“This is what always happens to pure perfect things, given time. Circumstances change. People change. The world moves on and I am left behind.” – Alice and the Fly, James Rice
Greg, a teenager tormented by his phobias, is a social pariah – among his peers at school, his workmates and his own family. But when a girl, Alice, recognises his existence and extends some kindness toward him, his obsessive thoughts churn. Just to see her is enough, and never to speak.
A book about a boy in his own isolation, suffocated by psychological horrors.
Through the stories of his family and schoolmates, Greg’s personality is further developed – the importance he takes in particular anecdotes of the people around him speak of his unnerving, but acute awareness of his surroundings. Each story furthering the distance between him and others. From his mother’s obsessive need to get the approval of her rich friends through an extravagant dinner to Alice’s attachment to her sunglasses to conceal her bruised appearance, Greg is in a constant state of social observation.
While Greg’s general lack of words can be at times frustrating, the character was consistent: continuously unsure of whether to say what he wants to say, not wanting to sacrifice any speech that could be scrutinised. His silence is his character, and his phobia is his core – they are interdependent.
James Rice’s debut novel eloquently depicts the internal monologue of a disturbed, but ultimately helpless person. I found myself at the end of the novel, feeling not afraid of the protagonist but pitying Greg’s dangerous lack of control over his internal demons.