Reviewed by Jolanda de Faber
Right from the start it is clear that at the core of Signs of Life is something dramatic. On the first page of the book, Rachel, the main character and narrator of the story tells us, “Ten years ago I had an affair that ended badly.” And even before you actually start reading the book, the blurb on the back of the book teases you with the words, “something terrible happened to her lover.” If you love reading a bit of drama, this is all it takes to pique your interest. Now you want to find out whatever that terrible thing was.
Ten years after the terrible happens, Rachel realises that, although she would like to believe otherwise, she has still not been able to leave it all behind her. She decides to write it down:
“I want to describe my part in it and take responsibility for that, if I can bear to.”
What follows then is an account of the events that ultimately lead to the end of the affair between Rachel and Carl. It is a chaotic account that isn’t strictly chronological and that is regularly (or irregularly) interrupted by present-time observations.
However, underneath that chaotic account, and jumps between the present and the past, the storyline has been perfectly structured by the author, Anna Raverat – and that is, I think, the weak side of this book. The author’s structure was too evident and it constantly reminded me that this was created chaos, thought up by the author, rather than a real account of someone who is trying to come to terms with her past.
Nevertheless I really enjoyed reading this book and couldn’t put it down until I knew what the ‘terrible thing’ was.
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