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Seven years on and Esmeralda has returned - perhaps a little wiser - but certainly not ruling the world... Yet.
Esmeralda’s house is surrounded by fields. It isn’t what she’d imagined when she was in her twenties, with its net curtains, cushion-covers, porcelain figurines and Flower Fairies. There’s even carpet on the bathroom floor. It's rented and out of town in the neighbouring village of Woodingdean, where all the poorer than 'yummy mummy' mummy's move to when they begun breeding. It's 7.30am and time for the kids to get up for school, so Esmeralda quietly opens the door to their bedroom. The early morning light filters its way through the orange curtains, casting a warm glow into the quiet room. It smells sweetly of innocent sweat and wholesome farts. Marinus is snoring gently in his bed on the right-hand side of the room and Betty sleeps silently on the left. Between the beds, a large wooden chest is lodged, full of toys, and on top of this sits a large doll's house that her husband salvaged from a street find and Esmeralda did up with a lick of paint. The walls of the bedroom are a neutral misty buff with a once cream carpet on the floor, now grubby and worn. This mess is covered with an equally grubby orange rug, placed over the carpet to add a bit of non-gender specific colour. The bedding is also orange, as is the lampshade. Over Betty's bed is a poster of Frozen that she's covered with sticky backed gemstones. Marinus has model aeroplanes hanging from the ceiling above his bed that he painstakingly made with Daddy over the summer holidays, following a trip to Duxford Air Show. Despite their attempts to break gender stereotypes in their children, the second the kids had gone to school it had slid into their beings as if it had always been there. Marinus had once loved Frozen as much as Betty did until he went to school. The first time he’d announced he didn't like it anymore, he’d said it was because the film was for girls. He justified his change of heart due to him realising that he wasn't a girl, but was in fact a boy. Esmeralda was fairly happy with the school the kids go to though. It's one of the best in the area and the reason they'd moved to the village, but it still had the usual comprehensive stereotypical views. Esmeralda would've loved to home educate them, but she just couldn't afford to not work full time. Being born’s one a hell of a lottery.
This sade-sati, or seven year cycle, has been her toughest to date, facing the reality of an adulthood that didn't turn out to be all it had been cracked up to be; call-centres, depression and infertility had certainly not been part of the 'Grand Plan'. But perhaps planning had been the problem all along and that 'plans' are the problem, no use for anything other than being a good joke for God. As with the 'Fool' in the tarot deck, eternally stepping off of the cliff edge into the unknown, so too has our dear Esmeralda found herself falling into the abyss, discovering all her sense of control over the universe was nothing more than an illusion. But in doing so Esmeralda has also discovered that sometimes when you fall... You fly.
In her first book of the Saturn Returns series, The Girl Who’ll Rule The World, Jolie Booth introduced us to Esmeralda, although “introduced” is perhaps too polite and formal a term to apply to a process akin to being sucked into a howling vortex of hedonism, sex, drugs and partying, then being shot of out the other end like a cork in a wind tunnel.
In this book, however, Esmeralda is older, though not necessarily always wiser. Seven years have elapsed, during which time she has undergone experiences as varied as living in a famous (infamous) squat in Berlin, and touring Europe with a troupe of fools and mummers, struggling to make a living in the world of performing arts.
Although Esmeralda does indeed always suffer fools gladly, her journey through life has by no means been smooth. Fate is always willing to don the Jester’s cap, and pull the rug out from under her. Too young, and much too unconventional to suffer a mid-life crisis, she’s nevertheless been forced to confront many issues in her existence which can no longer be ignored or avoided. Marriage. Commitment. Children. She squares up to these challenges with her customary mix of crashing ahead, impulsively, smashing into hard, emotionally-charged situations, and sometimes, harking back to the old days of crashing out, in a haze of substances.
Once more, Jolie Booth has created a detailed and believable chronicle of a complicated character who you can’t help but love and feel for, infuriating though she often is. And in her unflinching confrontation of the physical and emotional pain of the difficulties of child-bearing, she has produced some of her finest writing yet.
If The Girl Who’ll Rule The World was Fifty Shades for the Trainspotting Generation, then Never Worn is what happens when you substitute Sylvia Plath for Bridget Jones.
“A richly detailed and relatable journey of hedonism and heartbreak, parties and penises and a growing maturity as the main character moves through her 30’s. When the heartache of infertility comes to the forefront, this becomes a touching and, at times, painful read which is hard to acknowledge, but raw and so important.” - Rebecca Fire