All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

Review: The Rules Of Seeing by Joe Heap

on August 13, 2018

The Rules Of Seeing
Joe Heap
Harper Collins
2018, 416p
Copy courtesy Harper Collins AUS

Blurb {from the publisher/}:

Nova is 32 years old and she is about to see the world for the very first time.

Nova can do many things. She can speak five languages. She can always find a silver lining. And as an interpreter for the Metropolitan Police, she can tell when someone is lying just from the sound of their voice.

But there’s one thing Nova can’t do. She can’t see.

When her brother convinces her to have an operation that will restore her sight, Nova wakes up to a world she no longer understands. Until she meets Kate.

As Kate comes into focus and their unlikely friendship blossoms, Kate’s past threatens to throw them into a different kind of darkness. Can they both learn to see the world in a different way?

This book was such an interesting and thought provoking read.

Nova has been blind from birth. She lives a very active life, working as an interpreter for the Met and navigates her environment with skill. When her brother informs her of an operation that could give her sight, Nova is in two minds but ends up undergoing the operation. When she wakes, everything she once understood has been turned upside down.

This book gave me so much to think about in terms of what it might be like for someone who has never been able to see, to suddenly be able to do so. Nova has a lot of difficulty in terms of spatial awareness and judging distance and the size of objects relative to how far they are away from her. Colours and small objects are hard to distinguish between – she has no frame of reference for basically everything. She has no idea how to read people’s expressions and everything becomes a bit of a minefield. I thought this was all described and showcased from Nova’s point of view so admirably. Nova is a very confident blind person but with her sight she lacks a little something sometimes, as she struggles to negotiate an entire new world. She doesn’t change exactly, but you can tell it’s a much bigger thing that she anticipated.

Nova meets Kate, a woman recovering from a brain injury. Kate has anxiety resulting from her ‘accident’ that left her hospitalised and she also struggles with a new world that she has to negotiate. Kate does a lot of pretending that certain things aren’t happening. We don’t get much of a glimpse into her life in the before, so I’m not sure if the behaviour she starts to experience is normal or if it’s something that escalates out of nowhere. I think from a few bits and pieces that it was something she was already experiencing and also escalating in a way where she almost doesn’t seem to be noticing. She seems quite isolated – before Nova she only seems to have one friend and her family appear distant with priorities lying elsewhere than her.

I liked Kate and Nova’s separate stories, I was drawn into their situations and watching how they negotiated their new and strange worlds. But as those worlds collided, I’m not sure that I was really….buying it? And the book definitely began to get more darker as it went on, which was not something I was expecting going into it at all. To be honest, it felt like the tone changed a little too much in the latter part of the book too abruptly. That’s not to say that things somewhat similar to this don’t happen in real life – they do. But it felt like I started out reading one book but then I finished a very different book and the two of them didn’t exactly seem to mesh seamlessly.

There was a lot I really enjoyed in this – primarily the way in which the author dealt with a character like Nova being given sight after never having it before. They took it in ways I hadn’t even thought of, things that had never occurred to me and I really enjoyed thinking about things that I’ve never had to think about before. Nova’s notes on ‘the rules of seeing’ are fantastic, clever, insightful, amusing and like this whole part of the story, thoughtful and thought provoking. Likewise, I was intrigued by Kate’s story, the mystery of the white paper and whether or not she’d be able to piece her memories back together and draw on her own strength. But I did feel that it dragged on a tiny bit and took me just to places that I was not expecting to go in a demonstration of ‘that escalated quickly’. I felt it raised issues that are relevant though, such as protection in employment and having trouble getting police support and intervention but didn’t really explore them too deeply. And then after the slower pace for much of it, it suddenly became very fast-paced towards the end, building suspense I did not expect to be experiencing! It’s very very clever though, in lots of different ways and I’ll read anything else Joe Heap comes up with.


Book #134 of 2018

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