The Life of Almost by Anna Vaught

Review published on September 7, 2018.

This is quite an extraordinary book the like of which I’ve not read in a long time. More a novella than a novel, it’s deceptive because quality not quantity demands the reader spend as much time on it as a much longer book. I was drawn to it initially because it was blurbed as a retelling of Dickens’ Great Expectations, a favourite of mine. But it is much more than that.

An homage to both Dickens and Shakespeare and would it be pushing it to cite Dylan Thomas too? Or am I seduced by the very Welshness of the vernacular and imagining an Under Milk Wood-ish intonation in my head? Welsh legend is present without intruding.

It’s prose but it’s not, it’s poetry but it’s not, it’s magical realism but it’s not, and it’s all of those things but it’s not! So what is it? And does it matter? It’s quirky and lyrical but underneath all of those things that it is and those things that it isn’t is an exploration of grief and bereavement told from Almost’s point of view. But even that is not as straightforward as we might expect. It’s the life of Almost told by Almost about Almost. But it’s also an examination of relationships and of the people who matter in our lives whether their input is positive or negative.

This is a book for lovers of language, poetic in thought and word. This is book for those whose imaginations allow themselves to be taken anywhere without resistance. This is a book for those who delight in mermaids and Dickensian digressions, lovers of language and literary allusions.

This is what I like to call a ‘once in a while’ book. Once in a while a book come along that defies categorisation or summary. Erudite assessments of characterisation, plot, style and technique are redundant here. But sadly, I don’t think this is a mainstream book. It will appeal to a niche audience who will delight in it but I can’t see it hitting the best seller lists though I doubt that was ever the intention.

Gill Chedgey 4/2

The Life of Almost by Anna Vaught
Patrician Press 9781999703028 pbk Aug 2018

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