Demi-what? – Book review for NetGalley – Demi-Gods by Eliza Robertson

33414010 Demi-Gods

It is 1950, and nine-year-old Willa’s sheltered childhood is about to come to an end when her two new stepbrothers arrive at her family’s summer home in British Columbia. As Willa’s older sister pairs off with the older of these boys, Willa finds herself alone in the off-kilter company of the younger, Patrick. When, one afternoon, Patrick lures Willa into a dilapidated rowboat, Willa embarks upon an increasingly damaging relationship with Patrick, one that will forever reconfigure her understanding of herself and her place in a menacing, male-dominated world.
Demi-Gods traces the tumultuous years of Willa’s coming-of-age, as she is drawn further into Patrick’s wicked games. Though they see each other only a handful of times, each of their encounters is increasingly charged with sexuality and degradation. When Willa finally realizes the danger of her relationship with Patrick, she desperately tries to reverse their dynamic, with devastating results.
Daring, singular, and provocative, Demi-Gods explores a girl’s attempt to make a life of her own choosing in a world where woman’s independence is suspect, a world that threatens to claim a woman’s body as a mere object for men’s pleasure. A sensitive, playful, and entirely original evocation of the dualities within ourselves and our history, Eliza Robertson’s debut novel announces the arrival of one of the most exciting new voices in contemporary literature.

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Demi-what? Honestly, this is what I wanted to call my post.

I read this book in a day. I really wanted to see what was so amazing, so new, so fresh about it… And I miserably failed.

This story brings up a lot of inferences and references to pop culture and literature, from Lolita to Revenge and Gossip Girl. 

Disfunctional families breed peculiar children. Ever-absent father and constantly drunk mother and disabled and incapable step-father raise five children between them on liquid diet and hazy drug-induced parties. Children are left to their own devices very early on. If mum ever cooks, she ‘scrambles one egg for herself’. If mum ever pays attention to her girls it is only to compare them to slut or share her drink.

What a joyful summer.

Girls grow up too quickly. No, not mature, but grow up. They have to look after themselves and after their little brother. They have to find their own way in life and fulfil their purposes. It is to marry, of course. Do they succeed?

Everything is warped and askew in this family, in this summer house and in this book. Sex is ‘something to get over with’. Love is not spoken of and not even thought of. Relationships and connectedness are non-existent.

Main character, Willa is coming of age in a very peculiar way filled with dead rabbits, camparis, clothepegs and wicked games with her step-brother Patrick.

This book will make you cringe, gasp and shake your head. The story is taking, enveloping and disgusting, in places. The ending is a bit muffled and rushed on. The prophecy is not fulfilled. The result is disappointing.

The aftertaste is very sour and sickly sweet, just like that first summer of 1950.

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