Nothing to See by Pip Adam (Victoria University Press, 2020), 380pp, $30
Pip Adam is one of our most innovative writers. She is one of a group of accomplished stylists to come out of the International Institute of Modern Letters but she also has sufficient grip on standard narrative conventions to successfully play around with them.
Her first novel, I am Working on a Building, is told backwards from narrative present to past and turns on the idea of constructing a replica of the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building, on New Zealand’s West Coast—I guess, in defiance of the Alpine Fault. In The New Animals she twists the expectations of conventional plot structures. The first two-thirds of the book are tightly focused on a group of disparate characters preparing for a fashion show, shifting point of view in a claustrophobic exploration of intergenerational attitudes; the last third dives off in a new direction as one of the characters, barely mentioned up to this point, swims out to sea and keeps on swimming through the Waitematā Harbour into the Hauraki Gulf and on. The shape of the novel feels like an apostrophe or, perhaps more aptly, a flea with a compact body and a pair of long back legs that propel it suddenly in a new direction. In Adam’s latest novel, Nothing to See, the convention she explores is unity of character. [Read more…]