Pam Jones’s Ivy Day is an eerie, vivid examination of minds warped by obsession and stardom. Jones conjures a deep journey into the heads of five characters, focusing on the particularly unpleasant journey of one JOHN MARK Waterman. With elements of literary, noir, and thriller fiction combined with skilled prose, this novel is adeptly off-putting and observant.
JOHN MARK Waterman works at the mortuary, spending his days handling the bodies of the dead. His only respite from this work are the films playing at the local cinema. Through them, he learns about Ivy Day, a beautiful Hollywood starlet and media figure. But very quickly his interest escalates to infatuation and finally complete obsession. In other threads of the novel, three teenage girls aim to emulate the supernaturally perfect Ivy Day by any means possible, and Ivy Day herself reveals the strange relationship she has to her sense of self and her body.
Ivy Day‘s strengths lie in the profound characterization of its cast. Jones uses dizzying free indirect discourse to completely inhabit the minds of these uncanny, exaggerated characters. The acutely introspective, nearly sociopathic mindset of JOHN MARK is particularly captivating. This, along with the book’s lack of a concrete setting or even static character names, makes for a dreamlike sensation while reading.
The technical elements of the novel are just as strong. Jones consistently provides the reader with arresting prose that turns even the most mundane events disturbing: “Transformations are never easy. Breast buds hurt when they blossom. Menstruation kills. [… But it] was worth it in the end, wasn’t it? Pain is beauty, all that?”
The three story lines eventually fuse during the stirring climax, providing an uncomfortable answer to the novel’s central question: What happens when superficial obsession doesn’t let us go? Pam Jones’s Ivy Day is a new, chilling look at the too prevalent, dark side of culture.
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