‘Like John Fowles’s The Magus’

I almost feel like I should be doing a proper literary criticism, of the sort I haven’t done since school: Synopsis, Themes, Characters, Style, Symbolism, Summary. That’s because this feels like a proper bit of “literature”. That’s a word I use with some trepidation: usually “literature” means “stuff I feel like I ought to have read but probably won’t actually enjoy” – whether it’s modern lit or classic lit. And don’t get me started on “chick lit”. This isn’t one of those bits of “literature”, though. It’s intelligent, thoughtful, and heavily character-based, yes, but it’s also very easy to read and it’s got a damn good story. That’s because most of Roz’s books are very different. She’s written under a number of well-known names, including [REDACTED] and [CAN’T TELL YOU OR I’D HAVE TO KILL YOU], and she knows how to tell a rattling good yarn. She’s not your usual literary novelist.

One of her other readers summed it up best – Memories is like John Fowles’s The Magus. I loved that book when I was a teenager, and I’m now getting a hankering to read it again. It’s the sort of literature I enjoy reading, combining a slightly unsettling plot with hints of more beyond. It’s not the depressing realism of your typical Booker novelist or the light fluffiness of a slice of middle class city life.

Memories is about a pianist who can’t play any more who goes to a hypnotist and starts channelling, not a past life, but a future life. Anything more would be a spoiler, so I’ll stop right there. Roz’s writing is some of the sharpest I’ve read in a while. She uses short, punchy sentences, punctuated by powerful metaphors and vivid descriptions. The result is some of the most readable prose I’ve come across in a while.

I read this in four parts as it came out, and I will admit that after the first episode, I was slightly dubious about where it was going. I was enjoying it, but once she introduced characters who were regressing to past lives involving Jack the Ripper, there was a small part of me inwardly groaning and hoping it wasn’t going to turn into some cheesy From Hell scenario. By the end of the second episode, I still wasn’t much reassured. But I’m glad I stuck with it, because the end is an absolute rip-roarer. (Her husband Dave popped up on Twitter when I mentioned my concerns, and assured me I wouldn’t anticipate the end. He was right. I should have known Roz wouldn’t resort to cliche without good reason. She’s better than that.)

I enjoyed this immensely. I’m torn between 4 and 5 stars, but that’s only because I’m really, really picky when it comes to giving out 5-star ratings, and I’d have enjoyed it more without the enforced breaks in the middle. However, it’s an easy four and a half. Memories is sharp, well-written, and a damn good read, and I’m looking forward to whatever Roz does next.

Matt Kelland

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