Susan Finlay – My Other Spruce and Maple Self

Before the pandemic, one year which people couldn’t stop talking about was 2016 and for obvious reasons, Brexit, Trump and enough celebrity deaths that it warranted a Sgt. Pepper style collage . Such is this post Bowie setting for Susan Finlay’s My Other Spruce and Maple Self.

The main protagonist, Allegra Le Clef , a cellist , has broken her wrist, is bombarded with emails and texts from her art historian husband, who is in Amsterdam and some strange spammer called The_Saracens_79 who asks probing questions. In the midst of all this confusion, Allegra decides to give a masterclass in Greece, which is going through political problems. To make matters worse she is constantly bleeding.

Allegra is fractured, Britain is fractured, Greece is fractured. Event structurally, the book has a fractured element, as it is broken up into short chapters (although the narrative itself moves smoothly)

My Other Spruce and Maple Self is a fantastic political allegory about a disintegrating Europe. What keeps this book from becoming a doomfest is Allegra’s acerbic wit. There is not one thing which escapes her scathing eye, and trust me, she has an opinion on it, most of the time it’s quite humorous. If not using her sharp wit she is forever trying to cleanse herself by swimming (even then there is one scene which brings out her irritation at society)

Allegra has a way of repeating past actions, thus her life moves in cycles, much like the musical pieces that are mentioned. Also themes reoccur, mainly death, which also mirrors the dying European countries Allegra lives and travels around in.

Clever, darkly funny, unsettling and twisty, My Other Spruce and Maple Self is a memorable read, made even so by the brilliant Allegra Le Clef, a character who will stay imprinted in your brain for a long time.

Many thanks to Moist for providing a copy of My Other Spruce and Maple Self

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