I started 2020 with this sensational book, and what an amazing tour de force it is. This is fiction writing at its finest, inter-weaving stories that take place 100 years apart, yet parallel each other and then converge.
At the start of “The Martian Girl”, we meet Jean, a young London-based woman in her late 30s who is having an affair with an older, married man called Coates (we never do learn his first name).
Their love affair is a strange mix of his seeming indifference and her need for affirmation and support for her project, which is writing the script for a one woman show. Jean is fascinated by the story of Kate French, a young mind-reader who toured the theatres and music halls of Victorian England until suddenly disappearing without trace.
The more Jean researches Kate’s story, the more she realises that a one-woman show won’t work, and that to do Kate justice, it should be a novel. Her increasing (21st century) interest in Kate parallels Kate’s own (19th century) increasing doubts about her mind-reading partner, as well as (21st century) Coates’ increasing instability and suspicion of his lover, Jean.
The novel is a dazzling mix of history, and the world of late 19th century theatre, of contemporary London and the city’s darker underbelly. It is dark, it is is humorous, it is sometimes graphically shocking, and it is oh-so-clever, with a final plot twist in the closing pages.
A great read.
Here’s a link, should you decide to buy.