This is possibly the cleverest book I’ve ever read – The Changeling by Victor Lavalle

Book Reviews, Book Thoughts, Recommended, Uncategorized, Writing, Writing Thoughts


A new father is obsessed with his baby. Proud, loving, caring, desperate to care for it. But it’s mother does not think it’s a baby. When she commits the unspeakable then disappears, the father is left devastated – but in the middle of his grief and anger is drawn into a far stranger world than he ever imagined, which he must conquer to recover what has been lost.

This is probably the strangest book I have ever read – and certainly one of the cleverest. And also one of the most difficult. I am thoroughly glad I read this book a few months ago and not after my baby has been born (scheduling ahead from maternity leave here…) as I could only just about cope at that moment. It crosses boundaries books don’t usually broach, but follows it up extremely well. I was left shocked, surprised, thrilled, confounded and delighted by different parts of the story, and continue to think of it with complete amazement. What a triumph!

I am really loath to give very much away at all here, as the surprise and the journey that the reader embarks on is so extreme that I don’t want to ruin the experience. Suffice to say that you will be taken twist and turn and never quite know which way to look.

Lavalle does extraordinarily well at setting up the book. As a (fairly) new parent I identified so strongly with the couple and their new baby, their natural reactions. And it is so solidly based on this world, on our modern understanding of psychology, of cultural norms… that the twist away from it comes as a complete shock. The goalposts move to the middle of the sea. The characters we had so identified with, the world we recognise, is unbelievably changed.

I’m going to highly recommend this: but with a caveat. It has some of the most disturbing scenes that I’ve read, and ideas that I even now can’t think about properly. If you love courageous and experimental fiction and are made of stronger stuff, go for it. My Mum coped. I continue to marvel at it’s daring, imagination and the way it was put together. But gosh, it was tough too!

 

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