“Yo. Hear the bell?” I say over my shoulder to Thorndike, who's lying spread-eagled on his bed, face down. The only parts of him moving are the bright yellow soles of his trainers, bobbing up and down erratically like headlights. He’d cleaned them last night before bed, as he always did. Scrubbing and picking and brushing any specks he’d picked up from the linoleum. Like he was determined not to carry any of his day into the next.
The closest description I can give to the feeling that this novel gave me was the joyful uncertainty of IBS (and I'm sure that Reid will be psyched to know that I've made that comparison). But hear me out. You know something's wrong. You don't know what's causing it, you don't know how it's going to manifest itself - only that it will, and soon. You ain't gonna have any control, and you can't stop it. You feel a bit sick. This novel feels like a slow descent into that same feeling as it begins to spin uncontrollably away from you.
"Can I tell you a story?"
"Yes, one about me," I say. "It's one I've never told anyone....."
“The DNA sample that you have provided does not match any of our records. Please return another sample to us.” He paused and read it again. Without saying anything, he flipped it over and skimmed the other side. It listed the countries: 0%, 0%, 0%. Another small line at the bottom: “Your DNA sample has not returned any matches.”
Through the knees of his suit trousers, woollen and scratchy, the child could feel the wet soil seeping. He had found a snail to watch.
Jim Sams is our protagonist, a prime minister-cum-cockroach who has lived the world as a hated-being, a tiny spot on the pavement of Britain and has now woken up wearing the skin suit of the most powerful man in the country. The premise is ridiculous, but then again, so is the politics and it mirrors this quite perfectly.
On the first page, we learn that ‘Tequila Leila’ (as she’s known to her friends) is not at home, cuddled up in bed and warm, but instead she lies dead in a metal rubbish bin on the outskirts of Istanbul - a city which lives and breathes its own personality as loudly as the characters that live within it. We feel immediate devastation that this woman, a person who Elif describes with intimate detail, has met her end here. As Leila herself says: “She could not believe that her mortal existence was over and done with [...] Last night she had left her fingerprints on a whisky glass …”
The story centres around two young people, Connell and Marianne - both relatably strange in their own unique way - and follows them as they grow up, at times intertwined, and at times apart.
The air was so hot that it hovered around her nostrils even as she walked. Somehow the air outside felt warmer than the hot blood running through her veins, and it made Judy uncomfortable. There hadn’t been a single breeze between her house and the town hall which had given her any release from this feeling, and her skin was already prickling at the thought of pushing open the door and feeling the cool air that only a place with stone walls 10 feet thick could have on this summer day.
So many sounds that she couldn’t place. But they were coming from a place. Did the place come first, or the words? She sang them so they weren’t wriggling around in her throat like a fish. Like a plaice. She laughed and saw colours.