July’s work speaks to my inner being, my meandering thoughts and anxious obsessions. I tend to over think things, in good ways and bad. Left alone to think I can go quite deep into my own mental fortress, coming up for air with sweat on my brow and bizarre revelations on my tongue.
Perhaps this is why I enjoyed July’s début novel so much. It explores the realms of loneliness, whether by choice or circumstance. Much like the protagonist Cheryl, I too could, in a parallel life, live a life of solitude. I could be that woman, who finds herself alone at 43 and doesn’t seem to mind any more. Things are how she likes them. She may be alone, but not lonely.
Although living by herself, Cheryl secretly craves the closeness of others. She pursues a relationship with a much older man, internalising their impending courtship before it has begun. She also allows herself to be lumbered with a house guest. A very young, attractive and rude female house guest named Clee.
Their relationship develops in actions more than words. It is what’s not said that is of merit. July speaks to the unuttered feelings. The unconfirmed suspicions and the mute subtext of life. It’s the gaps between words that are often the loudest. The unsaid truths that dance in our minds are often the things that truly define our being.
Labels and assumptions of what things may be, can hinder a life well lived. Who cares what it is, just take it. Go with it. It may be odd when you look at it one way, but simple and beautiful from another angle.
From the voice of a greying 43 year old woman that sees herself no longer important to men, feminist undertones speak loudly. Even the fact that I too found myself slightly uninterested in the life of this single woman in her 40s, makes it even more important that her story is told. By page 30, I was hooked. I could not close the plain black cover. Cheryl, while at times frustratingly weak and desperate, held me with her odd perception of life and her constant internal circus.
July is a master of human nature and an honest pioneer in the field of normalising female sexuality. The First Bad Man is a triumph, a rambling novel that can be compared to such classics as The Bell Jar and Catcher in the Rye.