Girl Meets Boy by Ali Smith

DATE FINISHED: June 22nd, 2012 

RATED: ****

SYNOPSIS:  Anthea can’t find any enthusiasm for the Pure corporation for whom her increasingly thin sister Midge has found her work. She is fascinated, though, by the mysterious messages that have begun to be graffiti-d around town and the person who paints them. That the person is a girl doesn’t phase Anthea in the slightest, and she is happy to sink into a mutually joyful relationship with Robin who regales her with the story of the boy-girl/girl-boy from Ovid’s Metamorphoses, Iphis. Midge is horrified, but when Pure reveals itself as less than, she is forced to re-evaluate everything.

THOUGHTS:  Released as one of the Canongate Myths series (in which established authors re-write old myths for a new audience), Smith has written a wonderful love story that captures the happiness of Ovid’s original whilst relating it to utterly contemporary themes. Writing with a light and playful touch, her witty, rhythmic stream-of-consciousness prose reminds me of a less-introspective, more of-the-moment Jeanette Winterson.

The obvious metamorphic theme relates to the sexuality of her characters, but in fact the biggest transition in the story is actually within Midge, whose world is turned back to front. While Anthea embraces her unexpected love easily and wholeheartedly, Midge’s journey to discover and accept love is the more poignant. It is the joyfulness of the love between Anthea and Robin, and Anthea’s experience of it, though, which lifts this novel, and makes the reader smile helplessly.

“I went outside mournful, and I hit pure air.  The air was full of birdsong.  I went outside expecting rain but it was sunny, it was so suddenly, so openly sunny, with so sharp a spring light coming off the river, that I went down the side of the riverbank and sat in among the daffodils.”

FOLLOWING ON:  Lighthousekeeping by Jeanette Winterson.  Other Canongate Myths worth exploring are The Helmet of Horror by Victor Pelevin and The Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood (The Helmet of Horror is more interesting, though).

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