‘Close Your Eyes’ won the Scottish Book of the Year (Fiction) Award earlier this year. An intense psychological page-turner, the story follows a first time mother struggling to cope with her relationship with her baby. I read the book in one sitting as I didn’t want to leave her troubled soul until she had found peace. I posted the following review on Amazon.
What a fabulous read this is. I can’t recommend it highly enough, but if you don’t believe me, then maybe you’ll take the recommendation of the judges who awarded it the Scottish book of the year award (fiction) for 2013. (Scottish Book Awards 2013). Three voices give us the story. Each voice is the same person. In the first person, she (Rowan) tells the story of her childhood growing up in a new age commune in the North of Scotland in the 1970s. In the second person, she is addressed in the present tense as a mother struggling to cope with the emotional demands of motherhood. In the third person, she tells various versions of her own mother’s mysterious disappearance when she was 11. A mother disappears and leaves her child and orphan; the child has become a mother; the new mother fails her child; the new mother goes back to her life as a child to find her own mother. This may not sound very interesting in my less than sparky summary, but believe me, the tension is there from the start. I picked the book up late in the afternoon, and only put it down after midnight when it was finished. Page after page shoots by, as Rowan careers further and further into a depression that can only be lifted by discovering the suppressed secrets of her childhood. The reader is brought right up close to, in fact inside the head of, a woman on the verge as she runs away from her comfortable Islington life, her baby, her well balanced husband and seeks the truth of her past in a journey of exploration, back to the commune of her youth. There are some lighter moments, particularly as the encounter group in the contemporary commune go through their bonding workshops and salivate at the prospect of meeting the 70s new age guru, Eva, who is now the mother superior of the commune, and was Rowan’s mother’s nemesis. For those of us alive in those years, memories are stirred – an interesting name-check through the music and the causes of the naïve social left, part individualistic self-indulgence, part romantic protest against the impersonal forces of the post-modern world ahead. Throughout, Rowan struggles to open her eyes to who she is and what she is for. Ewan Morrison clearly is in command of the writer’s craft. His style is at times pacy but necessary, spare but detailed. A compelling emotional intensity is generated through Rowan’s sustained minute by minute internal monologues. The reader, washed out by the end, will emerge with more insight and more questions than before, and just a little bit of hope that Rowan’s future will be better, that all our futures will be better.