Title: Now That I See You
Author: Emma Batchelor
Genre: Literary Fiction
Number of Pages: 216
Warning: This review contains minor spoilers.
Now That I See You had a lot of potential, and I initially enjoyed the intimacy of the epistolary style (it did have the feeling of a real journal.) I just found it very disappointing and frustrating overall. It’s an autobiographical novel about a woman (who I think goes unnamed throughout, but I’ll call her Emma because she’s clearly modeled after the author) who discovers that her partner Jess is transgender.
She wants to make the relationship work and as they begin their transition she starts to become attracted to their ‘femme’ appearance. Their relationship starts to go down the tubes as Jess begins to distance themself from Emma. For the next 100+ pages, Emma proceeds to whine and moan that Jess doesn’t love her anymore and is using/gaslighting her.
Emma blames Jess’ Asperger’s Syndrome for their coldness (as someone with AS, I found this borderline problematic and offensive, it had the air of ‘they have Asperger’s they don’t know any better/aren’t capable of more’) and spins a gloomy, self-pitying narrative of victimhood.
It seemed like she pushed and pushed Jess into a relationship they weren’t comfortable with and then whined that she was being gaslighted. I thought it was weird that she dedicated this book to ‘the real Jess’ when she does nothing but complain about them while simultaneously going on about how insanely and unconditionally she loves them. I swear this woman went on a crying jag every other page.
It reminds me of Friends when Ross is bitching about how everything reminds him of his ex-wife Carol. ‘This orange peel reminds me of Jess. Wah!’ The story just dragged so much and I found Emma impossible to sympathize with. Jess just wasn’t in the right headspace for a relationship. I’m not sure that makes them cold, manipulative, or any of the other things she heavily implied. I was like, okay, Emma. You stayed with Jess after they came out as trans, which most people wouldn’t do. What do you want, a freakin’ award?
I would deal better with the main character being unlikable if the book weren’t so clearly autobiographical. You’re SUPPOSED to like her and sympathize with how hard her life is. This book also goes nowhere. At least it’s short. It ends with Emma coming to the big realization that she can live without Jess. O-kay. Great.
Terrific character arc *rolls eyes*. I’m curious how other readers felt about Jess and Emma’s relationship. Like, was I missing something? I would have liked to have seen more from Jess’ viewpoint. Emma’s sense of martyrdom was exhausting and made the book feel much longer than it was.
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