I can’t remember the last time I read a book written by an author I’ve never heard of. With so many books being published every year and so many books that have been published in the past which I haven’t read, I can’t afford to pick a book at random. A couple of weeks ago though I stumbled upon a review of this freshly published novel – I’m thinking of ending things by Iain Reid – and I couldn’t resist buying it. The title was the first thing that grabbed my attention. For me, it was obviously about suicide. It then becomes clear from the first couple of sentences of the book that it’s about breaking up. The nameless narrator of the book is driving in a car with her new boyfriend. They are on the way to meet his parents in their farm. All the while she is thinking of breaking up with him, but she isn’t sure yet and can’t bring herself to do it. They talk a bit, about philosophical questions and things that have happened to them in the past, but mostly, the book is made out of the woman’s thoughts and her memories. You experience everything from her perspective and very soon you start to notice that something is very wrong. It’s not one particular thing, even though the fact that someone has been calling her from her own number and leaving her strange messages is the most obvious problem at first. But it’s not just that. It’s little things that you may notice or may miss, that, page after page, fill you with a sense of dread and unsettle you.
Every couple of pages, the monologue is interrupted by short dialogues, in which people discuss a horrific event, involving a man having done something terrible. Coworkers of the man ask themselves if they should have noticed warning signs and what could have driven someone to do this. They comfort themselves with the basic human reaction to being faced with a human being who is capable of such an extreme action:
– This wasn’t a rational person.
– That’s true, that’s a good point.
– He’s not like us.
– No, no. Not like us at all.
Usually I hate when a book interrupts the flow by changing gears, but I found myself excited every time that one of those dialogues came up, because they would slowly reveal clues and a big chunk of the time I was guessing and trying to find an explanation that would shine a light on what the hell was going on. I had many theories, but I couldn’t be sure of anything until the end. And when I read the end I had to go back and reread some things. So all in all it’s a very disturbing book. Very philosophical and psychological. It gave me nightmares and reminded me of House of Leaves and the movie Stay, both of which I love. The nightmares, I’m not so crazy about, but those things happen when you look into the abyss of the human mind.