From Publishers Weekly
Like a pointillist painting, this fine debut is, from one perspective, formless--short vignettes, told from multiple points of view and in multiple voices, that are somewhat puzzling on their own and apparently have no connection to each other. Ultimately, however, these elements merge into a coherent and moving portrait of a young woman's journey toward a life-threatening crisis. In London, one cold day in late fall, Alice Raikes impulsively boards a train home to Scotland. Shortly after joining her two sisters in the Edinburgh train station, she sees something "odd and unexpected and sickening" in the station's restroom that causes her immediately to flee back to London. Later that evening, while walking to the grocery store, Alice broods over what she has seen, then abruptly steps into oncoming traffic. As she lies comatose in her hospital bed, a swirl of voices and images gradually reveals her past--her parents, especially her mother, Ann; her beloved grandmother, Elspeth; her two sisters, so unlike her, both physically and temperamentally; and John Friedman, whom she loved and lost--and hints at her precarious future. The unnamed spectacle of the opening washroom scene resurfaces in Alice's semiconscious haze, and its eventual elucidation comes as less of a shock than a confirmation of all we have learned about her tumultuous existence. Sharply observed details of everyday life and language, original and telling figures of speech and deftly handled plot twists reach a moving climax, while subtly raising the question of whether the objects of Alice's affection--and the sources of her agony--were worth enduring. Foreign rights sold in seven countries.
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
From Library Journal
It is hard to believe that such an assured work comes from a first novelist. Starting in London with a young woman stepping off a curb in front of an oncoming car, O'Farrell gradually lays bare the harrowing realization that prompted the suicide attempt. On one level, this is a love story; on another it is an intergenerational tale of three women (grandmother Elspeth, mother Ann, and Alice, the victim). But to describe it as such sounds platitudinous, which it is definitely not. With smooth prose, O'Farrell moves seamlessly among the victim's family and friends and back and forth in time in seemingly random fashion, slowly revealing her characters' pasts and stunningly bringing the story back to the present. Despite its premise, this is not a depressing book. Published originally in the UK to good reviews, it should appeal to fans of Mary Gordon and Margaret Atwood, though it will draw a more popular audience than the latter.DFrancine Fialkoff, "Library Journal"
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.