The Mirror World of Melody Black by Gavin Extence
Published in 2016 by Hodder Paperbacks
My version: Library
It all starts, as these things sometimes do, with a dead man.
He was a neighbour, not someone Abby knew well, but still, finding a body when you only came over to borrow a tin of tomatoes, that comes as a bit of a shock.
And now she can’t shake the feeling that if she hadn’t gone into Simon’s flat, if she’d had her normal Wednesday night instead, then none of what happened next would have happened.
And she would never have met Melody Black . . .
I really enjoyed The Universe versus Alex Woods, Extence’s first novel, so I was looking forward to reading this, his brand new book. The big event at the start of this book, the death of Abby’s neighbour, gives us an insight into Abby’s life and unusual state of mind – but is oddly irrelevant to the rest of the story. Instead we are launched into Abby’s world, where she swings from utter indifference to complete mania. This builds up over the first half of the book until it reaches its climax in a hotel in central London.
This part of the story is handled really well as we feel completely caught up in the rollercoaster ride of Abby’s life. We get a good insight into her mind and the conflicts she faces on a daily basis, and also find out how much her partner worries about her. The novel is also written in such a way that we don’t feel forced to feel sorry for her – in fact there are some scenes where she comes across as a very hard person to like!
It is the second half of the novel where we get more under the skin of Abby’s illness – and at the very end in the author’s note we find out that Extence himself has suffered from the very issues that our heroine suffers. The book provides an interesting look into the mind of someone suffering from bipolar disorder, and it definitely felt authentic.
However, despite this – and I feel guilty writing this somehow – I just didn’t really enjoy the book. While I found it interesting and I thought the way in which Abby’s illness was portrayed was very realistic and believable, I found it very hard to relate to her story or empathise with her. I also felt the plot suffered in the second half and there wasn’t enough of a story to really keep me going, and I struggled a lot with it.
This is obviously a well written book and the author should be commended for dealing with these issues in such a realistic and raw way. But as a novel it didn’t really work for me and I found I struggled a lot with it in the second half.