Alice Salmon died and the impact of her death, at first felt only by friends and family, begins to grow as people take to the internet to share their grief. Blogs begin, at first tied only to the news outlets but then open up farther on their own. Piece by piece her life is dissected. The an aging Professor begins to write a book, about the death and life of Alice Salmon. A book that will lay bare all of her secrets and all of her pains. As well as those of the people who knew and loved her.
“…Nowadays that’s how I’m introduced. The Alice Salmon anthropologist. The man who unearthed the truth about the River Dane girl. Once, heaven help us, the boffin-turned-sleuth. Alice and I have become a corollary of each other. A footnote in each other’s stories. Although we always would have been that anyway…”
Alice Salmon is a young journalist. A determined young idealist whose critical view of the world extends even to herself. But when she views herself, there is always someone else to blame. Her mother, her friends, her lover and her boyfriend. Each failing her and saving her. In her writing she finds the solace she cannot find in life. In her writing and in her constant state of drunkenness.
“…I look myself up and down in the mirror. Still as alien to myself as when I was teenager: this thing I carry around, that carries me around, this body. I touch my hair, my face, my hips. Trace the tiny scar line on my wrist. It scares me: what she, that woman I’m looking at, is capable of…”
But the man who comes to know her best is neither friend of family, but Dr. Jeremy Cook.
Jeremy Cook is an academic whose career has had moments of triumph and scandal, but now he is older and forgotten. With the death of Alice Salmon he finds a new lease on life. A renewal of his abilities as he plunges with a fervor into the research of Alice’s life that borders on obsession. Cook puts Alice’s life back together by entries in her personal diary, to texts, emails and interviews with family and friends. But why is Cook doing this. What is his true motivation. What had happened between himself and Alice. Are the rumors of his own perversions at the root of his obsession?
What She Left is slow moving, at times veering off onto tangents that the writer must believe are too interesting to leave out. Unfortunately they are not. The book is written in texts, emails and blogs. Letters and voice mails. This scattered narration is at the root of the novel’s issues. It simply does not flow.
The characters are, to a one, despicable. Entitled and drunk. When sober, unable to see beyond their own desires and their own broken little worlds. Pouring out their grief in blogs and websites, little to do with the death of Alice and much more in a pathetic need to garner attention for themselves. When that attention questions their motives and actions, they cry out. But their veneer of self pity does not take long to break. Especially with the cold unfeeling eye of Cook peeling back truths and lies and old secrets. Even his own.
What She Left is a book that for myself, was better left…..