Dirty, funny, messy, wild, I tore through this bold and brutal debut in a delirious 24 hours, and it was brilliant.
Irina obsessively takes explicit photographs of the average-looking men she persuades to model for her, scouted from the streets of Newcastle. Placed on sabbatical from her dead-end bar job, she is offered an exhibition at a fashionable London gallery, promising to revive her career in the art world and it prompts her to revisit her archives. However, this leads her on an odyssey of self-destruction as long-forgotten memories resurface, some that she had buried deep.
Tall, beautiful, and intriguing, everyone wants to either please Irina or sleep with her. And oh, does it get draining. As her obsessive best friend Flo writes not-so-secretive blog posts on the pain of unrequited love and timid Tesco checkout boy Eddie gets clingy, Irina attempts to expunge the leeches the only way she knows how: by being awful.
Irina fascinated me immediately. She’s a slippery narrator, frankly terrible at times, but you can’t look away. Accessing her psyche was like being swept up by a vortex of terrible force and self-destruction. She flips gender roles on their head, pushes the boundaries of consent beyond their limit, and everything seems unstable. You come out of the other end repulsed, a little disorientated, but amazed all the same.
“I could do that, if I wanted, you know? I could train a camera on a man and look at him like a man looks at a woman; boys, too, could be objects of desire.”
What’s more, Clark doesn’t waste a word in dismantling trends of modern life in Britain. She expertly exposes the gruesome contemporary horror show in which we live. Boy Parts’ hilarious satirical commentary married with its graphically violent scenes makes you scream and wonder how someone with such razor-sharp relatable observations about modern society could do the things she does. That being so, you breeze through the interspersed text talk, emails, and blog posts for answers and head towards a hallucinatory ending.
Boy Parts made me laugh from the dedication: ‘For my mother and father. Please don’t read this.’ But I’d also let that be your warning — darkness permeates every page in Clark’s incendiary debut. Celebrate Northern literary talent, pick up this book, and let the kaleidoscopic vortex sweep you away.
Thank you, Influx Press for sending me an advanced copy of Boy Parts in exchange for an honest review.
Looking for more reading recommendations? Read my review of A Traveller at the Gates of Wisdom by John Boyne.
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