Carry The One

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I read a review of Carol Anshaw‘s Carry the One in The Guardian, written by Anna Trench.  It concluded perfectly with the line “It is delicate in its touch yet huge in its reach.”  Having read the book, I really couldn’t put it any better.

The story begins with a death.  Siblings Alice and Nick are making their way home from their sensible sister Carmen’s wedding when their car hits, and kills, a young girl.  For the next twenty five years Alice, Nick and several of the other passengers —all of whom were drunk, high or hungover at the time — struggle to process their guilt.  

Yet despite revolving around such huge tragedy and trauma, Carry the One is a gentle novel.

Nick attempts to maintain his standing as a gifted astrophysicist while also battling a drug addiction; Alice paints her way to critical and financial success in the art world, while Carmen throws herself into running a women’s shelter and a second marriage.

Olivia, Maude and Tom were also in the car that fateful night; as the driver, Olivia served time in jail.  It is a fact that weighs heavily on the siblings’ conscience.  While Maude and Olivia are welcome characters in  Alice and Nick’s lives respectively, singer-songwriter Tom is always that little bit apart.

His carefully constructed ‘tortured artist’ act doesn’t wash.  The apparent ease with which he makes money from songs glorifying that tragic night sickens the others.  Alice sums up the sentiment;

“Here’s what I hate. I hate that it doesn’t matter if we see each other. There’s still this connection between me and him because we were both in the car. Like in arithmetic. Because of the accident, we’re not just separate numbers. When you add us up, you always have to carry the one. ”

I love it!  Such a deceptively simple piece of writing.  I was so impressed with Anshaw’s writing.  It is thoughtful, considered and effective; a pleasure to read.  I never once found myself skipping ahead or muttering over lines or paragraphs that could have benefited from the care of a diligent editor.  This is one of the best books I’ve read this year.

Carry the One is published by Penguin, 22nd November 2012.

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