Thursday, 1 June 2017

Book Review | Sympathy by Olivia Sudjic

Sympathy by Olivia Sudjic
Published by Pushkin Press on 4th May 2017
Pages: 406
Format: Paperback
Synopsis: At twenty-three, Alice Hare leaves England for New York. She falls in love with Manhattan, and becomes fixated on Mizuko Himura, an intriguing Japanese writer whose life has strange parallels to her own.

As Alice closes in on Mizuko, her 'internet twin', realities multiply and fact and fiction begin to blur. The relationship between the two women exposes a tangle of lies and sexual encounters. Three families collide as Alice learns that the swiftest answer to an ancient question - where do we come from? - can now be found online.

I picked up Sympathy mainly because of its references to Instagram (you all know how I've been going on about online identities over on Twitter!), but this book didn't turn out to be about the app in the way that I thought it would be, it's so much deeper than that. In Sympathy you'll follow the story of the narrator Alice Hare as she re-calls her move from England to New York. She's a real lonely soul at first, but soon she meets new people and starts to socialise. Although she seemed to feel a sense of belonging when she first moved to New York, it turns out it was never meant to be.

Even though the story touches on many different aspects of real life relationships and the struggles so many people have with them, the main storyline of this book is how obsessed Alice becomes with a writer called Mizuko. Seeing certain similarities in both of their lives, Alice believes that it is only fate that has bought them both together. Alice firstly begins with 'getting to know' Mizuko on her public Instagram account. Then, deciding that it's time for them to meet face to face, Alice plans how she's going to 'bump into' Mizuko and her boyfriend, who she happens to know previously.

Alice is a character who plots how she can get her own way with Mizuko throughout the book. She becomes fixated on her, and as soon as they meet offline Alice abandons her only family member in New York to spend as much time with Mizuko as she can. It felt strange to read how quickly Alice made herself part of Mizuko's life, trying but failing to get her to fall for her.

I found Olivia Sudjic took an interesting take on the use of the internet in our daily lives today and the impact it can have. Sympathy was honest and raw. It made me think even more about how the lines between our real lives and online lives can blur.

If you've read this book let me know what you thought of it by leaving a comment below or tweeting me on @yasminqureshi_.

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