A cunning stalker story about the perils of social media and becoming too involved with your audience, which features an author writing about being an author being stalked by a blogger, with both of them writing each side of their story. It’s nirvana for narcissists (and let’s not mention that the resulting book is now being extensively blogged about or else we’ll overdose on self-referential recursion!)
The writing is absolutely excellent. Snappy chapters, told from different perspectives, each cunningly bending the truth so you genuinely don’t know who to trust. Who is the victim, here? The implacable stalker? Or the writer whose privacy has been so horribly invaded? Or are they both as bad as each other?
For the first three-quarters I was completely wrapped up in this clever piece of misdirection and manipulation. However… one thing we need to get clear. Many reviews talk about this being an-edge-of-the-seat thriller, a really tense page-turner. And so it is – but in an insidious, suggestive, slow-burn style. Some readers will inevitably feel frustrated by how little actually happens and by how gradually the obscure aspects of the narrative are explored.
The Closer I Get easily appealed to the snob in me with all its literary references, and then hit the right low-brow moments by seriously discussing the nebulous merits of different phases of Madonna’s musical career (I actually enjoyed the Ray Of Light stage, as it happens). I also really enjoyed the book’s pivotal role-reversal, with a vulnerable, isolated man feeling threatened by a member of the opposite sex.
Speaking of, the story is stuffed full of sly digs at the sisterhood, skewering 1960s-style and modern feminism with the savage wit exhibited by this book’s ‘strong female protagonist.’ It’s not that she dislikes feminists in particular – I’d say she’s an all-round misanthrope with a bad case of unrequited anger for everything. This makes much of her snarky internal monologue extremely entertaining, even if it’s one of those guilty pleasures which you just know you shouldn’t be enjoying quite this much…
By contrast, the poor stalked author is a bit of a sad squib, and I struggled to find much sympathy for him (sorry, fella). I was also slightly let down by the ending which didn’t quite live up to the promise of the early part of the book.
An ideal read for anyone who enjoys scaring themselves with the sinister side of social media, and who also appreciates the ambiguity delivered by extremely unreliable narrators.
Reviewed by Rowena Hoseason
The Closer I Get by Paul Burston is available at Amazon