I have fallen in love many times. One of my first loves was Dustfinger, the dark but caring misfit from Cornelia Funke’s Inkheart series. As I grew, I learned to love more complex characters, falling deeply for Alobar, the king-turned-nomad of Tim Robbins’s Jitterbug Perfume. I was helpless to Mr. Darcy’s classic romance, a love with which most readers of Pride and Prejudice would identify.
Very rarely do I feel hate. Or, maybe not hate, but anger and disgust, packaged together with sorrow and a deep sense of apprehension. Kate Zambreno, intentionally or not, made me dislike a character so much that I attached myself to her. I worried about her and I became visibly upset when her actions were not what I would want them to be. A fictional character, an American girl living in modern day London, who has so little personality, and what little she has is so unlikeable. I think I fell in love with her.
Green Girl, published in 2014 (revised and updated after an initial release in 2011), is a terribly angsty book, but one the reader will sympathize with. It’s not the typical teenager angst– my parent’s don’t understand, people just don’t get me, I just want to be an adult. Ruth, the protagonist, is an adult living in the adult world, working and trying to get by, trying to survive. But everything she does feels like she’s trying to destroy any possibility for success. She’s self-destructive to a dangerous degree. The novel is told from a first-person perspective, with a nameless and possibly omniscient narrator describing Ruth and all that she does or doesn’t do. We follow this girl in her day-to-day life, working at an awful retail store, living with a possibly crazy roommate, having awful sexual encounters. There is the constant theme of desire that plays heavily throughout the book. Ruth tries to sell “Desire” to customers walking by her perfume stall in the mall. Ruth wants to be desired by the people around her, and she desires a different kind of life, one she won’t achieve.
“She is such a trainwreck. But that’s why we like to watch. The spectacle of the unstable girl-woman. Look at her losing it in public.”
And we watch as it all happens. We read on because we can’t understand how it can get worse, how her life can continue to crumble. But it does.
Overall, I’d recommend this novel by Kate Zambreno, if you don’t mind disappointment. The writing is well-done, the characters well-developed. Infuriating, but well-developed. It was a frustrating book for me, but I enjoyed it in the end. A quick read and easy to get through.
The first page follows: