‘Rosemary doesn’t talk very much, and about certain things she’s silent. She had a sister, Fern, her whirlwind other half, who vanished from her life in circumstances she wishes she could forget. And it’s been ten years since she last saw her beloved older brother Lowell.
Now at college, Rosemary starts to see that she can’t go forward without going back, back to the time when, aged five, she was sent away from her home to her grandparents and returned to find Fern gone.’
This novel was recommended to me by my boyfriend. I was sat next to him on a tube over Easter when he reached ‘the twist’ – the infamous page 77. He told me almost immediately that I needed to read this book. As soon as I reached page 77 myself, I knew where he was coming from. As soon as I finished the book, I recommended it to my mum (and now I’m recommending it to you).
The start of the novel is good, but largely unremarkable to me – as a fan of John Green, Stephen Chbosky and Winona Ryder, the start (or, middle, which is where Fowler decides to start) of Rosemary’s story is pretty familiar; unassuming young adult with traumatic childhood event meets wild, rebellious young adult and does something reckless. I like those kinds of stories, and I still wanted to read on, but I’ve seen a lot of them.
I’ve mentioned page 77 twice already, but this is the ultimate turning point. A twist that is both shocking and blindingly obvious is so hard to achieve, but Fowler pulls it off perfectly; you’re left both astounded by the revelation and your own stupidity at not seeing it coming. Fowler hints at it from the start, and yet I at least never fully picked up on it. I went from feeling like I’d seen this story before to submerging myself in the narrative completely; while before I’d been able to pick it up for a few pages here and there and happily leave it when I needed to do work or wanted to read something else, I binge-read the rest of it in two days. It only took that long because there were other things that unfortunately pulled me away from it.
The problem with ‘the twist’ is that it adds so many extra layers to the text – I could go on and on about various other topics, but that would spoil it completely. Maybe I’ll write a spoiler-filled piece on it some other time instead, because it’s such an interesting text to discuss in contexts that I just can’t talk about without ruining it.
This book is so deep. The characters are realistic and well-rounded, if frustrating at times, and the story is fantastic. The structure of it works surprisingly well and has hints of meta-fiction that as a reader I kind of love and as a writer I admire. Fowler writes beautifully and has created something incredibly powerful that I could only dream of achieving myself.
Last words on the matter: if you’re not sold at the start, wait until page 77. It’s worth it.