At one point I think I have a grip of Bellevue Square and what exactly is happening and then before you know it I am lost, in the dark and struggling to work out what exactly has just happened in this whirlwind ride of a book. Having won the Giller Prize in 2017, one of the most prestigious literary prizes in Canada, there is obviously much credibility to the writing, and I must admit, certainly initially, at the beginning of the novel, it was impossible to put down. However, it does lose me throughout the story, and I don’t just think that is because my thoughts were meandering.
Jean Mason has a doppelganger. She’s never seen her, but others that come into her bookshop swear that they have. She lives in downtown Toronto with her husband and two kids, the owner of a prosperous bookshop. After two of her customers are adamant they’ve seen her double, including Katerina, who she comes to befriend, Jean decides to look further into this. However, it does not take long before this inquisition becomes a full-blown obsession and it is not long before she is not just questioning the identity of her double, but her very being.
A trip into the psyche, a psychological adventure, with elements of humour, Bellevue Square does spur you to read on if for nothing else but to make sense of this book. But how can one make sense of this book, when the protagonist is doubting herself? The descriptions of Toronto are great, as it allowed me to indulge in a nostalgia trip, having worked in an Indigo in the Eaton Centre many moons ago, and Redhill has fleshed out the characters, giving a conceivable sense to the people of the city. His writing pulls you in from the very offset, and there are moments where I get why he has been chosen for this prize. The narrative is complex and you are keen to guess the actuality in this plot, which keeps the reader intrigued.
However, about three quarters into the novel, I realise that I have a very vague sense of what is going on, how Ingrid (the doppelganger) or Jean actually fit within the narrative of this novel. He is clearly capable of writing suspenseful scenes, and there are moments when he gets you exploring the nature of identity and the mind, but unfortunately, the fact that he loses me so often within the novel means it is doubtful I would pick up another by the same author. Like most readers, I find it satisfying to get the reveal or something at the end, sadly this is not there in Bellevue Square.
Bellevue Square is out now, published by No Exit Press.