BOOK REVIEW: Alice and the Fly by James Rice

23588512Title: Alice and the Fly
Author:  James Rice
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Pages: 336
ISBN-13: 9781444790108

A spellbinding debut novel by an exceptional new young British talent.

This is a book about phobias and obsessions, isolation and dark corners. It’s about families, friendships, and carefully preserved secrets. But above everything else it’s about love. Finding love – in any of its forms – and nurturing it.

Miss Hayes has a new theory. She thinks my condition’s caused by some traumatic incident from my past I keep deep-rooted in my mind. As soon as I come clean I’ll flood out all these tears and it’ll all be ok and I won’t be scared of Them anymore.

The truth is I can’t think of any single traumatic childhood incident to tell her. I mean, there are plenty of bad memories – Herb’s death, or the time I bit the hole in my tongue, or Finners Island, out on the boat with Sarah – but none of these are what caused the phobia. I’ve always had it. It’s Them. I’m just scared of Them. It’s that simple

 – – –

Heartbreaking, haunting and unforgettable —Alice and the Fly is a dark young adult novel with a protagonist suffering a mental illness, and the consequences of living in today’s world. Even after putting the book down, my mind continues to recall parts of the book, think about particular parts that engaged, disturbed, saddened me; the mark of a truly remarkable piece.

With its introspective reflection of society through Greg’s eyes, the reader speculates that Greg is the one genuine, wholehearted human being in a materialistic world. His entire family is composed of those typical of a generic family —appearances, status, and hedonistic ideals— while innocent Greg, although distant throughout the entire narrative, expresses blatant ideas and emotions those around him compress. His mental illness, however, causes the narration to be unreliable at times, but done effectively to depict Greg’s tone-down reality contrasting with the harsh truth, as exemplified by “transcripts” in between diary entries. If this book is accepted without further thought, it remains a relatively light read. But nothing about this book is explicitly stated, and close attention must be paid to every sentence to fully uncover reality, opposed to Greg’s distant, internalised version.

From first impression, the plot is one of a romance (borderline obsession) involving a girl, Alice, whom Greg is infatuated with. However, the actual story contains many deeper, darker themes that challenge society, those with mental illness, and those who dismiss it. The “antagonist” in this book are the silent bystanders; the ones who dismissed, denied and neglected the growing issue are the ones who could’ve prevented the consequences.

Powerfully written, extremely engaging with memorable characters, execution and plot, Alice and the Fly is one of my favourite books of all time. Never have I discussed a book to such an extent, thought about the numerous sublime meanings and felt such a heavy urge to reread —a must-read for any enthusiasts of dark books, sympathetic viewpoints of mental illness and philosophical journeys.

—RATING: 5 out of 5 stars

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3 thoughts on “BOOK REVIEW: Alice and the Fly by James Rice

  1. Pingback: Bookish Survey 2014 | Ramisa the Authoress

  2. I can’t say I completely loved the book, but I would definitely like to re-read it. I think I missed a lot about Finner’s Island and I’d like to go back over the text so I can understand the final chapter better. If you’re interested, I interviewed the author a few days ago (Interview with James Rice) and he seems like a really nice guy.

    • Thank you so much for this link! I’m checking it out as we speak 🙂
      it’s a very complex text and I had to slow down when reading. A lot of the story’s meaning is lost without a careful close reading.

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