I’ve always been a fan of stalker lit*. When written in a first person narrative and done well, it can offer a delicious glimpse into the psyche of the disturbed. “Things we have in common” by Tasha Kavanagh was a good example of this genre, with its empathy-inducing school girl narrator, and “You” by Caroline Kepnes was a brilliant book which managed to be both a thriller and a pseudo-satire of Generation Y, all rolled up into one big moreish, page-turner. So you can imagine how excited I was to get my hands on Consent by Leo Benedictus, and I am happy to say that it did not disappoint. Told from the perspective of an unnamed narrator whom we accompany into ever more disturbing situations, as well as from the point of view of his most recent subject Frances, it is a short novel, but one which you won’t forget in a hurry.
The story begins with our narrator making tea in the home of the object of his affections whilst she sleeps peacefully upstairs. Needless to say, she has not invited him in. And so the scene is set for what is to become an uncomfortable and ultimately very gruesome story, albeit interspersed with some interesting philosophical questions and blackly comic moments.
As our narrator becomes increasingly fixated with Frances, we ponder some of his previous subjects and the mystery of the human condition, although we are given little explanation of why he is the way he is. I can completely understand how this lack of a back story could make some readers feel unsatisfied, as there is no justification to our narrator’s actions, but personally, I thought that this just added to the creepiness of the whole thing.
I will say that whilst I mainly enjoyed the narrator’s riffs on humanity and behaviour, they did begin to get a little tiresome, and I did wonder once or twice whether they may be a bit of “filler” to break up the main (only) plot. The plot itself was okay, if not a little lacking in, well just some more of it. The book was written in a very clever way though, with the narrator describing parts of Frances’ life in just a bit too much detail, leading us to wonder just how much of what is going on is actually real. He also had an entirely sinister way of incorporating us, the readers, into his web of atrocities which was very inventive. One particular scene was incredibly graphic and not for the weak-stomached. I was appalled and approving in equal measure with that one.
“Consent” has been compared to “American Psycho,” and so of course, will not be everyone’s cup of tea. Whilst it is certainly not for the faint hearted, it is a compelling and clever read.
Plot: 3.5 / 5
Writing 4 /5
Characters 4 / 5
Overall Enjoyment 4 / 5
Total Score: 77.5%
* I may have just made up a sub-genre of fiction