978-0-375-40731-4 / 9780375407314

So I Am Glad





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About the book:

There is no other word to describe what A.L. Kennedy does with her fiction than alchemy. How else to explain a novel like Original Bliss, which combined the basest of materials--an abused and depressed Glasgow housewife and a pornography-addicted professor--and conjured up literary gold? In So I Am Glad Kennedy does it again, rendering a remarkable love story out of two characters who, on the face of it, are not terribly lovable. Jennifer, for example, is a young woman who lacks what most people have: "whole hordes of feelings, all barrelling round inside them like tireless moles."

As I write this, I can see extremely clearly that nothing terribly bad has ever happened to me. I can't recall a single moment of damage that could have turned me out to be who I am today. I can dig down as deep as there is to dig inside me and there truly is nothing there, not a squeak. For no good reason, no reason at all, I am empty. I don't have any moles.
Jennifer, however, turns out to be a less than reliable narrator when it comes to the facts of her own life. Her parents, for example, had the damaging hobby of making her watch them have sex when she was a child. And now she has a few sexual quirks of her own, chief among them a taste for inflicting pain on her partners. If Jennifer is hardly the stuff of romantic fiction, neither is the man who drops suddenly and quite literally into her life: Martin, a sweating, frightened amnesiac who eventually claims he is Savinien Cyrano de Bergerac.

From this rather outlandish premise, Kennedy builds an intricate tale of mad love, bad love--and in the end, the love that heals all wounds. Is Savinien insane? A ghost? The literal resurrection of a long-dead French writer? Not even he seems to know for sure. As for why he's here now: "I must have been a catastrophe--He made me come back." And certainly Savinien has as many bad qualities as Jennifer--a killer in his past life, a drug addict in this one. And yet only in each other can these two damaged people find their salvation. What makes this story work is Kennedy's quirky humor and stunning prose style combined with a wholly original point of view. She can be every bit as tough as fellow Scottish writers Irvine Welsh or Duncan McLean, but she has a surprising tenderness, as well, investing even the most brutal moments with humanity and a frisson of wonder. --Alix Wilber

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