Esther’s class have a competition. Who can force themselves to faint the fastest? But long after her classmates have forgotten the craze, Esther has mastered the art and through university and her first job in London seeks the perfect moment to execute the ultimate swoon – echoing her mother’s last act. Her preoccupation with auto-asphyxiation overshadows all her actions as she attempts to make a start in life.
The Fainting Game, or Indian Headrush, as Esther’s friends call it, is the pin in this book that holds it together. It’s the monocle that we look through to see into Esther’s story, character and actions. So, at the same time it is all about fainting and not about fainting at all. And, all in all, it was utterly fantastic!
It’s rare that I read a novella. This book was pretty short, and I whizzed through it in just a couple of hours, and it seemed like the perfect length. Evidently to go through what are years of her life in such a short space there were a lot of gaps – but since the focus was seemingly on her mission to swoon it worked well. For this literary device used I’m not sure it could have been much longer, but as it was it felt rounded and complete but still a little mysterious, which I liked. And the end was fantastic.
As I said, we see the whole of Esther’s life through this story of fainting; and this is very much her mindset. She has turned the tragedy and drama of her life into an obsession with fainting; using her focus and attention on that to drown out the other and pressing emotions and difficulties that she faces.
And the bits about fainting are fascinating too. Her descriptions of it; her obsession with falling into a state of semi-conciousness before she disappears. She wishes to escape from the world, and romanticises it, and follows it down strange and dangerous paths, seemingly placing it above all of her other priorities. But her real problems were cleverly visible through this device. We learned at the same time of her relationship with her parents, her history. And it made sense.
Plus, I really enjoyed reading a book about someone facing the same world that my generation faces; the slight confusion of leaving university and trying to enter the world of work in this climate, her thoughts and struggles. And going to places in London that I know!
I wasn’t sure what to make of this book when I read the description, but am extremely glad that I read it – and that I came across the publisher, Penned in the Margins, who look like they do some fantastic things. I’ll be looking out for them!