Tracey Farren’s debut novel is going to hit you between the eyes!
Ex-journalist now full time writer, Farren has approached this novel in a quirky and unforgettable style. Raw, gritty, funny and with a rhythm that takes you from the staccato edges of prose to the poetry of an exotic rainbow, this is a story that takes you on a journey from soul destroying horror to spiritual awakening. Of redemption for a lost soul who walks the streets for a living to quite simply, a resurrection.
There is no question that being a street walker has its horrors and that those who ply this trade must have huge courage. Prostitution has been around since time immemorial, and yet it is still a subject that raises eyebrows and objections. Farren’s journalistic research inspired this wonderfully compelling story and it is her power of description in getting the heroine to live right under your skin that makes this book so memorable.
So what makes a women sell her body, open herself up to degradation and possible beatings? ‘Whiplash” tells it like it is and Farren’s talent is in the translation of her research into fiction, without pulling any punches.
Written in a colloquial style using colourful vernacular Tess, a Muizenberg prostitute is having a conversation with the mother who retired from the world “under a mouldy duvet”. Tess’s need to reconnect with this mother who “slept through” her childhood and the abuse that her daughter was suffering is the pivot of the book. She is determined that now her mother will hear her.
Tess struggles to explain the miracle of the year that has shifted her life 180 degrees and the startling and heart breaking revelations are described vividly. Getting into the head of this girl, you can hear the tone of her voice, see the colour of her clothes, visualise the view from her apartment window, empathize with the hopelessness of her days and try to understand this scary world that she lives in.
At the start getting through the day is best done in a drug induced haze and Tess pops Syndols as fast as she can get a “jump” – well how else can you live through the myriad of clients and their foibles? Emotions don’t feature when you sell your body for a living.
When an experience with a client forces her to take stock and realise that life is on the verge of changing, the drugs get reduced and Tess finally starts seeing the world as it really is Appalling flashbacks make her understand how this life of hers went off the rails, yet old habits die hard! Ignoring these realities, she hits the road and flogs her body even harder.
Tess journeys through a series of painful discoveries about herself but her innate intelligence gives her the strength to move forward and face her life with frank honesty. As Tess changes so does the tone of the prose and the pace is set with the twists and turns of the journey - this is what I enjoyed so much. Dipping and swirling the reader is caught in the maelstrom that carries you towards the end.
Farren perfectly captures the voice of a woman living in a half world as it changes to the voice of a woman on the brink of change and the bright colour that comes with it.
I loved meeting the wonderful Congolese neighbour who treats Tess as a daughter, the impotent client who reveals such strength and care, the friend who shared her childhood and of course the feisty friends who share her journey.
As the veils lift from Tess’s eyes she begins to see that life has some purpose Through her neighbour she enters a new and colourful world where sequins and silk are sewn together to entice her hips to dance to a different tune -and the next faltering step is taken.
Farren’s talent as a wordsmith lies in her clever combination of raw street language and visual, sometimes brutal, descriptions that get you into the psyche of her character. From a roller coaster ride where you hold your breath and clench your stomach to a softer and gentler rhythm, the novel places the street walker in a very different space, never letting you forget that there is a cold, violent and unforgiving world that some inhabit.
Tess will live on in my memory for a long time.