REPEAT IT TODAY WITH TEARS


repeat-it-today-with-tears

by Anne Peile

Publisher: Serpent’s Tail

 

This is a transgressive love story by a singular new voice. A secretive child by nature, Susanna makes a covert list of everything she knows about her absent father, waiting for the day that she is reunited with him. Deeply unhappy at home, living with her overbearing mother and promiscuous sister, she stays out of the house as much as possible. When she finally discovers …more This is a transgressive love story by a singular new voice.

 

A secretive child by nature, Susanna makes a covert list of everything she knows about her absent father, waiting for the day that she is reunited with him. Deeply unhappy at home, living with her overbearing mother and promiscuous sister, she stays out of the house as much as possible. When she finally discovers her father’s name and seeks him out, in the free and unconventional atmosphere of 1970s Chelsea, she conceals her identity, beginning an illicit affair that can only end in disaster. “Repeat it Today with Tears” is in many ways a traditional love story, as well as a skilful evocation of radical times and desires. It is a fever dream that examines our need to be loved and accepted and a piercing portrait of madness. Anne Peile is a striking new voice in fiction. (less)

 

‘How do you write a novel about an incestuous relationship that isn’t tawdry and exploitative or - even worse - preachy but lascivious? How do you instead write one that is moving and Peile, grow up and write Repeat It Today With Tears. That’s how.

The scene is pre-punk 1970s London. Sixteen year old Susie has never met her father. Her crabby, dismissive mother and promiscuous sister don’t care whether he’s dead or alive, but Susie is consumed by the idea that one day she’ll get to know him. Her mother has taken in a boyfriend, Ron, whose ineffectuality spurs on the quest. But Susie’s true motivations remain hazy. She’s a willful girl who can handle herself. She doesn’t need a father figure. And yet she’s in pursuit of this abstract idea that her real father alone can offer a better alternative to the life she currently has. She is entirely at the whim of her own curiosity. When she gets her wish and discovers, accidentally, that her father lives just off the Kings Road in Chelsea, she takes a job on a bustling market in the area and slowly begins her infiltration of his life. He’s an unsuccessful illustrator, holed up in a grotty bedsit and with a new wife out-of-town whom he only occasionally visits. He’s also an old man; he responds to the serious flirtations of this young girl with a believable mixture of flattery and terror. They strike up a relationship entirely at Megan’s behest, and the story explores the effect this has on Susie’s already damaged psyche.

 

This is Peile’s first novel, and it’s a great example of the idea that for a first-person narrative to soar it has to have a fully developed voice. Susie is dry and mannered in her recollections and never admits to herself her own culpability, forcing the reader to withhold judgment on a situation in which, oddly, she is the guilty party and her wayward, cheating, lying father is the aggrieved. The affair between them is grounded in a reality that sidesteps its unconventionality and this is all down to Peile’s confidence with the narrative tone: the strangeness of the events are presented in a matter-of-fact way and peppered with perceptive and funny observations about the other characters Susie encounters, most notably her best friend Julian, who “resembled one of those paper dressing dolls where outfits must be cut out and fitted around the cardboard figure by folding over tabs.” Elsewhere, her father’s face has “the skin and muscles drawn so tight and spare across the bones that it reminded me of an anatomical poster in the science laboratory at school.” In this way, slowly and confidently, Susie’s voice seduces the reader into underestimating the gravity of the situation she is in.

 

With its evocation of a particular era - and area - marked forever in London’s history, and with a story that intelligently and compassionately explores the failures of parents and the damage those failures wreak on their children, Repeat It Today With Tears manages the impressive feat of combining lively social documentation with a personal and engaging narrative that is controversial but never sensationalist, serious but never dull. For a first book, it’s exceptionally confident, and it’s not difficult to imagine Peile with her subsequent novels becoming one of the country’s leading literary voices. After all, in an occasionally stagnant landscape, she’s got something new and important to say and that’s always worth taking the time to listen to.

 

PRESS REVIEW

 

‘Anne Peile has built a startling and elegant little world - sensuous, then full of ominous and inescapable threat.’

–Alan Warner

 

‘An enthralling and frightening story, and a wonderful evocation of pre-punk teenage London’

–Tessa Hadley

 

‘The subject matter is incredibly controversial, handled with sensitivity and care, there will certainly be many discussions around this book’

– Aesthetica

 

‘An elegantly written, dark tale’

– U Magazine

 

‘Controversial but sensitively handled’

–Marie Claire

 

‘[A]keen, elegant novel’

– Metro

 

‘A heartbreakingly fated love affair, deeply disturbing… but never sensationalised…’

– Catherine Taylor, Guardian

 

 

    * Paperback: 256 pages

    * Publisher: Serpent’s Tail (3 Jun 2010)

    * ISBN-10: 1846687462

    * ISBN-13: 978-1846687464

    * Product Dimensions: 21 x 13.2 x 2 cm

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