Angela Young's Speaking of Love: A Novel is our latest Book Group book, and an excellent one. Angela was brave in tackling a difficult subject - schizophrenia - for this her first novel, but her approach to it is ingenious and the result uplifting and refreshingly positive.
Set over four days in July 1996, the book covers a far longer period by the clever use of flashbacks and memory sequences. We meet Iris, now recovering from mental illness, her estranged daughter Vivie and their close friend Matthew, and it is their multiple voices which recount a family breakdown and the consequences of wearing hearts far from sleeves.
The mosaic-like pattern of the story has been put together with great skill and it works beautifully, I think. Emotionally, the feel of the book is very exposed and 'aware', like ungloved hands on a bitter day, and as Iris's illness takes hold and affects all around her, the reader feels - in sympathy with the other characters - as if they are walking on shifting shingle: what is real, what is sound, what can be relied upon?
As counterpoint to the delusional, hallucinatory episodes Iris suffers, self-contained stories and dreams have been woven into the narrative, while the theme of the explanatory and redemptive power of the told tale is used throughout, culminating in Iris's own storytelling performance. For those who have yet to read the book I shan't reveal the ending, suffice to say I found it perfect.
Angela will be delighted to answer any questions about her book or respond to points raised, so please all have your say on "Speaking of Love" in the comments here.