Review: Katherine Carlyle

Katherine Carlyle
Katherine Carlyle by Rupert Thomson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Katherine Carlyle tells the story of a young woman still struggling with her mother’s death 7 years before. Her unusual beginnings, that of an IVF baby whose initial cells sat dormant for 8 years before implantation and emergence as a person, magnify her sense of abandonment by her father, an international journalist whose work, as well as his inability to deal with his own loss, keeps them estranged.

Kit sets out on journey, allowing coincidence and chance encounters guide her trajectory. Going on her gut, she travels from Rome to Berlin and beyond, always encountering older men who want to father or bed or befriend her. Her own desires are unclear to her. On the one hand, she is in control, making contact and leaving when she wishes. On the other, she is drifting, allowing the people she meets to ‘do’ to her. Eventually, she brings herself to the far north and, spurred by a violent encounter, has an epiphany.

So, this book. The actual writing – the sentences, the paragraphs – is beautiful. I liked the beginning. Kit is beautiful, cool, sophisticated. She’s confident enough to skip college in pursuit of something more meaningful to her. As the story goes on, however, she began to appear to me more mentally imbalanced. Something is off kilter in how she views herself and her place in the world. With each change of name, transfer of locale, disposed-of phone, she became more a spoiled little rich girl, with scanty care for anyone else’s feelings, least of all her father’s. The story became, for me, a child’s petulant game of ‘Daddy, come find me and prove that you love me.’

And, for G-d’s sake, with a testimonial from Philip Pullman and a journey to Svalbard – Svalbard! – How is it possible that there are no armored bears? I kept hoping for a chance encounter with Iorek Byrnisson and for the adventure to begin.

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