Honest, straightforward, heartbreaking and insightful.
Alice and the Fly
Hodder & Stoughton
A spellbinding debut novel by an exceptional new young British talent.
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.
What a fantastic debut novel – James Rice has captured the essence of youth, loneliness, love, secrets and mental illness and extracted a tale that is simply told yet powerful in its sparseness. Told mainly through the observations in The Fly’s (Greg’s) diary and the police transcripts of their interviews (no spoilers here) we learn about Greg’s spartan existence, his loneliness. Greg’s acute and brilliant observations of the world he lives in are revealing and confronting; told without melodrama, or malice, reported as is, matter of factually, which somehow makes these observations even more powerful. The missing elements in his life, love and kindness – are conspicuous by their absence.
The police interviews very quickly alert you/forecast a dire act has been committed and slowly the author teases out the circumstances of this, one diary entry at a time – you will be spellbound, you will be captivated by the unravelling of this story and will not want to put the book down – I couldn’t stop turning pages until I knew the entire history of Alice and the Fly. Then I felt saddened. What an unnecessary sadness; life could have been so much easier. Life could have been so much more for all those involved, Greg is not the only one isolated in this book.
Rice writes an exceptional debut; his narrative is calm and clear and bitter sweet and has an authenticity that is undeniable. Greg’s diary entries ring true and elements resonate within us – who has not been bullied – as an adult or a child? Who has not fit in – be it at school or place of work or even in the home? Who has not felt isolated at some point in their life? Who has not stored secrets in the vault of their own mind? There are elements here we can all relate to, there are opportunities here for change and awareness that should not be ignored. Beautifully written with a natural voice that is intelligent and respectful, a narrative that is distilled with an element of realistic optimism…
Very glad you enjoyed this, Carol. It sounds like an interesting perspective on mental illness and obsession. Not entirely sure it’s my sort of novel. Still I give Rice ‘innovation points.’
Certainly innovative and well written Margot, I did enjoy.
Ohhhh…. very keen to read this! I hadn’t even heard of it!