Things I know, both about myself and about book blogging: I should probably never say no to a book.
Which makes it sound like I said no to this book.
When the email landed in my inbox very nicely asking if I was interested in taking part in the blog tour for Antonia Hayes' novel Relativity, I absolutely said yes. That's kind of my (long and convoluted) point: that I should always says yes to all the books even if I know little about them because there's always a chance that doing just exactly that will make me vair happy. This book made me happy. It made me laugh and it made me a tiny bit teary sometimes and it made me angry and sympathetic and all kinds of conflicted and pretty much just a whole spectrum of unexpected emotions. I thing that’s A Good Thing though. I like books that do that to me: feelings.
So. Relativity. Lemme talk at you about it for a little minute.
S’about a boy called Ethan. I love Ethan. I want to put him in my pocket and protect him from All The Bad Things Ever. He’s excellent and he has this insane knowledge of anything to do with physics. He’s pretty special and I defy anybody ever to read this book and not wind up loving his intelligent, naive 12 year old self. What a little gem of a character he is.
He lives with his Mum, because Dad just isn’t around. He’s never been around, not since Ethan was v small and Ethan doesn’t know much about him, really. It’s all perfectly fine, until of course it isn’t. At first you kind of feel like Ethan’s dad is a bit of an asshat. Or, if you’re me then you think that, but that’s the beauty of this book. It doesn’t let you just make up your mind and stick to your guns like a guns sticking to person. It lets you make up your mind and then throws a spanner in the works and says AH YES BUT YOU DIDN’T KNOW THIS DID YOU and then you feel like maybe you should change your mind. Excellent skills there Hayes. I approve.
It comes at you from the perspective of Ethan and both of his parents and as none of them are particularly reliable narrators, there’s a lot to question; a lot of seeds of doubt that are planted and send you in one direction only to have you going in another in the very next chapter. Which, well it’s pretty clever, the way one minute you’re sympathetic towards one set of circumstances only to be pissed off at the same thing a few pages later. All three characters have very different, very strong voices, which I liked and they all come across really well actually considering it’s written in third person. I was totally invested in all three of them (so invested, you don’t even know): Ethan, Claire and Mark and I was torn, between wanting them to fix things and feeling like they never should.
The story is complicated enough to not be predictable, ever, but still manages to not tie you up in what is even happening here, which again: I liked a whole lot.
It’s a shining example too I guess of there always being more than one side to a story, but it gets that message across without becoming preachy. Nobody likes preachy. Do they? Maybe they do and I am doing unfair generalising. The point is that I don’t like preachy and this book isn’t preachy. At all. It lets you make up your own mind and haunts you a little bit with the things it makes you feel that take you totally by surprise. Explains but doesn’t excuse I suppose is the best way to describe it and trust me when I tell you there are things here that are going to get the hell under your skin. Right the way under.
It doesn’t shy away from its more difficult and more darker side either – another plus - and it absolutely does not paint a picture of good and evil even though it so very easily could. It’s all about the shades of grey this book, and I mean that in the best possible way – that is so definitely not an EL James reference. I promise (I would never.)
It’s a book about actions and consequences and split second decisions that impact on the rest of your forever and the sometimes painful power of uncertainty. It’s beautifully written and it’s raw and honest and heart-breaking but never ever too heavy, you know? You don’t feel dragged down by it ever and you get totally caught up in the lives of this fractured family and their struggles with blame and guilt and forgiveness and even the science stuff didn’t make my brain hurt too much. That’s a miracle I think because my brain and science? They do not go hand in hand. At all.
In a nutshell, it’s very good this book. I am grateful that I got the chance to read it and I wouldn’t hesitate for even a second in recommending it to anybody. Except maybe my BFF (but only because I know it would make her cry!)