14 minutes ago
Tender by Belinda McKeon is one of the most unique books I’ve ever read. I find it a bit difficult to carve out a firm opinion of it because of this. I have nothing to compare it to. It took me a long time to read but not because it wasn’t engaging- it certainly was. I’m normally not a fan of experimental fiction- and I think Tender falls under this category- but the experimentation only served to deepen my attention, not distract as I normally find it does.
The storyline follows Catherine, a girl on the cusp of adulthood, who goes away to college and meets James, a charismatic photographer. The two develop a chummy rapport, but their close friendship becomes far more meaningful to one of them with distressing consequences.
The fascinating thing, to me anyway, is that the story takes place almost exclusively in Catherine’s head, as in we have access to all her thoughts. We are completely immersed in her neurosis, and have access to the most minute reactions to any action or perceived action. She questions everything, especially herself and her interpretation of the scene, and exposes her motives, which are at times bizarre and irrational.
I think I’ve never read writing more excruciatingly honest than this. The point of view is taken to an entirely new level, like sub-cellular close third person. The author pens self-consciousness in a way I’ve never seen before, and it’s ridiculously brilliant. I found myself thinking, I ought to be annoyed by this, I ought to be turned off by these repetitive, obsessive thoughts but instead I was surprisingly, pleasantly, engrossed and it felt very natural to tread in Catherine’s perception. Perhaps because I find myself adrift in my own thoughts often, so I can relate to her. Not everybody will. She isn’t a likable character much of the time, and I think McKeon’s willingness to spend so much energy delving into Catherine’s conscious, exposing her ugly crevices without apology, is very brave. Though Catherine may not come across in our actions, we all have a little Catherine inside of our heads, whether we are willing to admit this to ourselves or not
Full review up on the blog! Link in bio. ❤️