Tuesday, 9 August 2011

A new breed of summer reading

Writer. Mother. Musician. Lover. Fighter. Thinker. Poet. Gemma Weekes appears all this and more after reading her first novel, Love Me, published in 2009. Do not let the fact that a bright, young, female musician/poet ‘transitioning’ into writing prose, especially that concerning love and romance, fool you into thinking this will be anything short of beautiful or anything other than potent, for this is anything but chick lit.

Chick lit, romance novels, trash (what you will) have received a bad name and for good reason, too. Bridget Jones’ Diary spurred on a generation of literary works continually rehashing the same old theme of disappointing men, remorse at overindulgence and the woes of one’s dreary career. It would be a pity if Love Me were to be associated with this brand of fiction.

The subject of love is indeed where the roots of this story lie but is also the fuel which sets ablaze a gripping story that pulls you into the grey drab of London and then flings you into the sticky hot summer of Brooklyn - occasionally shuttling to and from St Lucia as you live through protagonist Eden’s obsessions, pains and catharsis: battling with an ongoing infatuation with first boyfriend, Zed, and coming to terms with horrors from that first summer with her first love.

Weekes magics up every sight, sound, smell, touch and even taste with her unique way of describing everything, with few words that manage to echo much louder. She has the true nature of a poet and breaks apart conventional ways of using words: sounds waft, light is loud, humid nights overflow. Love is like a drug, with Eden being drawn in “like a crack dealer attracts stinking, wild eyed cats.” The author’s disregard for sugar coating and putting love and romance in comfortable terms and using expected similies puts this book in its own category of novel.

Blown apart are Black stereotypes with characters such as the tee-total, brooding, guitar thrashing Spanish who abstains from herb yet takes magic mushrooms to break apart the walls of reality. And then there is Eden, herself, locked into adulthood yet harbouring all the hallmarks of teenage awkwardness. Through her narrative Weekes offers insights into the constraints imposed on black musicians being expected to conform to a narrow range of music and also alludes to love’s dark, macabre side.

The novel is pure sensory escapism and a sure fire way to ban the blues, with material in there to please both sexes. Whether or not the heterosexual male can bring himself to buy the gloriously technicoloured covered book is a different matter.

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