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Green Girl | Kate Zambreno | Review

*image via GoodReads

‘The green girl necessarily pines for the past, because the present is too uncomfortable to be presents in and the future, unimaginable."

Zambreno's heroine, Ruth, is a young American in London, kin to Jean Seberg gamines and contemporary celebutantes, by day spritzing perfume at the department store she calls Horrids, by night trying desperately to navigate a world colored by the unwanted gaze of others and the uncertainty of her own self-regard. Ruth, the green girl, joins the canon of young people existing in that important, frightening, and exhilarating period of drift and anxiety between youth and adulthood, and her story is told through the eyes of one of the most surprising and unforgettable narrators in recent fiction—a voice at once distanced and maternal, indulgent yet blackly funny.

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I’m putting out a bold statement that Green Girl is probably one of my favourite books of the year so far. Seemingly apathetic, lost and undeniably broken, Ruth is a protagonist who is drifting. She’s a shell of a woman who’s run away from past demons, with hopeful dreams that she could rebuild her life somewhere else. Ruth for the most part is a tragic figure, a lost heroine in the malaise of London she perfectly encapsulates the essence of what it means to be a young women in the modern world where you’re expected to be living your best life when in reality you may be falling apart on the inside.

As a writer myself Zambreno’s writing is utterly delicious and I found myself wanting to highlight entire passages for future reference. Poetic and utterly heartbreaking, the narrative is fleeting, wistful and nostalgic as she presents Ruth’s life in snippets and vignettes. By the end of the book you never feel as if you get a full picture of who Ruth is. You know she’s fragile and perhaps incredibly unlikeable, but her flaws feel human. She’s a walking contradiction of beauty on the outside, utter conceited arrogance, depression and anxiety on the inside, both loves and hates herself, yearns for attention, yet wants to shrink and forget the past.

Not everyone will get on with this book (and not every has if you look at the GoodReads reviews, yikes!), but even if you find Ruth utterly deplorable I’d definitely at least recommend reading it for Zambreno’s command over her writing.

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