On Loving Josiah by Olivia Fane

DATE FINISHED: June 18th, 2012 

RATED: ****

SYNOPSIS:  Eve is a charming, untameable, sexually liberated wild child, with sociopathic tendencies and a psychiatrist who has utterly fallen for her charms. But Eve bears a child to an earthy, grounded gardener, who takes on the responsibility of tending to the young Josiah along with his plants, while Eve continues to float about happily, perhaps manically, upsetting their care workers. Plucked from their care at the age of 7, Josiah is tumbled from foster home to foster home to residential care home, until at the age of 14 he meets classical scholar Thomas and a world of love he has not known opens up to him. This is the story of a boy who has fallen through too many gaps in ‘the system’.

THOUGHTS:  Eve is a wonderfully drawn, extraordinarily vivid and spirited character – perhaps on the cusp of insanity, but perhaps just ‘different’. Thomas’ introspection and academia are equally well realised, although the nature of his love for Josiah makes reading from his perspective a more uncomfortable experience. I imagine his philosophical soul-searching will also put some people off, but I feel this is necessary to understand his character, and the plot moves on before it becomes quite too much. Josiah himself did not really come to life for me until towards the end, although this made sense within the context of a boy whose parents were stolen at such an early age and is really just surviving rather than living throughout most of the story.

Give or take a few misplaced personal pronouns (should have been picked up at editorial stages) this was a well-written story, with challenging ideas but – for me more importantly – great characters, in a style that reminded me of Barbara Trapido or a less-caustic Fay Weldon. I’m very interested to see what Fane writes next.

FOLLOWING ON:  The relationship between the Cambridge academic and the boy reminded me of that between Lewis Carroll and Alice Liddell (fictionalised in both Still She Haunts Me and After Such Kindness), but the style of writing and ‘type’ of characters reminded me more of The Travelling Hornplayer by Barbara Trapido.

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