One of the hardest things that I have discovered when blogging about books is putting my thoughts into words when the book has completely won my heart, mind… and soul. It’s pretty clear from that first sentence that if you were to scroll down to the bottom of this review, you would see five shiny stars sitting there. This is one of those moments where I make excuses about my own ham-fisted writing style and apologise in advance for making a hash of the following words. This is where I advise you, no matter what, to run out and order this book. And haven’t I made my job instantly harder with such an opening statement?
The thing about Rebecca Wait’s debut novel is how it powerfully captures such raw emotion and distils it onto the page. I connected with the novel fully, due to its revolving around depression and suicide. I have read many a book that broaches this subject and many do it well, but Rebecca’s efforts have topped the pile. Her depiction of an illness that destructs families and personalities is entirely accurate. And with that comes an overbearing feeling of tension and despair dripping through each sentence. It’s worth noting that despite the subject matter, I couldn’t put the novel down. I in fact read every page over two sittings in one day.
Everything is so powerful – from the subtle opening of a happy family on a beach to the heartrending conclusions that will pull at your ideals. The story follows an everyday family during the following years after a death from within their household. There is no real central character and what Rebecca does supremely well is differentiate each person’s voice and feelings so succinctly. We find out early on that Kit killed himself, leaving behind his parents, his sister Emma and his close brother Jamie. The family is in pieces, Emma is bullied in school and has drifted to religion in her grief and Jamie has left the family home altogether. The parents survive, barely, through a strained relationship of empty rooms and arguments.
The crux of the story revolves around Emma travelling to find her brother Jamie and attempt to find some protection from her school life. Once the family begins to grow closer, their memories spill from the page and begin to paint a solid narrative. The reasons are not clear for this familial upheaval from the outset and Kit’s death soon becomes one of mystery, despite how clear cut his suicide was. Rebecca teases with this hidden secret and it keeps the reader spurred on and as hungry for closure as the ensemble.
Rebecca devotes plenty of time to each character and their own journey, allowing you to become close to them. It was natural to feel protective of Emma as she went through the daily rituals of school which drove her to tears. And it was easy to watch the tender brotherly bond between Kit and Jamie in the flashbacks. There is a simplicity to it all that allows for total immersion and there’s a haunting beauty among the words, too. There are brilliant moments of solitude that resonate deeply and tell the reader more than what is on the surface. To be honest, I could write/talk about this novel endlessly…
The most important aspect of The View on the Way Down is that never does Rebecca shy away from darkest corners of depression. Kit’s dialogue is often uncomfortable to read and will get the audience taking several breaths in order to arrive at a full stop. It isn’t a happy read, but that is why it is so damn good. I was floored by Rebecca’s opening work and am counting down the days to her follow up.
Published by Picador. This book was kindly sent from the publisher.