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Exceptional first novel with a gripping psychological sting.

Jumping the Green. By Leslie Schwartz (Canongate Books, pounds 10). Reviewed by Charlie Hill.

For a debut novel Jumping the Green is an exceptional achievement. The book tells the story of an artist, Lousie Goldblum, and her struggle to come to terms with the sudden death of her sister, a woman to whom she had always looked up, even when she was too young to comprehend what she could see.

There is little meaningful support forthcoming from Lousie's large dysfunctional family, nuclear after the blast. In part at least, this is because she refuses to communicate with those of her siblings who may understand her more pronounced reaction to their mutual loss. Instead she prefers to wallow anew in her ongoing 'desire to be loved by someone who cannot love me'. This leads her into a relationship with a photographer, the sexually violent and emotionally abusive Zeke.

What follows is a self-destructive trip, with Lousie blindly stumbling down the path that her sister took to her death. It is only slowly, as she filters the memory of her sister through the truth as it unfolds in her own reality, that she begins to see what she must do to escape the strange comfort of this indulgent nihilism.

Jumping the Green is part-psychological thriller, part-love story. It is written with the gut-wrenching veracity of a memoir and yet, despite its subject matter and the claustrophobia of the emotional environment in which the story lives - one characterised almost exclusively by fear and self-hate - it expertly engages the empathy of the reader.

That Schwartz is able to keep you looking for the shoots of anything which may prove to be Lousie's salvation - be it friendship, loyalty or love - whilst offering few clues as to whether they can even grow in her world, is testament to a remarkable new talent.
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Title Annotation:Books
Author:Hill, Charlie
Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Sep 2, 2000
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