Book Review: Forget Yourself by Redfern Jon Barrett

Continuing commissions from theindieview.com, this interesting 75,000 word novel came to me at the end of July with a most intriguing description – the first one that was really right up my street.

Blondee is in a prison, of sorts. She occupies on of fifty huts inside a walled compound. She has no memory of how she got there or where she came from but she does have flashbacks to a previous life and of people she might have been acquainted with. The people inside the compound tell her she is a thief, she must have been as she has long fingers. She’s also highly sexed and is accused of being a “cheat” – something she doesn’t seem to comprehend.

She lives in this compound with some bizarre and bizarrely named individuals – Burberry, Tanned, Gut, Pilsner, and Ketamine; none have memories of their time before the compound and all seem to be convinced that they are petty criminals. They are existing rather than living and those who have imprisoned them have no visible presence on the inside, no discipline, no rules, no guards… here’s your prison, now get on with it.

Told in the first person (and more effective because of it), this tale grabs you from the first page. It is immediately disturbing and intriguing and though not brutal in content, the theme is oppressive enough that no violence is necessary to convey the world. It’s just one of those books that really gets under your skin. Might not appeal to everybody because of it, but it certainly appealed to me and it put me in mind of Danny Boyle’s confrontational style of cinematography, only in prose form.

The biggest appeal though is its strangeness. The people in the book are not conventional hero, villain, anti-hero. They are simply people and they have all (presumably) committed minor crimes which makes you wonder from the start why such minor infringements are deserving of such a harsh punishment in the form of prison – maximum security for petty criminals and fed on out of date food? Something’s not right here…

I couldn’t put this down – hence why I finished it in such a short space of time (over a weekend!). It reads incredibly well; all credit to the beta readers (and the author) because I spotted only one typo. The text did not grate on me with bad grammar or sentences that you often think could have been put so much better, no all of these have been ironed out. It flows well, the dialogue feels organic and the narrative fully absorbs you. One of the problems of first person narrative is often that we get too much observation and not enough reflection. Blondee though is satisfyingly self-reflective as a character so another thumbs up there.

Bad points? Not many if I’m honest. Despite the meticulous editing there are a couple of typos “peaked my interest” stuck out a couple of times. The actual correct spelling is “piqued” – but this is minor. I didn’t feel the ending had a satisfactory conclusion; their reason for being there felt a little bit of a let down – almost mundane considering the intriguing nature of the plot.

A superb book though – if you only buy one indy book this year, you could do a lot worse than this!

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