Powerful, reflective coming-of-age novel in which a lost 17-year-old fumbles to find her identity beyond an abusive relationship.
Though The Tiny Gestures of Small Flowers is Emily Critchley’s debut novel for adult readers (Notes on My Family was her widely acclaimed debut for young adults), it’s an accomplished, powerful, mesmerising story that explores a seventeen-year-old’s embroilment in an abusive relationship with an older man. Shifting between two timelines, it’s also a potent coming-of-age novel, and a fascinating portrait of a mother-daughter bond.
The steady, measured style coupled with the present tense immediacy creates tremendous tension. There’s a sense that something is simmering. In Nell’s past, which we enter in 1983, she and her artist mother Alice move from London to her deceased Grandma’s rural cottage. Everything is new and different, not least because this is the first time Nell attends school, where she experiences a succession of awakenings as her world opens up. Here she realises that not everyone is the same, that boy and girls are “very different.”
After a nasty falling out with the group of wealthy, sneaky girls she’s fallen with, Nell experiences the worst of school relationships: “Girls sneak up on one another with whispered words and turned shoulders. Girls work slowly, stripping away the thin layers of self-esteem.” And then, after her harrowing first experience of sex, Nell loses all hope for her future, concluding that “her life is no different to anyone else’s and she hates herself for ever thinking it might be.”
The narrative shifts back and forth between Nell’s school days and 2003. At 17, she’s moved to Brighton vaguely hoping to start a new life. She’s still bookish and thoughtful, but has never found her way. Her life here begins in a bookshop, for she “needs somewhere safe to think about what comes next, to reflect on her first night in the city.” She starts dating Scott, who’s more than ten years her senior, and it’s not long before instances of coercive control escalate. Worse follows. Much worse. And though Nell is aware that “there was something wrong with her life, she had no idea how to change it.” Reaching out to her mother helps, though, and light and hope glimmers through the fog of Nell’s life as a young adult.
Seventeen-year-old Eleanor has left rural Lincolnshire for Brighton in search of a fresh start. Everything goes right till everything goes wrong-a funny, tragic, unpredictable story of a young girl's dangerous journey through an abusive relationship and coming out the other side. Critchley gets inside the mind of both abuser and abused laying bare the strange and strained logic of both, but in the end her protagonist emerges bravely and triumphantly the less deceived but not before things have gone terribly wrong.
|Publication date:||15th July 2021|
|Publisher:||Everything With Words|
|Primary Genre||Modern and Contemporary Fiction|
‘Outstanding’ — Patrice Lawrence, author of Orangeboy
‘Fizzing with energy and purpose, a vibrant new voice in UK YA’ —
Lisa Williamson, author of The Art of Being Normal
‘A rare precocious talent’ — Alex Wheatle, author of Crongton
‘What a voice!’ —Jenny Downham, author of Furious Thing