The perfect book for me is one that reads like a film. But I should preface this by saying that my tastes in music, television and books are all pretty similar. I like to be taken to dark places.
Averil Dean’s debut book, Alice, Close Your Eyes is aptly titled, because there are things in this book that will make you want to close your eyes.
If it were a movie, it would be an erotic psychological thriller in the tradition of film noir, and Lana Del Rey’s Born to Die would be the soundtrack.
Stay with me.
Alice presents as a woman who has everything. She’s financially independent in her own right. Street smart. At ease with the night and, admittedly, nursing an odd break and enter obsession.
We’re gripped from the first page as she runs her gloved fingertips over the well placed furniture of her latest target’s house, looking for the box containing treasures “of no value to anyone but me and the guy who collected them.”
A guy, we soon find out, whom she intends to seduce.
But what would drive such a woman to seek out a liaison with someone she already knows to be a dangerous man?
The need for an answer to this question drives us, along with Jack, into a rapid spiral of darkness that has us hooked to the last page.
There’s a sense of detachment as you read, that gets ever more chilling as you realise the reasons why Alice does the things she does.
Del Rey’s lyrics haunted me all the way through this book.
“You’re not good for me, but baby I want you, I want you…”
From the James Dean figure in Blue Jeans, to the crazy Ride Alice takes with him, it’s all there. The need to self-destruct.
A ceiling high painting of the raven on its perch, the rabbity pink of the albino’s blue eyes, the strawberry red spots of blood in snow are clues along the way, to a story unfolding like a Del Rey clip.
A chic, gritty, twisted paradise.
Alice may not be the one who pulls the trigger, but she is certainly the one holding the gun.
She is far from passive. She is a woman so much in control that even she doesn’t realise how much she craves letting go. Handing it over to someone bigger and more powerful. And she has good reason to want to.
She has the kind of history you like to think doesn’t happen to real people. Though you know it does. And that in itself is disturbing.
Alice is not just a woman on a mission for revenge or scary kinky sex. She’s a woman seeking to reclaim what was lost in childhood. A sentimental thief, in more ways than one.
The things Alice does are not pretty. But they are understandable. And this book neither redeems, nor judges. It simply bids us take a ride in Alice’s shoes.
Her story taps in to the nihilism of our present day world – the one Del Rey inhabits. It’s what happens when you get the dream that you’ve been living for, only to realise – too late – it wasn’t quite what you imagined it to be.
Alice’s world is a microcosm of what ails our society – the things we like to close our eyes to, which is another reason why this book makes for a compelling read.
As Del Rey says in the opening to her clip, “it takes getting everything you ever wanted, and then losing it, to know what true freedom is.”
Alice, Close Your Eyes is a film waiting to happen. You can picture every frame of it. And you can’t stop yourself from looking, even when you know it’s going to hurt.
If you want to take a ride on the dark side, then this book is for you.
Do you read to escape, immerse or be confronted? What does it for you, as a reader?