Dec 25, 2008: This is so uncannily like real life that it could be thought of as an autobiography or a diary, yet it has something about it that for me labels it fiction: the author assembles the material in a deliberate fashion. The phrases, conversation and descriptions are put together in such a way as to move the reader. It isn’t a simple replica of what happened, nor a jotting in a diary, but a construction. Even though it would never pass a test of "A happened which caused B which caused C", it is still "constructed", with threads to follow. Well, that’s my take on it anyway.
The gem at the centre of "Charlotte" is the reconstruction of exactly how it feels to be a student in that situation – this is rarely doable with any degree of success at the time (that is, if it were a diary written alongside the experience). It takes at least a small amount of hindsight (the author is around 20 years old) to detect what was happening externally and internally. And the sentences that introduce each instalment contribute to this sense of re-invention. Without this thoughtful distillation of feeling, which gives it shape, it would fail. If the protagonist continues to develop, and the story unfolds further with interest, I’ll upgrade my star rating – it’s early days yet.
For those who want to remind themselves of how they were in college, and settle the experience once and for all, "Charlotte" is akin to therapy, like any good book, because seeing our own stories through the protagonist’s eyes makes meaning of what was often horrendously messy. The reader is at a safe distance, sighs in sympathy – even empathy – and feels satisfyingly more adult as they shut the laptop lid until the next instalment. This is definitely the best way to put to bed (sorry about the possible pun!) the early love/learning/life stuff again. If you fancy re-experiencing college life safely, this is one novel to follow. The plot is not the thing; the emotional payback is everything. And if the novel/autobiog/diary/blog mix-up is worrying to some, well hey, it’s an experiment and in its own way, it works.