Eggshells by Caitriona Lally

Writing: 5 Characters: 4 Plot: 3
World building: 5

Vivian Lawler is odd. Very odd. She’s been told that she is a changeling so she roams about Dublin looking for paths back to Fairyland. But this is not the point of the book. Vivian tells her own story with nary a narrative arc. Instead she describes in meticulous detail her perceptions, her thoughts, her actions, and the reactions of others. Vivian is trying to learn how to engage with the world and we are along for the ride. I give the author top marks for world-building, but it is an interior world she has crafted. A very rich, excruciatingly different, interior world.

It’s a rare book that can give the reader the full experience of what it is like to *be* someone else. Not to be yourself and live through other experiences, but to literally be another person with a completely different mental environment. This book does that so well that you literally become this strange creature and perceive the world from inside her head. As an aside, when interviewed the author expressed no plans for sequels saying “it’s a pretty intense head to live in for a year”.

The writing is exquisite – every sentence worth reading. Some of my favorite lines:

“I never know how to respond to people who want small complete sentences with one tidy meaning.”

“They each talk as if the other wasn’t there. They would shove their words into the ears of a cockroach if they thought it would listen.”

“Employers wont hire me to work in their offices when they can hire a shiny woman who speaks in exclamation points.”

“I change the channel to a large woman singing a soaring tune in another language before an orchestra. I close my eyes and try to imagine living a life that demanded such climaxes but my life soundtrack is more of a nursery rhyme with three repeated notes.”

I found this book interesting to read for the reasons above but wouldn’t say it was enjoyable. Good craft, well implemented, but I didn’t look forward to reading it. Vivian is not a person I would want to know or with whom I could have an emotional connection, but I did enjoy the writing and the author’s ability to skewer her reader directly into such an abnormal brain.

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