Reading Down Under

Red Dress Walking by S. A. Jones

This book, more than any others since I arrived in this country, gripped me. It held onto me and wouldn’t let go, resulting in my reading it not just in one day but in one SITTING. Emily is a dreamy lover of books and William is her long term partner.

From the outset they seem like the ideal couple but soon events and unspoken truths begin to cloud their relationship, characterised in particular by a striking red dress that William purchases for Emily. It’s a strange thing to read a novel where one of the main characters is a book-lover with a desire to go to England but it was utterly amazing from start to finish.
With only one glaring problem. I know lots of people like stories that begin with the end, sating your curiosity for the story that is to be but I generally don’t like this habit. Or rather, I like books letting you think they are beginning with the end but in fact are leading you astray somewhat. I gave up on reading “Red Mars” because the opening chapter showed the main character dying and did far too good a job summing up the entire novel. Why take the time to read it when the author has already inadvertently ruined it for me? I felt the same way, though not as strongly, about this book. The preface contains a pretty serious bit of information that utterly clouded my reading of the novel, almost causing me to stop more than once. What I also found annoying was that, rather than other novels that attempt this tactic, I didn’t re-read the opening chapter because I wanted to but because I HAD to. The first chapter truly is the final chapter and I wish it was in it’s proper place in the timeline.
Aside from this nit-pick however this book was an absolute joy to read. Jones narrates the book in two parts, from William and Emily’s perspectives in first person. She manages to give them both individual voices, with Emily daydreaming and observing for pages at a time and William being far more focused on past events and problem solving. They are both likable characters with sizable flaws, flaws that come to the surface more and more as the communication in their relationship starts to break down. There were parts where I literally wanted to pull on my hair and yell at Jones’ characters, a true testament to her writing ability.
I even forgive her Emily’s fairly lackluster reading list, considering she’s a hardcore reader. Emily loves Jane Austin and her friend Tash feels that Shakespeare has said everything better than anyone could hope to again. Being an English literature graduate from the UK, I am utterly tired of hearing about these two writers but Emily’s deep involvement with the characters becomes fascinating in a way I’ve never seen before. This point may make some people feel alienated from Emily, especially those who aren’t as intense about reading, but her inner monologues are absolutely sublime to read.
With this kind of novel, where the two characters are utterly human and both have a hand in the difficulties of their relationship, I often wonder if it could actually cause argument with readers. After-all, they both commit fairly cardinal sins at worst and stupid mistakes at least in the course of their relationships that we are witness to. I take the position that they are both equally to blame but I know that different people will value the problems in different ways. What I’m trying to say is that this is a book I want to talk with people about. I want to buy copies, give them to my friends and find out their opinions about it. This book was an absolutely amazing read and I’ll be buying my own copy before my flight departs!

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