Wow, Emma Forrest is just so fascinating. Truly. Mesmerising. Heartbreakyachey. Gorgeously sexy. I was greedy for this book, guzzling down her terrible sadness like it was some kind of delicious. Which makes me what? A disgusting voyeur? An empathetic reader?
Emma Forrest was a journalist in the Sunday Times when she was 16. I read her in my parents paper, already older than her and envious. I couldn’t have written anything then – I have needed to exist for years before my words could carry any weight. Ms Forrest was friends with Julie Burchill back when I could imagine nothing cooler. More importantly, it seemed she could write effortlessly.
I read one of her novels – “Namedropper” though I can’t recall anything about it, then she dropped off my radar. When I got this proof I read the blurb at the back which says if you loved “The Bell Jar” and “ A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius” you will relate to this. Why yes, I do love both those books. Hmm.
Forrest has had a life full of pain. Literal pain, where she cut herself or allowed men to hurt her, and mental pain, where suicidal impulses torment her.
Her memoir is a book of grief and loss. She mourns the death of her psychologist and the death of her relationship with a man she believed to be Mr Right. We don’t need to know who this guy is, we know (well, most of us) what it is to believe in a relationship and have it end without our understanding. The fact that her guy happens to be a super famous movie star only adds an extra frission to the voyeurism.
We can accuse her of self absorption but she’s got there already. If you hate her, well, she’s already hated herself harder. When she’s with the movie star his fans bitch about her online and she finds herself drawn to their insults. The message seems to be that you can’t hurt her more than she can hurt herself.
She writes her way, dazzlingly, through the grief, and emerges, I can only hope, healed.
I read this book at a very pertinent time and appreciate her openness about mental health. This paragraph helped make things click into place regarding someone dear to me:
“Mania flows like a river approaching a waterfall. Depression is a stagnant lake. There are dead things floating and the water has the same blue-black tinge as your lips. You stay completely still because you’re so afraid of what is brushing your leg (even though it could be nothing because your mind is already gone).”
I also adored her descriptions of her parents. Her mother’s anxiety chimes with me. I too am able to turn something calm into something very worrying.
It’s not Plath nor Eggers, it’s Forrest, and it’s very, very good.
Order from Waterstones online or available in stores. (Use your Waterstone’s stores people…don’t lose ’em.)
And watch this interview with Ms Forrest.