Rapeseed, Nancy Freund

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Do you trust your own brain? The colors you think you see? Smells that deliver vibrant memories that seem entirely real? Challenging what we know about our senses, Rapeseed features a synesthetic mom from Kansas with cross-wired colors in her letters, numbers, and her turbulent memories. She’s been quietly keeping secrets from and with her husband until his job moves the family to England and rocks their carefully constructed history. Desperate to untangle the mixed textures of her past while her teenage son rushes toward a dangerous future with foreign friends and rap music, Carolann Cooper navigates busy London streets and winding English country roads in search of the one thing promising resolution in her own head and back home. A luminous novel from a bright new voice in American fiction.

Publisher: Gopreau Press, Sept 2013

Reviewer: Briony Stebbings

Rapeseed  centres around Carolann Cooper and her family, she has recently moved from a town in Kansas, where everyone knows everyone and everything, to London where she has the chance to start fresh, to be unknown and to explore the secrets she has been keeping.

Carolann is also a synesthete, experiencing everything in a confusing whirl of colours and sounds that only she experiences.  This made her an outcast at home and even within her own family and changes the way she deals with things throughout the book. I found this interesting in itself as it is a condition I knew nothing about, so as well as adding an interesting dimension to the story, it also gave me something to think and learn about outside of the book.

There are so many different topics and feelings covered in the book, but they intertwine perfectly pulling you through this amazingly warm, funny, painful, brilliant book. It’s the kind of book where you are desperate to turn the page to find out what happens next but sad at the same time as for every page you turn you are getting closer to then end.

There are issues between Carolann being pulled between the family she left in Kansas and her Husband and son who want to stay in England. Her parents and twin sister desperately want her to come back to Kansas, they make her miserable and treat her poorly but they are her family and despite so many things she is loyal to them and it is her home. Then she has her husband and son who have settled into their lives in England, both finding new strengths, in a way she hasn’t been able to.

The physical break from her family that is created form the move enables Carolann to explore the many secrets she has been keeping and come to decide whether they should indeed remain secret or be talked about, explained and release her from some of the things that have been holding her back.

On top of this you have a teenager moved to a new country and dealing with growing up, you have a whole family struggling to settle into a new country and new routines, a marriage that on the outside seems perfect but beneath the surface is far from it, you have secrets and truths and troubling memories that are merged with colours and textures and sounds.

By cleverly writing the story from the perspectives of Carolann, her son Chip and her husband Lyn and gradually exploring both past and present events, everybody’s stories are gradually unravelled and explained until everything reaches a make or break decision. There is also the input of the new people in their lives, Carolann’s new neighbour Rowan with whom she shares being a twin and a synesthete but is still fundamentally different helps her settle in to a new country and her own skin and Chip’s new and incredibly feisty friend Ticia who helps him relax and become brave but pushes boundaries that make him uncomfortable adding yet more layers to the story.

I loved the fact from early on you know there is a mystery to be solved but that for quite a long time you don’t know what that mystery is and right up until the last page you really don’t know what the outcome will be. I know you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover but this cover is one you can judge, it’s striking imagery, colours and dark sky really do give you a glimpse of what’s inside.

If I had to say just one thing about this book it would I would say read it, you won’t be disappointed, it is brilliant, it has really been a pleasure to read and I want to read more.

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