A tale for winter

And Now You Can Go
by Vendela Vida

I partly picked this because the stylised cover picture looked like a girl walking in the snow and I thought it would fit nicely with my wintry feeling. However, aside from the book starting in December, it was hardly wintry at all. Quite good, though.

Ellis has only recently moved to New York for grad school when she is accosted during a walk in the park by a man with a gun. She manages to escape after quoting poetry in an attempt to change the man’s mood. The book opens with this encounter and goes on to describe the next few months of Ellis learning to deal with what has happened, how it has changed her and how others treat her.

This isn’t the dark story that it might seem from that description. Ellis is funny, terrible with relationships and continually frustrated by everyone else’s expectations of how she should act now that she is officially a victim. Not that this is a comedy either. I really don’t know how to classify it. Maybe as a character piece?

Vida does a good job of collating the various reactions a person might get to the announcement that they’ve been held at gunpoint. There’s the people who suddenly want to hang out with her, the people who want to protect her, the people full of advice. But every one of them is a rounded character as well, fully and fallibly human.

This book challenges preconceptions. Ellis’s attacker is white and politely spoken. His intention is not to rob or rape Ellis. Vida deliberately leads the reader astray, omitting important details until later in the story.

This is definitely a literary novel, in that it’s about the effects of events rather than events themselves, and it picks out interesting little details, but it also has a clear storyline with a decisive beginning and end.

First published in 2003 by Jonathan Cape.

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