What if Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca had been set in the 1970s Californian artist community? It might be a little like this unusual novel, which focuses on feminism and creativity with an element of mystery. It follows Paz, a young artist who has replaced Romy, the wife of another artist, Billy. The first wife died from falling from a building at a party and it’s not clear who is responsible or even if Romy is somehow still alive and the fall was performance art. Paz is stepmother to the baby and she’s never quite sure of Billy. The story is about her trying to cope with her choices and carving out a separate identity from Romy.
I liked how the novel is a tribute to the women performance artists and their fight to be regarded as individuals and not as a collective, also their anger at not gaining the same respect as the men. It was an evocative story of desert, drugs and desire, shimmering with heat haze and dripping with sweat. However, there wasn’t as much mystery as the blurb suggested and the plot became more vague after the halfway point. I didn’t like the ending. It was clever but confusing and dull, which negatively influenced my opinion of the whole story.
In summary, a novel out of the ordinary which will particularly appeal to readers with an interest in performance art.
Thank you to the publisher Scribe for the advance copy via NetGalley. The book will be published on 11th August.
4 thoughts on “Review of ‘Utopia’ by Heidi Sopinka”
The plot sounds interesting, although it sounds as if the author lost their way with the ending and the story having become vague. No thank you to reading another book featuring performance art, though.
I’m not sure the author lost their way exactly but it just didn’t match the promise of mystery. I would still be interested in reading more performance art novels 😀
It frustrates me when a book doesn’t measure up to its premise. I do think the performance art angle is interesting, but not interesting enough to cover for a failed plot. With all the reading you do–and judging from the first sentence of your post–I bet you’d be great at comps for querying writers!
Thanks! Well I’m quite choosy about the kind of books I read, even though I have a broad taste, so it’s not an encyclopaedic knowledge. A nice thought though. I don’t regret reading this book, it’s very memorable.