by Eliza Robertson
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Pub Date 02 Nov 2017 | Archive Date 12 Oct 2017
A bold debut novel reminiscent of Emma Cline's The Girls; a story of love, lust and the spaces in between, from a 'captivating' (New York Times) new voice in fiction
It is 1950, and Willa’s mother has a new beau. The arrival of his blue-eyed, sun-kissed sons at Willa’s summer home signals the end of her safe childhood. As her entrancing older sister Joan pairs off with Kenneth, nine-year-old Willa is drawn to his strange and solitary younger brother, Patrick.
Left to their own devices, Willa is swept up in Patrick’s wicked games. As they grow up, their encounters become increasingly charged with sexuality and degradation. But when Willa finally tries to reverse the trajectory of their relationship, an act of desperation has devastating results.
Unfolding between the wild freedoms of British Columbia and the glittering beaches of California, Demi-Gods explores a girl’s attempt to forge a path of her own choosing in a world where female independence is suspect. Sensitive, playful and entirely original, Eliza Robertson is one of the most exciting new voices in contemporary literature.
Available on NetGalley
Average rating from 18 members
Goodreads tells me that if I loved The Girls by Emma Cline, then Demi-Gods is a read I’ll enjoy. I did very much like The Girls, and can see why that comparison was made, but for me, they were very different books. Yes, they both had young, female narrators telling their coming-of-age stories and a hazy summer setting, but where The Girls was ultimately plot driven, Demi-Gods takes a far more lyrical road.
The aforementioned narrator is Willa. 9 years-old when we first meet her and in her 60s by the end. The story begins when her mother starts a new relationship with Eugene and his two sons are brought into the mix. Roy and Patrick cause both Willa and her sister Joan’s lives to take a new, interesting and exciting turn.
Patrick and Willa develop an intense, disjointed, disturbing and addictive relationship that is a compelling thread. As well as this relationship, the novel explores Willa’s relationships with her mother and sister, and how she comes to terms with her place in all of this,
‘People applied different words to Joan than they applied to me. They described her as a ‘heartbreaker.’ My mother’s friends call me ‘sly.’
Despite this assessment, Willa is anything but, she is a character you like spending time with, but has just enough edge to her that she keeps you guessing about what she’ll do next.
Often the prose had quite a haunting quality that really captivated me and every so often there were sexual or darker elements thrown into the mix to add friction and tension. Nothing is over-explained, things are revealed gradually and there is an overall easy, languid feel to the novel that is enjoyable, but just at the right moments it throws you a curveball to keep things interesting.
An atmospheric coming of age story inside an unconventional family, and centred around three female characters at different life stages - the young Willa, her sister Joan and their inattentive mother.
As Patrick enters Willa's life, she finds him disquieting but is ultimately attracted to him. Her sexual desires stronger than her fearfulness, she's drawn into a complex relationship leading to odd happenings and sad consequences.
Even as the story takes darker turns, the writing stays delicate and lyrical. Willa’s fondness for her rural British Columbia surroundings are beautifully put.
Sadly, despite the accurately observed slow rhythm of puberty, I felt the story jumped to the characters adulthood a little bit abruptly. I nevertheless loved this book and found it hard to put down.
Eliza Robertson is a fresh new voice I will be reading again.
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