Friday, August 01, 2008

Review: Out Backward by Ross Raisin

Previous to the events in Ross Raisin’s gripping first novel, teenager Sam Marsdyke was dogged by accusations of rape, forcing him to leave school and live out the rest of his adolescence working on his family farm in Yorkshire, England. When a new family moves in next door with a beautiful fifteen-year-old daughter named Jo, Sam’s father orders Sam to keep his distance.


But Sam’s obsession with the forbidden drives him to stalk the beautiful Jo and the two eventually meet. A friendship develops and it doesn’t take long for the friendship to turn physical. They run away together and all goes well until Jo decides it’s all too much for her and wants to return home to her family.

Sam’s tenuous hold on reality slips as events careen out of his control. This could have easily moved into a thriller direction; but while the story often points towards Sam and his psychopathic tendencies, Raisin plays with the lines of power in the relationship by suggesting that Jo knew all about the rumors of Sam’s past and sought him out as much as he sought her. This nice echo of themes from Nabokov’s classic on the deep examination of the characters and what drives them instead of creating fast-paced action. Written in Yorkshire dialect that recalls the visceral lyricism of Irvine Welsh, some readers might be put off by the prose but those able to soak into it will find a rewarding---if somewhat disturbing---tale of fear, obsession and sexuality.