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Wednesday, 4 October 2017

Flesh of the Peach @HelenMcClory @FreightBooks

About Flesh of the Peach

An intense journey into and out of rage and grief, via sex and violence, following 27 year-old artist, Sarah Browne and set mostly in the American Southwest. In New York, the ending of Sarah's recent relationship with a married woman has coincided with the death of her estranged, aristocratic mother, leaving her a substantial amount of money and an unrecognised burden of toxic grief. Rather than return home to England, she decides to travel by Greyhound to her mother's cabin in New Mexico. There she's drawn into a passionate relationship with Theo, a man whose quiet stability seems to complement her mercurial character.

But as Sarah's emotional turmoil grows, there are warning signs that tragedy could ensue. In Flesh of the Peach Scottish First Book of the Year winner, Helen McClory, paints a beautiful and painful portrait of a woman's unravelling, combining exquisite, and at times experimental, prose with a powerful understanding of the effects of unresolved loss.

McClory is one of the most exciting literary talents to emerge from Scotland in recent years.

My review of Flesh of the Peach

Flesh of the Peach is the debut novel by Scottish author Helen McClory, and wow, what an intense and consuming read. It is about grief and the need to belong.

The novel revolves around  twenty-seven-year-old Sarah Browne, an artist, whose estranged mother dies from cancer. Sarah is also dealing with the after effects of the end of her affair with a married woman. She suddenly finds herself alone and wealthy, with the burden of grief upon her shoulders that she does not know how to deal with, and this is the premise for the story. She leaves her New York home to travel across America in a Greyhound bus to revisit her mother's remote cabin in New Mexico

The language is poetic at times, and the sentence structure took me a little while to fully 'get into ' but this is Sarah's voice that we hear, her innermost thoughts, and the way that these thoughts are put down on paper are important, as they truly represent how she thinks, her unraveling grief and her search for who she is.

While reading I really did feel that Sarah saw herself very much as an outsider, someone who observed rather than living life. This is shown in the recollections of her life growing up in Cornwall, were she felt as if she never really truly fitted in. Her toxic relationship with the married woman, and the affair that she has with Theo once in New Mexico, are all about Sarah's need to find her own identity. To find who she truly is.

Aa already mentioned, the writing is beautiful, it's lyrical and I got a true sense of who Sarah was and who she wanted to be. The language and imagery used also helps to paint an evocative atmosphere of both her childhood home, and its almost cloying atmosphere, to the barrenness of New Mexico and its many opportunities.

Flesh of the Peach is very much a coming of age story. It's a story about how the past shapes you, makes you who you are, and that we can never truly escape our upbringing. This book has a wonderful, fresh and cathartic feel to it, that is snappy and to the point, just like Sarah. I really enjoyed it and look forward to reading future books by the author.

With thanks to the publisher and author who provided a paperback edition for review purposes.

Flesh of the Peach was published by Freight Books on 20th April. It can be found on Amazon here.

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