, you’re so close there is no need to keep repeating it, so your protagonist has already situated themselves as somebody right by your side by not even mentioning their name. On the flip side you have the juicy delight of feeling oh so close, hearing their every thought and then having that smack bang realisation half way through of, ‘hang on, you haven’t even told me your name, what else aren’t you telling me?’ Can you pin this person down? Does it make them freer to tell you their deepest secrets or more able to invent a fictional life, like somebody hiding behind an avatar on a computer? Does it even matter?! Well, I find it an intriguing decision by any author no matter what the answer!
So you may have guessed, our novella today is told by one of these mysterious, unnamed teller of tales, in such an intimate way it feels like you’ve stumbled upon a diary by a bedside. ‘Women’, by Chloe Caldwell, has our young protagonist asking questions of her self, her sexuality and trying to untangle the answers from the messy situations she finds herself in.
We watch as she moves away from her birth city where she lived with her mother, and was finding herself more and more dependent on drugs to have a good time, to a whole new city and scene, where she plans to start afresh. We are aware she is a writer, and it is this occupation that brings Finn into her life, an older woman who contacts her on Facebook to say how much she enjoyed her book.
The two meet and it is obvious from the beginning that their relationship is going to become an intense and important one in both their lives. Our protagonist acknowledges from the start that she knows this cannot end well, for starters Finn has a partner of 12 years.
With clandestine catch ups in a sunken, rented apartment and the exploration of a side of her sexuality she had not experienced or expected, our woman falls deep. Her writing stops, and the complications begin.
Feeling so closely involved because of the confidential tone of this novella, you want to grab her hand, take her out for a proper meal with a side of good advice, but we can’t, we just have to sit by and read her account of these heady days and hope she comes up for air.
I read this book in one sitting, I got totally lost in the confusion of feelings experienced within the pages. Was Finn another addiction or a true love? Was this a case of learning about her sexuality or just an intoxication with this one woman? You could have easily doubled the length of the book and I wouldn’t have paused, I was thoroughly wrapped up in what I wouldn’t describe exactly as a ‘coming of age’ tale but more of a ‘coming together of mind’ story (clunky phrase but I hope you get my gist!)
I haven’t read any work by Chloe Caldwell before and she is now happily sitting on my ‘check out anything else she publishes’ shelf in my mind. If an honest account of an unsure psyche is your thing, grab a copy and let me know what you think!
Women by Chloe Caldwell £10.00 (4th Estate)
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