Friday, 25 January 2013

Book Review: How Should A Person Be?

How Should A Person Be?
By Sheila Heti
Published by Harvill Secker
Hardback ISBN - 9781846557545

How Should A Person Be? is a book that's hard to define. It feels part confessional journalism, part novel, part play, part memoir.

One thing is definite. This is a marmite book. There are going to be people who love it's eccentric ways and there are going to be people who want the book out of their house. For me, I half way between the two. There were parts that I enjoyed and there were parts that made me want to grab the characters and shake some sense into them.

Sheila Heti has taken parts of her life, merged it with fiction and become the protagonist within her novel. Through out the novel, Sheila attempts to answer the question of how should a person be?

One of the great things I liked about the book was the structure. Passages of the narrative are broken up with emails, letters and transcribed conversations. This gives How Should A Person Be? a feeling that it could be a book version of a reality show. I like books that take the normal beginning-middle-end and chop it up and feed it to the reader in interesting ways.

Sheila is highly self-conscious of wanting to be perfect to the point where she is unable to write a play or even move forward with her life without seeking approval first. She wants to reach a certain point in her life but is unable to create the 'perfect setting' to write the play.

One of the stronger parts of the book is the tension and friendship between her artist friend, Margaux. She records their conversations, hoping to find an insight into how women interact together, for a play that she plans on writing. Sheila struggles to find inspiration and looks at her friends, like Margaux who is a talented artist, for finding ways to help with find creativity and finding a purpose within her life. These parts of the novel brilliantly demonstrate the dynamics of a modern female friendship.

Sheila meets a man and has a sexual relationship with him. I wondered if he was her entry into the ugly competition that she set for her two artist friends. Both of them set out to create the ugliest painting. For Sheila, meeting Israel could be her exploration of the ugly side of life. He is dominating and has no respect for Sheila. She is just a prop for his life. This was the part of the book that I wanted to fling the book across the room as it was easy to see that he bought the ugliness and shallowness in her.

If you like books that don't like to be defined and you want a book that you could love and hate at the same time then you should definitely read this one.

How Should A Person Be? is available from your preferred online or offline book retailer. 

Thank you to the publisher for sending me a copy. 

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