Rich, idiosyncratic dialogue from the haphazard perspective of a girl on the cusp of womanhood - Ophelia Bitz
Esmeralda woke to the alarm on her mobile phone. It was 9.30am. She had been in the thick of a particularly vivid and prophetic dream, but the memory of it now slipped out of her mind like a well-spent member. She lay for a moment gathering her thoughts, watching the small black flies continually circling her lampshade, and tried to recall the reason for setting her alarm. Her room was dark. It always was. Only a pathetic trickle of light ever made it through the window from the lofty heights of the courtyard that her room backed onto. Every surface in the courtyard was dripping in pigeon shit, and the pigeons themselves squatted ominously in their own faeces, winking at Esmeralda through the window panes with their yellow beady eyes.
She wondered if it was her name that had led her to a penchant for ugly but intriguing men?
She always found amusement in people’s inability to perceive parallel universes. “They’re everywhere you look,” she commented idly, watching a bird and a butterfly partaking in a dogfight, “and are as clear as the end of your nose.”
“But the end of your nose is a blur,” he replied.
“I was just telling everyone how you are the light of my life,” he told her as he answered the phone.
“Why, thank you,” she replied.
“I’ve decided that I’m going to write a book.”
“I remember asking my tutor when I was at secondary school if he could tell me where I was supposed to use a comma. He told me to use it wherever it felt right...” She looked introspective for a moment before concluding, “I didn’t go to a very good school.”
“I don’t like non-committal punctuation marks. Especially the semi-colon. ” She snuggled down into his armpit.
“Don’t worry, I’ve got you.”
She woke up in his arms. She had been in a very lucid sleep, always aware that she was lying next to him. It took her a long time to get used to sharing a bed with a new lover, as she found it impossible to fall into a really deep sleep whilst she still fancied the pants off someone and was too sexually excited to be able to relax properly. Which was exactly how she was feeling right now, counting down the seconds until he showed signs of life, so that they could commence with the mating ritual that is the morning wriggle. That figure of eight frottaging on each other’s legs, this way and that, until one of you could resist it no longer and finally raised your sleepy body against the mighty force of morning gravity and plonked yourself on top of the other.
“That girl’s got custardy tendencies,” noted Esmeralda.
As with an Impressionist painting, where the image appears from the dots, the story of Esmeralda emerges from the chaos of the writing, revealing a twenty-first century woman trying to make sense of a world gone mad.
Esmeralda is no girlie girl. She’s a mean, not very lean, shagging machine. Her body is not a temple... It’s a skip.
How can we describe Esmeralda’s life? Imagine Moll Flanders met Mrs Dalloway and they decided to drop acid and dance all night at a party in a commune outside Norwich. That’d be a start.
Structurally, this novel challenges perceptions of time and memory. Mingling past and present, Esmeralda drifts downstream through a series of scenes peopled by a rambling, picaresque cast of characters. Some are fleeting ghosts never seen again while others retain significance throughout the stream of Esmeralda’s consciousness. Actually, “drifts” is the wrong word. A more appropriate nautical metaphor would be that Esmeralda crashes through life like a rudderless speedboat, leaving havoc in her turbulent wake. No situation is too strange, no drugs are off the menu, legal, illegal, or purely psychological.
This book is Fifty Shades for the Trainspotting generation, Fear of Flying for pill poppers or Bridget Jones for those who are so off their faces they can’t remember what happened yesterday.
In this, her first novel, Jolie Booth has given voice to a new strong woman - Esmeralda, who with all her disasters, triumphs, certainties, resolutions and contradictions still manages to fascinate all around her and hold the whip in hand.
ON SALE READY FOR CHRISTMAS 2016