Tag Archives: Rebecca Jessen

Gap by Rebecca Jessen


gapI find it

on the bedside table

where I left it

 

the only meaningful gift

from Mum

 

a tattered

second-hand copy

of The Outsiders

 

maybe

it was Mum’s way

of telling me I fit

somewhere.

Writing a novel is hard. Novels are long works, fiction is draining, editing and rewriting is time consuming and laborious. But harder than all of that must be writing a verse novel. I cannot even fathom how painstaking that must be. I can, however, feel how carefully every word, every line break, every page break, must have been considered by Rebecca Jessen when she wrote Gap. It is like a skeleton of a novel, stripped right back to its bones, but it still creates the full impression of a narrative. A body has been found in suburban Brisbane. Ana, a woman doing her best on the wrong side of the tracks, is implicated. Her former lover, also a woman, is a police officer investigating the case, torn between loyalty and duty. Ana’s sister Indie lives with her to escape an abusive home environment. There’s so much on the line in this novel and it seems so unlikely that it’s going to work out okay. And the characters, their risks, are so real that it’s just heartbreaking.

This novel. I confess on a first read I was a bit stumped. The verse made it hard for me to get into the world of the novel. The line breaks gave it a stilted feel. I finished it in half an hour and gave it three stars on Goodreads. I think I read it far to quickly. Remember that old line, from The English Patient I think, that a reader should move her eye at the same speed as the writer’s pen? Imagine Jessen’s pen writing Gap. The verse forces you to consider each of Ana’s thoughts. Slow down. This is not a lunchbreak read, that’s not doing the work justice.

That time

of the season

the sky

brilliant blue

before nightfall

 

the cold

chases

the day at both ends

 

Indie’s out

at a friend’s

 

I don’t do well

alone

at night

not anymore

 

something mocking

in the silence

a feeling

that pulls me

tight

On a second read I got it. It’s easy to give this one a couple of go rounds because it’s so short. But because it’s so short if you struggle getting your teeth under the skin of the novel you don’t have much time to ease your way in. Perhaps that’s where a second reading helps too. The end of the novel is ambiguous, which will probably irritate some readers who like nice tidy endings in which they all go home for tea. But really, it couldn’t have ended any other way. I can imagine this being a cult favourite, solace for young lesbians trying to find their place perhaps, a paperback you’ll reread and reread until the cover falls off. I’m not sure if I should give it 4.5 or 5 stars now. But I am sure that you should read it. And then read it again.

Gap, Rebecca Jessen: four and a half stars.

Read it: slowly. Read it twice.

 


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