Everything You Need
by A.L. Kennedy
is the best and most profound novel
I have read by her so far.
The Scottish writer
is also the author
of Night Geometry
and The Garscadden Trains
, Looking for the Possible Dance
, Now That You´re Back
, So I am Glad
und Original Bliss
Nathan Staples is the protagonist of Everything you Need, consumed by loathing and love in roughly equal measures.
The opening of the novel:
“Things could be worse. Alone on Foal Island and waiting. Nathan Staples turned on his bed. He forced his chest flat to the mattress with a mild flex at his hips and calmed his breath. A familiar lack was stitching up his arms and then climbing further to jab at his brain. All psychosomatic, he knew, all self-inflicted, but all inescapable just the same.”
Nathan is a writer who lives on Foal Island, in a small community of people who have searched and found retreat from the world.
He seems only motivated by personal circles of hate and spite for the outside world. The only reason he clings to living is his ongoing and slightly irrational devotion to his estranged wife Maura and their daughter Mary who he hasn´t seen in fifteen years and who thinks he is dead.
When he contrives to have Mary invited to the island where he spends his time miserably to function as a tutor, as she too wants to become a writer, the story fully unfolds.
Mary comes to the island without knowing that Nathan is her father. Nathan is at first unable to tell her the truth about himself.
The story is always interrupted by pieces of his writing and memories of his marriage to Maura. The story covers four years in Mary and Nathan´s life. Over the course of time, Kennedy shows the different steps in their relationship and Mary´s progess as a writer, with focus also on the other inhabitants of the Island and how their lives are all affected by each other.
A.L. Kennedy is an excellent storyteller, her writing at times just amazing. I can only recommend this novel. While I found her short stories like the ones collected in Original Bliss at times a little unsatisfying, Everything You Need fully convinces.
She managed to get the reader involved in the character´s dilemmas and joys, she makes you starting to care for these people, because they seem so real and close to life and in that sense easy to identify with.
Everything You Need was written in 1999, published by Vintage: London 1999 www.randomhouse.co.uk.