Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Book review - Student Body, by Rafeeq McGiveron

In this first novel by career academic Rafeeq McGiveron, we are shown the anatomy of an extramarital affair. Little by little, McGiveron dissects the affair like a rat on a laboratory table, laying bare all of its hidden mechanics and unexpected effects.

The main part of the book traces the development of the affair, a typical enough affair, with all of its terrible consequences, some of which Rick O’Donnell, the bumbling, well-meaning protagonist, manages to avoid, and others of which he must bear the pain. Towards the end, a shocking development places the whole situation in a darker, more sinister light. The young woman is brutally murdered, and O’Donnell is implicated in the crime.

It is left to the reader to decide whether O’Donnell, already in a precarious mental state, has killed his lover in a dissociative state or whether the sleazy professor has done away with her, and whether the one witness in O’Donnell’s favour will be sufficient for him to avoid conviction for the crime. The book closes, with beautiful symmetry, just as it opened, with O’Donnell facing the possible, even the probable, ruin of his whole life as a result of his ill-judged affair.

The characters are beautifully drawn out. It’s not easy when writing in a limited third person point of view to give the reader information the protagonist doesn’t have, and in this McGiveron excels, giving us a portrait of a nasty, self-centred, possibly sociopathic young woman determined to have what she wants no matter the cost to anyone else, while poor, trusting O’Donnell retains his belief in her purity and innocence.  I found O’Donnell himself eminently believable; a clever young man who has found life easy, and when presented with his first major challenge, fails dismally because nothing in his life has prepared him to encounter difficulty.

Although I’m not, in general, a fan of graphic sex in a book, the various sexual episodes were beautifully excecuted, to the point where, despite an activity being described which I, personally, consider beyond disgusting, I found myself carried along and, for those few minutes, sympathising completely with O’Donnell as he wallowed in the warm, gushing milkiness. Now to be able to achieve this, with a reader who is actively repulsed by the activity being described and whose ears in any case go back at the very suggestion of explicitly described sex, is a very considerable achievement, and I applaud it. The ability to carry the reader from his world into your own, whether he will or no, is the quintessence of the writer’s art.

So we have a nicely symmetrical plot about a very human situation that’s familiar to everyone – after all, who hasn’t known someone whose life was ruined by adultery, or who was badly taken in by an unscrupulous person – we have very substantial character development, and wonderfully evocative sex scenes. But all this would not make Student Body the fine piece of work it is without the author’s wonderful use of language. A writer’s writer through and through, McGiveron wields the language like a Bach or a Corelli, winding it around and back on itself in layer after layer of baroque curlicues, producing an exquisite tapestry of imagery that delights both mind and senses. I enjoyed it more than I can say, and confidently expect to see it winning awards.

Student Body is available from AMAZON.

1 comment:

  1. Wow, I am so glad you enjoyed the novel. It's always nice to hear back from readers, but...well, this is doubly pleasing indeed!