Repeat it Today with Tears
by Anne Peile
Sensationalist books – whether memoirs, biography or fiction – tend to get short shrift from the reviewers here at Bookgroup Info, so it was with a heavy heart that I read the blurb on the cover of this novel. However, on reading a few random pages, I was in thrall to the quality of the writing and totally drawn in to the story. The book is about one of the final taboos – incest, yet it avoids facile moralising and, by writing it from the point of view of Susie, an imaginative adolescent girl, explores with compassion the way transgressive love can develop.
Susie’s parents separated when she was a baby and she grew up either in the care of her embittered mother or her undemonstrative and uninterested grandmother. The low self-esteem that her loveless childhood engendered was to some extent mitigated by exceptional achievement in school and a solitary and secretive nature. Without any other focus for her affection, she develops a rather morbid interest in her father, fed by one old photograph, a copy of his favourite childhood book and a few impatient reminiscences of her mother’s.
Susie’s curiosity about her father eventually turns into a tacit obsession and, in 1972, as a precociously bright sixteen-year-old, she gravitates from south of the river to Chelsea with one goal – to find him. With the help of the phone directory and car tax discs, she discovers his address and manages to orchestrate a meeting with him, without at any point letting on that she is his daughter.
Peile writes with extraordinary tenderness and understanding about the girl’s confusion of filial and sexual love: all Susie wants is to please her father and be the object of his adoration. Their burgeoning relationship is delicately drawn and Peile maintains a hairspring balance between Susie’s vulnerability and the power of the erotic hold she exercises over her father.
REPEAT IT TODAY WITH TEARS is a beautifully written and thought-provoking debut novel. It would make a very good discussion base for book groups and I highly recommend it.