It is my great pleasure to be taking part in the blog tour for Bellevue Square by Michael Redhill. My thanks to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for inviting me to join in and to publishers No Exit Press for the advance copy of the book for review. I’ll be sharing my thoughts on the book in just a moment, but here is what it is all about.
About The Book
Jean Mason has a doppelganger.
She’s never seen her, but others* swear they have.
*others | noun. A peculiar collection of drug addicts, scam artists, philanthropists, philosophers and vagrants – the regulars of Bellevue Square.
Jean lives in downtown Toronto with her husband and two kids. The proud owner of a thriving bookstore, she doesn’t rattle easily – not like she used to. But after two of her customers insist they’ve seen her double, Jean decides to investigate. Curiosity grows to obsession and soon Jean’s concerns shift from the identity of the woman, to her very own.
Funny, dark and surprising, Bellevue Square takes readers down the existentialist rabbit hole and asks the question: what happens when the sense you’ve made of things stops making sense?
Tense, unsettling, claustrophobic, atmospheric but most of all, extraordinary, this book will make you question all that you think you know, have you second guessing every single thing that you are reading, but also draw you into a puzzle which is richly composed, beautifully layered and, for me at least, completely unexpected.
I do not know what I imagined this book would be like when it first landed on my door mat, but I will have to be honest and say that I was not expecting this at all. I had heard many whisperings about the book, that it was unusual and not what people had imagined and I have to say, everything I heard is absolutely true, but in a completely transfixing way. From the very beginning I became invested in Jean, intrigued by her story and the reports of a doppelgänger, one so very alike that people are willing to literally assault her to make their point. If those early scenes don’t leave you delightfully confused but absolutely absorbed in the story, then nothing will.
This is a very complex, and ultimately difficult book to review. Much of what happens is based around Jean’s quest to discover who her looky-likey is, and to track down the mysterious Ingrid. We meet many characters along the way, mainly those who inhabit the eponymous Bellevue Square, somewhere Jean has been assured her double regularly frequents. Each character is beautifully drawn, their individuality shining through the page and each, in their own way, informing the story, although as to how you will not be clear until the end. Things are swiftly turned on their heads when Jean’s friends start to disappear, but a world where nothing can really be believed, is Jean a potential future victim or is she a threat?
The writing in this book is hauntingly lyrical and the pacing slower than you may find in a lot of psychological thrillers. It works perfectly here though, matching the flow of the story. That is not to say there are not moments of high speed, high stakes action, as there are. But there are many moments of introspection and reflection too, times when Jean simply sits and watches the world pass by, rendering the book almost as much a social commentary as it is a mystery.
Dealing in themes such as the invisibility of the homeless, mental health issues and the fragile balance between fantasy and reality, it is a book for which you will need to keep an open mind and it may not be a book which suits all readers. That said, if you allow yourself to become immersed in the story, to follow Jean on her incredible journey, then you are in for a rare treat. I love a book which makes me question all I have read and leaves me with a sense of almost bewilderment and uncertainty at the end and while I am hesitant to ever compare novels, if you have ever read Agnes Ravatn’s The Bird Tribunal then you will have a sense of the kind of feeling this book leave you with. Something pretty unique.
If you would like to read a copy of Bellevue Square for yourself, it is available now from the following retailers:
About the Author
MICHAEL REDHILL is the author of eight novels including Consolation, longlisted for the Man Booker Prize, and Martin Sloane, a finalist for the Scotiabank Giller Prize, Canada’s most prestigious book award. He’s written a novel for young adults, four collections of poetry and two plays, including the internationally celebrated Goodness. He also writes a series of crime novels under the name Inger Ash Wolfe, one of which, The Calling, was made into a feature film starring Susan Sarandon. Bellevue Square won the 2017 Scotiabank Giller Prize. Michael lives in Toronto.
Author Links: Twitter
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