ARTICLE – Review (December 2018)

 

A bold and brave experiment that works

It wriggles like a larva on a pin

Peach by Emma Glass

Reviewed by JON GOWER

BRIEF novel? Terse novella?  Work of art?  If one had to plump for one of the three to describe this debut piece of fiction it would have to be the latter.  Emma Glass’s work is most certainly located at the one-off, indubitably unique end of the literary spectrum.  It is a bold and brave experiment, and it works.

Pinning it down isn’t easy.  It wriggles like a larva on a pin. 

A student, the eponymous Peach has been attacked by a sexual predator and gets no sympathy from her sex mad parents.  Alone, she stitches up the tears in her body.  The little solace she finds in the company of her boyfriend Green is stolen from her when Green is attacked in turn, and hospitalised.  In an already dark tale the shadows then continue to darken as Peach is stalked by her attacker, until, that, is she murders him and then dismembers the greasy body.  Her family ends up eating the contents of black bin bags stuffed with sausage meat at a barbeque.  You get the horrific drift.

But reducing this terse story, which weighs in at fewer than 100 pages to the  plot is to lose its core and unsettling strength, its out-and-out weirdness, its psychology of upset and disturbance.  The attacker is described, phallically enough, as a sausage so that Peach remembers elements of the attack like this: 

‘I see black. His black mouth. A slit in the skin.  Open. Gaping.  Burnt black.  Burnt flesh.  And his charcoal breath clinging to my skin.  Suffocating. The tears slide over the grease and off my face.  My body buzzes.’  

It is cloyingly effective, stuffing the reader with hideous and cloying detail about the greasy attacker.

Visceral and brilliantly imagined Peach reminds this reader of the impact of reading Iain Banks’s  Wasp Factory or the way in which early Beckett novels throw you off balance. 

It can, at times be quite literally stomach churning, and in that respect also reminds one of the Chuck Palahniuk’s short story “Guts” which famously turned or churned stomachs during readings in the US. 

But there is nothing gratuitously horrible here: Peach is shot through with anxiety, tight wires of paranoia and a complete blurring between the real world and the feared world.

Emma Glass is to be saluted for shaping a story quite unlike any other.  It is destined to be a cult hit, but it deserves more than that. 

George Saunders offers an extravagant little cover blurb that suggests this little book “Renews one’s faith in the power of literature.”  In this case the extravagance of the opinion is fully deserved.

 

Peach by Emma Glass is published by Bloomsbury Circus in hardback, price £12.99

Jon Gower has over thirty books to his name, including Y Storiwr, which won the Wales Book of the Year award, An Island Called Smith, winner of the John Morgan Travel Writing prize and The Story of Wales which accompanied the landmark TV series. He is a former BBC arts and media correspondent and has recently been working on a book about the film director Karl Francis. (Photo: Emyr Jenkins)