BP is something else. Incredibly visceral, frenetic – a real page turner. Despite a truly hideous (but not physically) central character with no hope of a redemption arc, I was still rooting for Irina somehow as she descends into something akin to madness.
If I’m honest, I finished a few evenings ago and I’m still thinking about it. It’s one of those novels that burrows under the skin – and it would be hard for me to describe it. It’s more like an experience, a waking nightmare and as the reader, you’re left doubting everything the subject has told you. I have no idea if Irina’s confessions are even true, if they colour the way she is or whether they’re pure fantasy.
I was reminded more than a few times of Bret Easton Ellis – Eliza Clark writes in that dream like way that he does, where you’re along for the ride but just barely. I’m thinking of American Psycho which would be an obvious comparison given Irina’s narcissism – but particularly Lunar Park.
Irina is a semi-famous artist living in Newcastle after leaving London and university because she was ‘sick of it’, though her former peers speculate about a breakdown. Beautiful, with no sense of humour, she scouts boys and men to be models for her fetish photographs. Her work turns the male gaze on its head, objectifying sweet (and usually young) male flesh. Just as long as she doesn’t touch them… or so she tells herself.
This changes when she meets Eddie from Tesco. Meanwhile, she’s offered an exhibition spot for past and present work – which sends her down a memory rabbit hole as she puts together a portfolio, and we learn about her past relationships. In present day, Irina’s best friend Flo is clearly in love with her and secretly (or so she thinks) blogs about it.
Do I have to smash a glass over the head of every single man I come into contact with, just so I leave a fucking mark?
This is a real beauty of a book, an extreme one which really appeals to my gore loving side. It won’t be for everyone because of that – it doesn’t hold back on the violence, the sex or the drug use – and that’s the beauty of it. Irina is not a nice or good person but people are still drawn to her because of the way she looks. There’s a lot to be said here about the currency of stunning beauty and youth.
There is also something refreshing about such an unconventional character, especially a female one who does not give a fuck (or acts like she doesn’t) – and I find her quite funny. Her inner monologue is a scream.
I personally love the fact she talks so much about extreme cinema and have made a note of the ones she mentions that I haven’t seen yet. If this is the author’s debut, I honestly cannot wait for her next one.