22 August 2010

Exley; Brock Clarke

ExleyExley by Brock Clarke
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Exley is one very strange book - the intertwining of fantasy and reality is so well done that by the end it's difficult to tell exactly what's real and what's not. By "fantasy", I don't mean the genre starring otherworldly ideas and creatures, I mean the type of lies one makes up to help you get through difficult times.

And M is definitely going through difficult times: his father has left, to go to Iraq, while his mother states quite clearly that no, T has not gone to fight. As a result, M is sent to see a shrinkmental health professional; this book combines the notes from those visits with M's journal in a way that makes you question what is actually going on. There's added confusion because M writes in a way that echoes that of Frederick Exley, author of his father's favorite book. I was surprised to learn that Exley actually existed in our world, not just in the world of the book!

The descent of Dr. ? (we never do learn his real name) into an alcoholic Exley-substitute is just a little too rapid to be believed - are his notes really his notes, or are they M's version of his notes? Does T really die, or are the Dr. and C. in collusion about it even being T in the hospital? Why do so many people give in to M's fantasy, or is this just another part of his fantasy?

All-in-all, a very satisfying read.

ARC provided by publisher.

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