Sunday, October 03, 2010
PRACTICAL JEAN by Trevor Cole (2010)
Trevor Cole reeled me in with his opening sentences: "You might think is a rather horrible and depraved sort of story. But that's because you're a nice person. The events of this story are not the sort of thing that nice people think about, let alone do."
Even if you don't admit to being a prurient sort of person, you can't help but find that narrative taunt alluring. Cole knows how to weave a tale and to sweep you along for the wild ride. It's heartening to know that his accomplished storytelling and dark humour have not gone unnoticed by fiction juries. Last week, PRACTICAL JEAN was named to the shortlist for this year's Rogers Writers' Trust fiction prize where it is in handsome company with THE DEATH OF DONNA WHALEN, ROOM, ANNABEL and CITIES OF REFUGE, all novels previously written about in this blog.
When I began PRACTICAL JEAN, I felt immediate kinship with the titular character as she witnesses first hand the horrors of aging and the mess that dying of natural and painful causes can be as she nurses her mother. Relieved by her mother's death, Jean resolves to embrace practicality and to offer "last poems" to her closest friends, so they won't ever have to suffer as her mother did. Determined in the rightness of her cause, Jean embarks on a brave new project and the sleepy town of Kotemee will never be the same.
Lynn Coady writes that "this take on female friendship gives chilling new meaning to the phrase tough love. PRACTICAL JEAN is Trevor Cole at his satirical best."
Believe her and believe me: PRACTICAL JEAN is witty, naughty fun.