Behold Sarah is an incredibly unique book published by the new publishing house Clink Street Publishing. I’d like to thank the publisher for sending me a review copy of the book.
Sarah’s autobiography will interest anyone who is curious about life’s meaning, the value of self-discovery, and the search for some form of God. It is, in itself, a blueprint of self-analysis, and at the same time a description of Sarah’s raw, rich life, and her restoration from despair to wanting to live. In reading Behold Sarah you will time travel with her through her singular, often murky, ever emerging past. She shares her story with an italicised god – but whose voice are we actually hearing? Perhaps Sarah’s voice and God’s are one and the same. Prepare to float on the flotsam-jetsam Thames, be guided through quirky parts of London, be banged up blissfully in a high security prison, fall in and out of love, and out and into sex, and, deep breath, find yourself in the painfully comfortable paradox of the therapy room.
I would, despite recent discussions and protestations about the use of this term, describe this book as ‘literary fiction.’ It is quite unlike any book I’ve ever come across before. It invites deep analysis (though not the type that puts you off reading it, and is in fact really fun to do), and I think asks as many questions as it answers – but that’s all part of its charm.
After an admittedly slow start which initially made me worry that I would have trouble reading it, the narrative kicks off into a weirdly fascinating exploration of the protagonists’ life, from early age right until present day. For this reason it doesn’t really have a plot as such, but acts more as a self-reflection narrative – so if you’re put off by that kind of thing, it might not be for you. However, those who love a good character build-up and exploration will very much enjoy it. Those who are also interested in post-modern experimentation with different forms of writing will also love this book; it is peppered throughout with play scripts, poetry, and non-linear narration. It is a train-of-thought narrative and we often find that Sarah has gone back to her previous notes and writings and reflected on what she has written previously and gives further thoughts and insights. For this reason, I think the book is a brave step into a creative kind of storytelling of which many of the mainstream publishers are just too scared to take advantage.
The novel kicks off with Sarah explaining that she is feeling suicidal and can’t decide whether to live or die. She is a psychotherapist, and decides to sit and analyse her own life and thought processes and come to a conclusion. This is such an interesting approach to take as in this way, the entire novel itself becomes a product of Sarah’s character traits and instincts. Throughout, God’s voice punches through in an italicised font and speaks to Sarah on a subconscious level. Often she will react to the voice but is unaware that she’s heard it or acted upon it:
Many of my poems are about love, but this one is about Sam’s untimely death.
GOD it was timely
Or was it timely? You died instead of suffering.
It draws out an interesting internal debate of the concept of God and what God is. Is he a real thing like many people believe, or a manifestation of ourselves, our own brains, a coping mechanism?
Sarah often retreats into her ‘Hut’ or ‘Willow Cabin’ inside her brain which acts as a safe house or a sanctuary when she is feeling low or vulnerable or really wants to explore parts of herself and her past or her history. It’s a fascinating insight into how the mind actually thinks and works – Sarah is showing us herself by showing us how she thinks, rather than how thoughts should be put down on paper. Some passages have no punctuation at all:
I’m not getting this issue sorted out is it possible that we are created to be monogamous monogamous sexually don’t think so we are created is there a creator if so if so how the hell are we meant to know what is expected of us
For this reason, it is creatively unique. What I also love is that Sarah is not just made into a one-dimensional main character who is deliberately crafted into something that all readers are expected to fall in love with. She does have controversial thoughts and opinions, she does tell stories of having done bad things in the past, she does have irrational emotions, but this only serves to make her more real. That, I think, is what a novel should do with a character.
This is definitely not a switch-your-brain-off, beach-read kind of book. It’s a lot more than that, and that’s why ultimately I enjoyed it. There’s a time and a place for reading this kind of novel, but it keeps on giving back to the reader each time you return to it. The book is full of scandal, emotion, and intrigue. It makes you think, and exposes you to types of literature that you might not otherwise consider. A job well done.