Alice and the Fly
by James Rice
Published: 15th January 2015
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
This is a book about phobias and obsessions, isolation and dark corners. It’s about families, friendships, and carefully preserved secrets. But above everything else it’s about love. Finding love – in any of its forms – and nurturing it.
Miss Hayes has a new theory. She thinks my condition’s caused by some traumatic incident from my past I keep deep-rooted in my mind. As soon as I come clean I’ll flood out all these tears and it’ll all be ok and I won’t be scared of Them anymore. The truth is I can’t think of any single traumatic childhood incident to tell her. I mean, there are plenty of bad memories – Herb’s death, or the time I bit the hole in my tongue, or Finners Island, out on the boat with Sarah – but none of these are what caused the phobia. I’ve always had it. It’s Them. I’m just scared of Them. It’s that simple.
I did receive a proof copy of this book in exchange for an honest review, but once I began reading it and realised how much I loved it I ran out to Waterstones on its release date to pick up the official finished book. That in itself is a testament to how much I enjoyed this book.
I engaged with this book immediately, and this was because I was fascinated with the main character of this novel. Greg tells his story through the pages of his diary, and we understand instantly that he is an isolated and troubled character, often ridiculed by his peers, and dubbed a ‘psycho’ and also belittled by his family, who strive to keep up appearances.
It has been said that the author has incorporated some of his life experiences into this novel, and I think this gives the novel a shocking sense of realism. It made the character more believable, and furthermore it draws in the reader, because you understand that these situations are drawn from real life experiences and so the emotions behind the words hold a lot more depth.
This is definitely a character driven novel, so the pace of the novel is a little slower but I didn’t find this a problem at all because thankfully the characters kept me turning the page eager to find out what would happen to them. If you’d normally avoid a slower read, I’d still really recommend this to you because I couldn’t put it down at all.
Although I really wanted to race through this book, I found that I wanted to pace myself so that I could digest every sentence in the novel. The author has a fantastic, descriptive, writing style that I’ve not come across for quite a while. He has the ability to make your skin crawl, and move you close to tears with his words. This is one of the reasons that I loved the book as much as I did, it’s incredibly well written. I felt like I was stood next to Greg, looking round at his surroundings and breathing in his world.
We are taken into the mind of the character through his diary entries, and then this is juxtaposed with transcripts from police interviews. I thoroughly enjoyed the two perspectives, and I love an unreliable narrator and that I had to work out what was real, and what was distorted. I thought the author’s approach to mental illness, and many other touching issues was delivered well and really stuck with me after turning the last page. The author’s portrayal of the inexcusable cruelty shown towards someone that doesn’t understand is truly heartbreaking and left me close to tears at times. Breathtaking writing.
There was no way this review would ever do this book justice. I cannot praise it enough, and I also cannot believe this is a debut novel! It’s a fascinating read, from an author I think we all need to keep an eye on because I suspect he’ll go far. Given the impact this book had on me, I’d buy anything this author writes. This book will stay with you long after you’ve read the final words.
I cannot recommend this mesmerising, stunning, debut novel enough. Please get your hands on it, you won’t regret it!
If you’d like to grab yourself a copy: Amazon link