My rating: 4 of 5 stars
A strange and mesmerizing tale. Told from the point of view of a teenager on the verge of adulthood, it covers a lot of ground. Our narrator, Kikarin, is the daughter of a Japanese mother and a British father, and thinks of herself as British but knows that her exotic appearance sets her apart. Even in the London district of Putney her friends tend to be outsiders, but now she's spending her last year before university in the remote Scottish Borders area, where she finds that she's basically incomprehensible to many of her classmates. This doesn't stop seemingly every male in the area from being attracted to her, and not always in the most gentlemanly ways. Though it comes in conflict with taking her all important placement finals, she's called upon by her mother to accompany her as she gets Kikarin's brother out of a youth detention center for a weekend parole.
I liked Kikarin's voice a lot. Although a lot of the events in the book happen to her, there is an observational tone to her telling, as she tries to sort out her various relationships. I thought her parents flashed a bit hot and cold on her, and when she suggests at one point that they are buying a dog to replace her as she goes off to college, it doesn't seem so far-fetched. For much of the story, they seem to be preoccupied elsewhere, sometimes with good reason, sometimes not.
Despite the loutishness of many of the locals, the setting itself is one of the strengths of this book. Kikarin has an archeological interest which takes her to places like an abandoned railway station and an historic castle, and the site of some prehistoric cup and ring marks.The almost haunted feeling in this often empty landscape will stay with me for a long time to come.
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