Mysterious Skin

I remember when the film version of this came out, and I was intrigued by it, but ultimately put off by how many people told me it was full on. The other day I saw the book in the library, and needing something to go into my brain that wasn’t romance, I borrowed it.

Actually, first I read the beginning, to see whether my brain was into it. I read: “The summer I was eight years old, five hours disappeared from my life. I can’t explain.”

I wanted to keep reading.

And reading. And reading.

“I’ve never seen you so absorbed by a book!” special k told me last night. Which is really saying something.

At first I was a little unsure. The writing feels like a first novel – a little unsophisticated, a little obvious what he’s trying to pull off. And I couldn’t decide whether the very confronting content was gratuitous or not.

But the more I read – and the more the narrative travelled from the awful thing that happened to the effect of that awful thing on two very different boys – the more absorbed I became.

Inherent in the premise is the need to read to the end: Those two very different boys can only come to terms with their experience when they meet each other – something they spend the whole novel travelling towards.

The ways they each live their lives create beautiful counterpoints to each other, full of apparently disparate images that work towards a subconscious resolution.

These damaged, god-like boys became curiously dear to me, and I cared very much what happened to them.

Don’t say I didn’t warn you, though – this is definitely not a read for the faint-hearted. I watched the film this morning, and didn’t find it nearly so disturbing as the book. Partly I suppose because I knew what was coming, and I was already invested in the characters. But the film didn’t make me understand, the way the book did, how obscene and awful things were experienced and integrated into an overall life experience.

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