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Book Log 58/2016 - Jodi Taylor: The Nothing Girl

Nothing GirlI’ve burned through all Jodi Taylor’s back catalogue this year – her Chronicles of St Marys’ books and her historical fiction under the name of Isabella Barclay– but since I mostly read SF and historicals I hadn’t considered reading The Nothing Girl. At first glance it looked like chick-lit, which I’m not fond of, however, I’ve loved all of Ms Taylor’s writing so thought I should give it a try. I’m not disappointed. Having read and thoroughly enjoyed it, I’m not actually sure how to categorise it. Chick-lit crossed with fantasy? Possibly. Mystery – yes, there’s a bit of that, too. Romance? Ditto. Or maybe it’s just mainstream fiction. It all depends on whether you think the giant golden horse that only Jenny can see is real or imaginary. The fact is that Jenny thinks he’s real, so that’s good enough for me.

Jenny is an introverted young woman with a dreadful stammer not helped by her aunt and uncle’s overprotectiveness. Her parents died and left her well provided for, but traumatised. She lives quietly in an attic room, fully equipped with bookshelves, computer, and a giant golden horse called Thomas who arrived on the day she tried to commit suicide as a thirteen-year-old. Thomas is still with her – and will remain with her until she doesn’t need him any more.

It’s a complicated family worthy of Jilly Cooper. The daughter of the house, Jenny’s glamorous cousin, has had (or maybe is still having) an abusive on-off relationship with Russell Checkland (currently off) whom Jenny has known since school (where he was one of the few who treated her kindly). Russell, a talented artist, lost his muse and his will to paint when Jenny’s cousin left him. Jenny’s cousin has a new man but doesn’t want anyone else to have Russell – which is a pity because Russell has just asked Jenny to marry him. What? Where did that come from? Well, it’s simple enough. Russell has a fabulous old farmhouse but no money to repair it. Jenny has an inheritance but no life outside of her bedroom. Jenny gets a home, Russell gets to keep his home together. It’s a simple arrangement that’s about to get a whole lot more complicated, especially since Jenny keeps having ‘accidents’. Who’s to blame or is she just very clumsy?

As ever I loved Jodi Taylor's 'voice'. There were definite giggle moments in this book. It's light and entertaining while telling an interesting story of genuine depth.

BTW, I don't think the cover does this book any favours and is probably what originally contributed to me dismissing this book as 'chick lit'. without examining it too closely

Comments

My standard test for "is this thing real, even if other people don't see it as real" is whether the being in question ever produces any effects which are (A) objectively real and (B) impossible or nearly so to explain as "something that the person who believes it's real could do and pretend that their imaginary whatever did".

For this reason, I am convinced that either Hobbes (of Calvin and Hobbes) is real, or that Calvin is a dangerous-grade telekinetic, because together they've performed a couple of stunts utterly impossible for a little boy to manage alone.
The golden horse (Thomas) doesn't produce any effects other than psychological reassurance for someone who has virtually no self-confidence, but Jenny can both smell and touch him. That still doesn't prove anything, of course. He's the equivalent of an imaginery childhood friend who doesn't go away as Jenny grows up. She's almost entirely dependent on his support (at first).
Yeah, then I'd probably put this in the same category as "I Never Promised You a Rose Garden" and other psychological novels in which there's some form of imaginary being or world that's an important psychological support for the main character.

Unless, of course "touch" included "ride", and she managed to get from point A to point B faster than a human could! :)
No, she never rides him. Nothing he does or says affects the material world.
I didn't know she'd branched out! Must try. I adore her lively voice.
She has two 'branch out' books. One is this one, which is a modern day setting. The other uses the pseudonym Isabella Barclay (Yes, the villain from the St Mary's books) and it's a historical romance with slightly older protagonists, called 'A Bachelor Establishment'. Both are well worth reading.
Oh, and there's a short story that follows on from 'The Nothing Girl', called 'Little Donkey' - which I'm reading now. Good, so far.
Thanks for the tip!
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February 2017

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