Once More, with Feeling by Sophie McCreesh

"Jane is excited for her mimosa to arrive. It might wake her up enough to be able to stomach food. She tries to think of something impressive to tell her parents so that they will think she is doing well. Not much comes to mind. All she does is work, drink, and see Richard."

ONCE MORE, WITH FEELING

Once More, With Feeling follows Jane, an artist navigating her closest relationships while fixating on her own perceived failures and self-imposed isolation. When Jane receives a student grant to attend a workshop in London, England, she sees the opportunity to leave her tedious life behind and start anew, bringing along her new friend Kitty, who Jane will not admit she has little in common with other than a shared appreciation for boxed wine and various other drugs.

In London, Jane struggles to improve both her craft and her mindset while Kitty thrives, and a once exciting trip abroad transforms the already uneven dynamic of their friendship, leaving Jane feeling more withdrawn than ever. As her increasingly destructive behaviour gets in the way of her artistic ambitions, her most important relationships—those with Kitty, her absent lover Richard and a discredited therapist named Anna—begin to deteriorate as Jane starts to examine her growing dependence on substances.


What I thought

This book took a bit of getting into, but once I was a few chapters in, I was totally hooked. I love deadpan and dry-wit humour, and Once More, With Feeling delivered that. Despite not much actually happening throughout the book, I felt a compulsion to read on, and I just couldn't put it down once I got into it. 

The prose is vividly descriptive, conversational, and down to earth. The bluntness of the writing reminded me a little of Ottessa Moshfegh and Naoise Dolan. I loved Moshfegh’s My Year of Rest and Relaxation and Dolan's Exciting Times, and this book has some similarities to those.

The protagonist Jane was relatable in many ways, and I really enjoyed getting to know her, taking her everywhere with me as I read the book. I felt deeply sorry for her as she seemed to struggle to find her place in the world, with a verbally abusive boyfriend and not too many friends. Jane’s loneliness is relatable for anyone living in a big city like Toronto. Her anxiety, depression, crippling paranoia, and constant need for validation made her more of a complex character, which overall made this a more interesting and engaging read. 

It was a fantastic debut from Canadian author Sophie McCreesh. And that cover image? Designed by Jennifer Griffiths. I freaking love it! 

Photo by Jeff Bierk

Sophie McCreesh
is a fiction writer living in Toronto. Her writing has appeared in Cosmonauts Avenue, Hobart, Bad Nudes and elsewhere. Once More, With Feeling is her debut novel. 

Once More, With Feeling is available to purchase in hardcover at Indigo and in e-book format from Kobo. Check Penguin Random House CA for additional retailers. 

Thank you to Penguin Random House CA for my gifted copy in exchange for this honest review. 

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