Thursday, 31 March 2011

Book Review: Girlfriend in a Coma by Douglas Coupland

I've been meaning to read Girlfriend in a Coma for a while; it's always on sale in HMV and Fopp for a few quid, has an interesting cover and of course, a title taken from a Smiths song.

This novel has a 3 part structure - part 1 is narrated in the first person by Richard whose girlfriend Karen ends up in a coma aged 17, part 2 moves into third person when she wakes up 17 years later, while part 3 moves into another first person narrative from a ghost named Jared.  Oh and the Apocalypse has happened. Confused?  Well I was, and still am.  Jared bookends the story.  We'll come back to him later.

I quite enjoyed the start - a bit of late '70s nostalgia and a suitably morbid premise, despite the OTT language in places.  In the first few pages we learn the December night air felt like 'the air of the Moon'; the city dreams of 'only what the embryo knows'; Richard and Karen were 'pumping like lions'; Richard 'thought of jewels being tossed off an ocean liner over the Marianas Trench'.  Err, what?


Karen falls into a coma rather than confront the vision of the future she sees.  Okay! This is my kind of stuff!  But things gradually become more slipshod.  The sudden change to third person was a bit off putting, but the change to Jared's narration was totally jarring.  I kept on thinking he was Richard, our initial narrator.  No surprise as their voice is exactly the same.  Who is this Jared anyway?  Some teenager who was friends with the main characters and died before the story begins.  He hovers over them, after the plague, touching them and giving them gifts, curing their ailments etc like some high school Virgin Mary in American football shoulder pads. Throw in some ridiculous and pretentious mumbo-jumbo and a million pop culture references (yes I can see you like The Smiths).  And then it was all a dream.  Sort of.

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