Set over the course of a single day in Dublin, Emilie Pine’s debut novel Ruth & Pen tells the separate, occasionally overlapping stories of its eponymous characters. Ruth’s marriage is in crisis due to factors that are out of her control, while Pen is trying to navigate the murky, turbulent waters of teenage love. Both women are feeling lost, trying to find their footing in the world and yearning for things that may always remain out of reach.
Despite being billed as a novel, the book is really made up of two briefly intersecting novellas. The chapters alternate between both stories, and occasionally shift to include the perspectives of Ruth’s husband Aidan, Pen’s friend Alice and Pen’s mother Claire. These additional perspectives sometimes clutter the narrative, muddying its momentum, especially in the opening third, which is the weakest section of the book, and there is a sense that the story takes a while to get going, that its opening could have more succinct, but Ruth & Pen soon becomes an affecting, at times very moving portrait of love and grief, capturing the constant tussle between our interior lives and the hidden lives of others. The answer, as always, is connection.
Ruth & Pen, Emilie Pine (Hamish Hamilton)
Price: £14.99. Info: here
words JOSHUA REES
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