Your Ad Here

{short description of image}
- | main | the lounge | archive | about us | feedback | -

c u l t u r e s p a c e

Billy and Girl
by Deborah Levy

reviewed by J.M. Frank

Billy and Girl are more than a little crazy. They also make an amazing amount of sense. Billy, a teenage boy and his sister Girl live on their own and do everything on their own terms. As the story opens we learn that their mom left them and their dad was burnt in some sort of incident and is probably dead.

Most of the characters in this book are beyond quirky. They do and say bizarre things, funny things, unexpected things. But this is not just wackiness for the sake of wackiness. The characters never become unbelievable and they also are surprisingly likable. By the end, I did truly care what happened to Billy, Girl, and their other partners in crime. Yes, crime. I do not believe I am giving too much away by saying that Billy and Girl do get involved in a couple of criminal acts. They are not organized crimes, nor even sensible crimes. It is more a form of entertainment for these two....just the kinds of things that impulsive people like Billy and Girl might do from time to time.

What makes this book so much fun is that almost every event is unexpected. If you can guess where this book will go from the first twenty or even fifty pages, you deserve either a prize or a straightjacket. These are unusual characters acting in unusual ways, with no rules or obvious outcomes.

This is a novel filled with great moments and touches that run throughout the book. For example, Girl (who has made it her life purpose to find her mother) has a habit of doing regular "Mom-checks". This is when Girl goes out to random houses and insists on acting as if whatever woman answering the door is her mother. Girl also paints graffiti all over the city imploring her phantom mother to call home. Another one of many amusing themes is the "Stupid Club", a group of shoppers at a small market run by an Indian family. These shoppers gather in the aisles to have inane conversations and cannot be driven out though the owners have tried repeatedly. The novel is rich with these and other funny and unusual touches.

This is a stylish novel, told by Levy with a unique narrative flare. Perspectives are changed and scenes are cut into in mid-stream, constantly keeping the reader off-balance. But it works in this case, and the narrative is surprisingly easy to follow, given the often distorted perspective displayed in the narrative. One gets a sense of ultra-hipness and a dangerous feeling that anything can happen.

The story can really be thought of a search for something. At one level, Billy and Girl could be thought of as searching for their parents. At another level, they are searching for fame and a way to get on the "American chat shows". On another level, they are simply searching for answers that will help them make sense of their often painful and always chaotic lives. Whether they succeed depends on what search the reader believes they are on. But either way, the journey is most of the fun, and reading Billy and Girl is a sojourn well worth taking.

Billy and Girl

Buy this book direct from Bloomsbury

The writer of this article welcomes your comments: