When first reading I found some similarity between the also Longlisted, Watching Me Without You by Lynn Coady. On my Shortlist Prediction list, I included Consent on it well before I finished reading it.
Now that I finished it, I do feel this is a strong contender for the Shortlist! Could it be this one over Coady’s, or would they put both? My vote is for Consent.
Consent is a fairly slim novel packed with a whole about two sets of sisters, one set are twins (Saskia and Jenny) and the other is an older sister with a younger intellectually disabled sister (Sara and Mattie). What plays on your mind throughout is the rivalry, resentment and strains of love and duty.
Sara did not miss her sister, exactly, but there was no one in the world who had been closer to Mattie than Sara, except their mother. Mattie had been work, hard work, and had occupied Sara’s mind the way a child would, constantly tugging at her, wanting her attention. Where was she, what was she doing, had she eaten, what had she eaten, was she clean, was she safe, was she bored, was she busy, was she happy? All of this had been Sara’s responsibility, and while Mattie was alive Sara had felt resentment. Resentment had transmuted – predictably enough, following Mattie’s death – to guilt. But miss her?
“You knew she wasn’t well right?” Saskia said. “Of course you knew….” “I tried to make her happy. You know she wasn’t a happy person, right? You know she hated your parents? Your mom was a drunk and you dad was a bully. Yeah, she told me shit about your family. But you, you.” Down, up. “She said the two of you were strangers. She said even though you lived in the same house, you didn’t know her and she didn’t know you and she didn’t ever see that changing. You needed her for everything and she was so fucking tired of you. Tired of being smarter than you and prettier and more successful. Tired of being tied to you. She wouldn’t even tell me your name. How about that?”
Their two very different stories do not converge until this book is beyond it’s 50% mark. So this bit of mystery kept me reading and reading. I was always compelled to keep reading this one – it’s quite strange too. I still find some parts of it a little weird in the direction they went, but something about it always kept me wanting to pick it up and keep reading.
Like the description states, Consent is a book about the complexities of familial duty and how love gets tangled into regret and guilt. There is quite a bit here to chew on about guilt and love and regret.
The whole thing made for a strange read. It’s so strange thought that it’s remarkably compelling and continues playing on your mind.
(It better be on the shortlist! 🙂 )