Released: January 2018
Publisher: Bloomsbury Circus
RRP: $24.99 AUD
Genre: Literary Fiction / Surrealism
‘An immensely talented young writer’ – George Saunders
Slip the pin through the skin. Start stitching.
It doesn’t sting. It does bleed. White thread turns red.
Red string. Going in. Going out. I pull. Tug.
Tug the pin. In. Out. Out. Out. Blackout.
Something has happened to Peach. Blood runs down her legs and the scent of charred meat lingers on her flesh. It hurts to walk but she staggers home to parents that don’t seem to notice. They can’t keep their hands off each other and besides, they have a new infant, sweet and wobbly as a jelly baby.
Peach must patch herself up alone so she can go to college and see her boyfriend, Green. But sleeping is hard when she is haunted by the gaping memory of a mouth, and working is hard when burning sausage fat fills her nostrils, and eating is impossible when her stomach is swollen tight as a drum.
In this dazzling debut, Emma Glass articulates the unspeakable with breath-taking clarity and verve. Intensely physical, with rhythmic, visceral prose, Peach marks the arrival of a visionary new voice.
This is a very difficult book to rate, and was difficult to read on more than one level.
The writing is visceral and really pulls the reader in, and Glass paints the portrait of a rape victim in a way that is sure to be triggering for anyone who has suffered abuse, even going into the way the rapist’s smell lingers.
The. Smell. Of. Smoke. Barbecued pork. I smell pork. Pork smoke forking my nose, filling my throat. I choke. I choke. I choke. He is here. I look for Lincoln out of the window. But I can’t see him. But I can see thick drying fat on the black tarmac. Slime like a slug leaves. Like a slug. I think about salt. If I threw salt on a slug it would dissolve and die. If I threw salt on a sausage it would taste better.
Without any clear explanation of what is going on, readers can only assume that the main character has gone through some kind of mental break as a result of her rape, and she starts seeing those around her as other items they resemble in some way. Peach’s baby brother is now a jelly baby, her boyfriend a tree, and one of her teachers seems to be made of custard.
Other scenes show how a victim of assault might start seeing sex everywhere, as evidenced in Peach’s parents’ constant intimate activities and discussing Peach’s own sexual activities with her boyfriend.
Go on, says Mam. Green is a lovely boy. You make such a cute couple. And the sex sounds amazing, says Dad. My face flickers red like Baby’s. I can’t see it. But I feel hot. I turn my face to the fire. I burn with it. Mam giggles and pinches Dad’s cheek. It’s okay, Peach. Sex is a good thing. Me and Mam do it all the time. We just did it now on the kitchen table. It’s human nature, Peach, don’t be embarrassed. Green is a lucky guy. Most girls won’t put out until they are married. But not our Peach. And we’re proud of you. It’s good to get experience, and well, if you get blessed with a baby, that’s even better. I cover my face with my hands. I want to cry. That Green looks like he’s a big boy. I bet you have a brilliant time, says Mam.
The story gets progressively weirder as it goes on, as Peach burns up with rage and injustice, as her mental break becomes more pronounced, and it can be difficult to push through this mere hundred pages, but it does say something important, and is the kind of story that resonates in a totally unique way.
It’s not really possible to say that this was an enjoyable read, based on how tangible all the rape-related things were… and at times, the writing is hard to get your head around, but it does do what few others have, and doesn’t pull any punches.