This is a powerful book with memorable characters. For a debut, it’s impressive. However, the book’s blurb and critics’ praise didn’t prepare me for how grim the content was going to be.
The story is narrated from two perspectives: Augusta, an awkward and word-obsessed girl from England, and a boy called Parfait, a refugee and artist from Burundi. They both have a connection to Spain. The Augusta chapters were longer than the Parfait ones, which was a pity as I found his story more compelling. The ‘other half’ referred to in the book’s title is Augusta’s twin, Julia. You know that something bad happened to Julia as it’s hinted early on.
The book starts out as a coming of age story with some wry humour but towards the end it’s a wave of grief which the characters are trying to survive. It slowed down too and wasn’t going anywhere. There was so much sadness in the book and I didn’t feel that it was ‘heartening’, ‘full of hope’, ‘entertaining’ or ‘mesmerisingly beautiful’ (endorsements from the cover and inside pages). I wasn’t very keen on the writing style, which had a lot of sentences starting with ‘But’ and ‘And’. The two narrative voices were not very distinct from each other, either.
I conclude that this book is not for me and is probably my least favourite read of the year.
First published in 2019. Shortlisted for the Costa First Novel Award.