Another Rebecca by Tracey Scott-Townsend

I remember reading Tracey’s previous novel, The Last Time We Saw Marion, and feeling that I’d somehow been taken over by the characters within the pages. It was an intensely emotional book, and I didn’t think I’d ever experience that strange feeling from another novel again, let alone one by the same author. Yet, reading AnotherRebecca, the same thing happened to me again. I spent the entire morning totally gripped by the unfolding events, and when I had to put the book down to go to work, I felt disoriented, confused. It was as if real life was no longer real, so involved was I in the lives of these fictional characters, so skilfully created by the author.

Like Marion, Another Rebecca is told from the viewpoint of several characters. Firstly, we have Rebecca – a young girl, trapped in the role of carer to her mother. When the story opens, she is in the grip of a fever in hospital, and experiences something which changes the course of her life.

Bex is her mother. An alcoholic, Bex used to be Rebecca, but her “Great Grief” put an end to that. She stopped the clocks and became someone else – a walking corpse, physically alive but emotionally dead. Nothing and no one can alter the course she has set for herself. Bex waits for only one thing, and the hoofbeats are fast approaching…

And then there is Jack. The man who believed he could save Bex and bring Rebecca back to life. The man who finally realised that she could never be his, and the one who is now desperate to help his daughter before it’s too late. Because she hears the hoofbeats too, and it seems she is willing to sacrifice everything for what they signify.

This story held me in its spell from the very first page. What’s so clever about Tracey’s writing is that she describes unearthly events – fleeting glimpses of something the reader cannot see, whispers we cannot fully hear, a brush of something not quite real against our skin – yet at the same time, she pulls no punches in her earthy descriptions of the all-too-human protagonists. Bex’s physical disintegration is shown in depressing clarity, and Rebecca’s mental deterioration is unnerving to witness. These people are imperfect humans, and their flaws and failings are not skipped over but shown in all their sordid and frightening fullness. Yet the stark narrative of these issues is coloured in with beautiful, poetic imagery. The author paints a picture with words – a picture as striking and lovely and as haunting as the featured painting, There Is No Night by Jack Butler Yeats.

My heart ached for all three of the main characters, and for Sebastian and for Evelyn. The book is all about loss in one form or another – loss of love, loss of self, loss of life, loss of sanity. At times it’s hard to feel sympathy for Bex, when she behaves so selfishly and outrageously, dragging her daughter into her joyless existence. Yet, as was the case with Marion, it’s hard to judge her too harshly. The skill of the author lies in creating fully-rounded characters, who evoke compassion and love, even when behaving in the most appalling manner.

By the end of the book, I felt I had read something truly remarkable. I am so impressed with Another Rebecca, as I was with The Last Time I Saw Marion. I think Tracey Scott-Townsend’s writing is something really special, and I’m happy to recommend this book to anyone. I wait with eager anticipation for the next one. 5/5