Is the title cringey? I couldn’t decide?! I felt like just entitling this post as a ‘book review’ would be boring, but I’m questioning my decision now. Let me know because I read a lot of books so I might make this sort of a post a regular addition but I don’t want to embarrass myself with a cringey title every time.
Self-doubt aside, let’s get on with it.
As a child I read A LOT. I was one of those know-it-all type pre-teens who mugly sprinted through every new Harry Potter book within 24 hours. What a pain in the arse, eh? However, a four year degree in History and English which required the reading of close to INFINITY books that I had little to no choice in, put me off reading if I’m honest. Or at least off books that required any type of mental participation.
However, I’ve decided in the past year that I need to pick up some of the interests that I really enjoyed pre-baby. It’s time for this Mama to use her brain again!
One of my favourite Super Bloggers, Estee Lalonde, recommended The First Bad Man by Miranda July, in one of her Vlogs a little while ago (I’d find the video for you but I have absolutely no memory of when it was and I simply don’t have the time to watch them all to find the recommendation!) She described it as a ‘feminist novel’, I can’t quite remember what else was said but it must’ve been positive because I downloaded it on to my Kindle.
If I’m honest, I almost gave up with this book about 20% of the way in. I just wasn’t feeling it. Almost all reviews use synonyms of weird, unusual, awkward or uncomfortable – to enjoy this book you really do have to get it. I won’t give anything away but the novel centres around a 40-something year old woman, Cheryl Glickman, who lives a lonely life full of unusual quirks which include; obsessing over a pseudo-maternal bond she formed with a baby while she herself was a child, an infatuation with an older colleague which she believes to have spanned the centuries, a psychosomatic anxiety condition, and a sado-masochistic relationship with her boss’s 20-year-old daughter.
July’s novel is not subtle in it’s attempts to point out the bizarre elements that are entwined with our every day lives, however, when concentrated on a small cast, the layers of ‘bizarre-ness’ become absurd and comedic. I think this book is directed towards people with a certain sense of humour, if you can see through awkwardness to the comedy beneath then you’ll love The First Bad Man, Cheryl Glickman is the epitome of middle-aged awkwardness.
After a seemingly never ending era of sexual explicitness around the middle of the book, the introduction of a newborn baby winds the constrained world of the novel even tighter. Once Jack is born he is Glickman’s world, and I could finally find her relatable. Earlier parts of the novel that were strange and uncomfortable are offset by the introduction of a child and it becomes a more obviously enjoyable read.
I’d suggest to stay away from this book if your usual literary tastes are along the lines of Sophie Kinsella and Cecilia Ahern, but do you know what? I’m not that patronising. The First Bad Man is a strange one for sure, but it is also raw and full of emotion, you’ll either love it or hate it, but you’ve got to try everything once haven’t you!