Review: Vivien Horler
Someone Like Me, by MR Carey (Orbit Books/ Jonathan Ball)
The cover blurb on this intriguing novel describes it as a psychological thriller; I would say it’s more than that, reaching into the realms of fantasy.
Generally I don’t like fantasy or magical realism, described by the writer Matthew Strecher as “what happens when a highly detailed, realistic setting is invaded by something too strange to believe”.
That more or less sums up Someone Like Me, but it’s an absorbing and often nail-biting read.
Liz Kendall is a nice woman with two children, teenage son Zac and six-year-old Molly. She also has a violently abusive ex-husband Marc, and the pair get into a screaming match when Marc brings the children home late from a weekend with him.
Within seconds Liz is on the kitchen floor among a bag of overturned groceries with Marc astride her, his eyes brimming with hate and his hands at her throat.
Then something hits Liz, and it’s not Marc. It is as though a monster has invaded her, takes control, uses her hands to smash a glass bottle of vinegar and then drive the broken shards into Marc’s face.
Neighbours hear the commotion and come running, and Marc is taken away by police. Liz is desperately upset, not so much by what she has done – after all he has hit her hundreds of time and she has hit him just the once – but by the way it happened. What came over her?
A few days later she gets into a parking argument, and once again her anger and response are way out of proportion. She is shaken. It emerges that she has an enraged alter ego, Beth, who was murdered by an abusive partner, and who is looking for a body which she can use to seek revenge. Mild Liz is no match for Beth.
Also important in the cast of characters is a somewhat freaky schoolfriend of Zac’s called Fran. Fran suffered a traumatic hostage-taking event as a small child, and has never quite recovered, still being in therapy 10 years later. She is comforted by an imaginary friend, a loyal little cartoon fox called Jinx.
If this all sounds a bit esoteric, bear with it. It’s a ripping yarn, and Carey’s realisation of the three children is especially convincing. The narrative is told in various voices: Beth’s, Liz’s, Fran’s and occasionally Jinx’s. Somehow it works.
A good holiday read.