Sometimes, I start a book and wonder if I’ll like it, only to be sucked in and find myself reading in the bath until the water’s gone cold. If I Knew You Were Going To Be This Beautiful is one of those books.
It tells the story of Katie, a teenage girl growing up in a working class community in Long Island in the 1970s. The novel documents her life and struggles among a band of misfits, drug addicts and veterans of Vietnam and brings the area and period to life vividly. Teenage pregnancy and drugs are commonplace, as is the guilt of the girls who are mainly Catholic. Each chapter reads almost like a short story in itself; the narrative is largely linear, but then we learn how some of the characters fare later on in their (mostly short) lives. The characters all have issues and most dream of escape, yet we don’t judge them in the slightest. This is just their life.
The writing is atmospheric and, as Katie is an outsider, it positions the reader in a way that we can empathise with what’s going on around her. I took a look at some of the advance reviews (this book isn’t out until October 30th in the UK) and got the distinct impression that it’s a bit of a Marmite book- you’ll either love it or hate it. Luckily, I really enjoyed it, as I thought the story developed.
*Sent for review