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Chrysalis

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They all watch as she strengthens her body and mind and begins to post viral videos that advocate for her viewers to take drastic measures to acquire true self-sufficiency. Then there’s the conformist Susie, lonely and drifting, the woman’s brief stay in her apartment provides a direction and purpose she’s been seeking. Even at a young age, Bella, an artist herself, detects Nicola possesses a unique capacity to effect self change.

Ranging from online obsession, to mothers and daughters, to the very nature of selfhood, Chrysalis is strange and warm and, crucially, very funny.

Elliot is a freelancer and his “big jobs” define him, but the passages describing his work habits make no direct reference to what he does. There is no framing device, no pretext for their telling us what they know about this woman, and the background is so lightly sketched that it feels neutralised. Elliot, a recluse who notices her at the gym, witnesses her physical evolution and becomes her first acolyte.

It was interesting to watch these people latch onto this woman and her own seemingly unfeeling attitude toward them. It is the story of an influencer, never named, who preaches to her loyal followers about the benefits of solitude, selfishness, and putting yourself first.Her short fiction has been published in The Best of British Short Stories, The Dublin Review, and Lighthouse Journal, among other places, and has been shortlisted for the Bridport Short Story Prize and the Sunday Times Short Story Award. Thank You to Random House and NetGalley for an advanced reader copy in exchange for an honest review! A masterclass in character, Chrysalis is an unsettling and brilliant portrait - not just of a woman in transformation or of those who fall into her orbit, but also of a world defined simultaneously by our isolation and by our longing to connect.

Her health guru rises from the ashes of an abusive relationship, but also discards those who’ve outgrown their use. Elliot is a slightly unnerving character, aspects of his behaviour and his fascination with the woman reminded me of Frederick in John Fowles’s The Collector - possibly intentionally since both books deploy imagery related to metamorphosis and butterflies. The narrative trick: She is only shown from the outside, depicted in the three parts of the novel by her ex-lover, her mother and an ex-friend, all three of whom have developed a different kind of obsession with her.She never had that thing some people do where if someone’s looking at them they feel it—a warm spot on the face or the neck—and then, without thinking, they turn. They go to work in big glass buildings and watch the doors to their offices open and close while they remain seated the whole time. This is the debut novel of Anna Metcalfe and it is a fascinating and thought provoking read about human metamorphosis. She is watched by her former colleague Susie, who offers her sanctuary and support as she leaves her partner and rebuilds her life, transforming her body and reinventing herself online.

Examining reinvention in this specific obsessive, selfish self-care, influencer context worked well and the novel sets a nice disconcerting tone with all the oddness. The book as a whole made me think about how much we want to talk about ourselves, and how basic our resources are. They can barely explain it and from what they tell the reader it is hard to understand how this woman can be so influential, because she seems pretty awful and entirely selfish. I also could have done without a lot of the superfluous details (especially from the first narrator) - I skimmed over a lot of mundane text. It’s like they don’t even notice the thing is too small, like they’re just giant people holding regular-sized stuff.My main gripe is with the writing style - the protagonist being unnamed is so unnecessary and makes it annoying to read as the narrators constantly refer to "she" and "her" - it comes across as a lazy way to make the character seem more mysterious. His hair was thick and, when he stood beneath the air conditioning unit, it moved in graceful waves. Her short fiction has been published in The Best British Short Stories, The Dublin Review, and Lighthouse Journal, among other places, and has been shortlisted for the Bridport Short Story Prize and the Sunday Times Short Story Award.

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