Alice and the Fly by James Rice
Published by Hodder Paperbacks in 2015
Copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley
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.
I’d heard a lot about this novel, so was very pleased to receive a sample copy to review via NetGalley.
The book is narrated by Greg, a young man with mental health issues. He has an extreme phobia of spiders (who he refers to as Them throughout the novel), and he hardly speaks. He addresses his narrative to Alice, a girl at his school who he has started following around obsessively.
I found this book really fascinating, and I was surprised at how well it actually worked having a narrator who’s slightly unreliable, and also hardly speaks to anyone. This could have made for quite a boring book, but actually Greg’s story is gripping and we really want to know what has happened to him in the past. This is also helped by the occasional transcript between the police and other characters in the book, all of which take place after the action that Greg narrates, so we know something dramatic is going to happen at the end of the story. These short sections tell us more about Greg himself, but also give a fuller picture of the other characters in the story.
Greg’s parents are probably the most interesting. His father is a successful plastic surgeon who rarely spends any time with his family, and his mother is only interested in appearances – that of herself and her house. At times these characters are a bit extreme, but they do help you feel more sympathy for Greg, who isn’t given much time or support from either parent.
And you do find yourself feeling sorry for Greg, who obviously needs a lot more help than he is currently receiving. Only one teacher takes much interest in him but otherwise he is left on his own much of the time. You know this is going to end in disaster, and the way the novel builds up to this is handled really well.
Overall I really enjoyed this novel. It is sad and also frustrating at times, but it’s very well written and the subject matter is handled well. It is interesting to see how the behaviour of the characters around Greg affect him, and you just want someone to step forward and do something to help him. Instead, the book builds up well to it’s somewhat inevitable climax…
The novel gives a good insight into the unstable mind of a troubled young man, and I would definitely read more from this author.