‘I clap along with them, and they all smile at me as if I’m a many-headed beast who is at last letting them put bows in its tentacles, braid its mange.’
I haven’t posted a review in a long time – my excuse is that I started a new job three weeks ago, and thus haven’t had time to read as much. That, and what I have read I haven’t felt strongly enough about to review – either I disliked it but didn’t hate it, or it was OK but I didn’t love it. I wouldn’t recommend any of these recent reads.
Then Bunny came along.
‘They look as out of place in the diner as two pieces of Easter confection in the apocalypse.’
I was through in Edinburgh for the day, and only had thirty pages left of my current book at the time – The Mars Room. While I had found the book easy to read, the writing style meant I felt distant from the protagonist, and this distance was not helped by changing POVs, nor the fact the story was not as interesting as I had thought it would be. Unfortunately, I hadn’t thought to bring another book with me. Whoops, looks like I’ll have to go to a bookshop, I have no choice!
Since this trip to the bookshop was unplanned I decided that I would be sensible and good and only buy a book if it was on my current Want To Read list – bad enough that I hadn’t brought another book and needed to go to the bookshop, I really should buy something I know I’d actually read, rather than picking something up on a whim. Unfortunately, none of the titles on my list jumped out at me. I found the books, I read a couple of pages, but they just didn’t grab me. I resorted to picking up books purely based on their titles and the design of their spines, seeing if any of them would spark an interest. Bunny‘s spine stuck out, as did its cover. Then there was the blurb.
Samantha Heather Mackey couldn’t be more of an outsider in her small, highly selective MFA program at New England’s Warren University. A scholarship student who prefers the company of her dark imagination to that of most people, she is utterly repelled by the rest of her fiction writing cohort – a clique of unbearably twee rich girls who call each other ‘Bunny’, and are often found entangled in a group hug so tight they become one.
But everything changes when Samantha receives an invitation to the Bunnies’ fabled ‘Smut Salon’, and finds herself inexplicably drawn to their front door. As Samantha plunges deeper and deeper into the sinister yet saccharine world of the Bunnies, the boundary between fiction and reality begins to blur.
A spellbinding, down-the-rabbit-hole tale of loneliness and belonging, creativity and agency, and friendship and desire, Bunny is the dazzlingly original second book from the author of 13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl.
As one of the characters in Bunny says ”Well, I hope you find your book […] Maybe it will find you. Sometimes, you know, that happens’. I read the first couple of pages and I was hooked, cliche as that statement is. The writing style was darkly comic, from the description of the ‘Bunnies’ to the protagonist Samantha’s wish to destroy them: ‘They always came apart from these embraces intact and unwounded despite the ill will that poured forth from my staring eyes like so much comic-book-villain venom’. Although the book appeared to be a mix between Heathers, Mean Girls, and The Secret History, an already-been-done exploration of the darker side of a privileged university setting, I didn’t mind. I wanted to read more. This was the sort of book I needed at the moment, a book that had comedy within its darkness, a book that would (hopefully) be more entertaining than depressing, something to easily dip in and out of on my lunch break-
I’ll stop right there. I read this book (all 373 pages of it, apart from the few pages I read in the bookshop) in a day. I know it’s another cliche but I couldn’t put it down. Not because it was what I expected, but because it was the opposite. The writing style was still brilliant, and I enjoyed the characters and the plot, but around page 100… well… I don’t want to spoil this book but things take a very bizzare, unexpected twist. For the rest of the book I found myself questioning what was really happening and what was happening in Samantha’s mind. Whatever you think this twist is, I can promise you that your guess isn’t it. All I can tell you is that you’ll have to read the book to find out.
‘My words are far away. The words I need are high and floating in the sky like so many out-of-reach balloons. […] Why can’t I pull these words down from the sky?’
Bunny appears to be one thing, at first, then it quickly spirals into something far more sinister. It will certainly not be to everyone’s taste, and I will admit I did consider putting the book down when this twist occurred – but it was just so unexpected, I had to see what lay further down the rabbit hole. The book goes from making fun of pretentious creative types (The poets brace themselves for imminent, overeducated poverty […] fake poor and fashionably deranged’) to imitating their style of writing, just as Samantha is drawn into the Bunnies – one chapter where she speaks with them as a hive-mind, narrating as us, saying we did this and we did that, was particularly unnerving. I realise I’ve spent most of this review talking about how unusual this book is, how strange and disconcerting it is rather than the actual plot, but that’s only because I don’t want to spoil it for you. This book was unexpected for me in more ways than one, and I’m so glad I decided to pick it up.
“What do you think, Samantha?” Fosco asks me.
That it’s a piece of pretentious shit. That it says nothing, gives nothing. That I don’t understand it, that probably no-one does and no-one ever will. That not being understood is a privilege I can’t afford. That I can’t believe this woman got paid to come here. That I think she should apologise to trees. Spend a whole day on her knees in the forest, looking up at the trembling aspens and oaks and whatever other trees paper is made of with tears in her languid eyes and say, ‘I’m fucking sorry. I’m sorry that I think I’m so goddamned interesting when it is clear that I am not interesting. Here’s what I am: I’m a boring tree murderess.’
Some people may say this sort of thing about this book and I would honestly understand why they would, even though I personally enjoyed it. It is a bit pretentious, and it is difficult to get your head around but, unlike the vignettes and poems of the ‘Bunnies’, this is a book that I will remember for a very long time.