Wow. This book is absolutely mint. Boy Parts is a powerful work of Geordie fiction.
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Publication Date: July 2020
‘Irina obsessively takes explicit photographs of the average-looking men she persuades to model for her, scouted from the streets of Newcastle.
Placed on sabbatical from her dead-end bar job, she is offered an exhibition at a fashionable London gallery, promising to revive her career in the art world and offering an escape from her rut of drugs, alcohol, and extreme cinema. The news triggers a self-destructive tailspin, centred around Irina’s relationship with her obsessive best friend, and a shy young man from her local supermarket who has attracted her attention…
Boy Parts is the incendiary debut novel from Eliza Clark, a pitch-black comedy both shocking and hilarious, fearlessly exploring the taboo regions of sexuality and gender roles in the twenty-first century.’ – Goodreads
I discovered Boy Parts after reading Clark’s interview with The Guardian and the Northern representation bells starting ringing in my head. And after learning that the book mentions my local Tesco, I lost it. Basically, it’s not every day you find a mainstream book set in my hometown.
I’m quite posh in Newcastle, practically middle-class here, but there… State-educated, regional accent, a heavy drinker […] Someone asked me if my dad was a miner the first day I was there.
And oh my god did this book speak to me. Not in an ‘I too, have a murderous secret’ way, but more in a ‘OH MY GOD, SHE KNOWS WHERE GREY’S MONUMENT IS’ sort of way. Clark’s tone is marred with cynicism and sarcasm, accurately under toning the city itself. They’ve nailed what it is to grow up in Newcastle in a way that I’ve never seen before, and probably will never see again.
Aside from taking place in the North, what’s so great about this novel? Literally everything. Irina is a detestable figure, and yet she just feels so real. She’s flawed and disgusting and funny and pitiful. I feel so much sympathy for her, but I kinda hate her? The way she treats others around her is horrible, but it’s those that she is closest to that she treats the worst (especially Flo and Eddie from Tesco!). Irina’s declining mental state is surreal to read, leaving you questioning whether anything you’ve read previously was real or the result of another night-out.
I recall lying down on the floor, and suddenly being aware that years were passing […] I sank down into the carpet, consumed, swaddled, and ascended.
Also (and mega-spoilers for this), I don’t think I’ve ever read a novel where I’ve been so shocked at a twist. My face went from neutral to shocked Pikachu face within seconds. Yet, Clark is so brilliant that you still feel sympathy for Irina. And then you feel disgusted with yourself for doing so. It’s revoltingly brilliant writing.
Having finished this in the early hours of the morning, my exhausted self has scribbled in the back of the book: ‘This is like if American Psycho was written by the Arctic Monkeys and the protagonist was a gal who grew up in Newcastle… but like… better.’ And honestly? I’m not wrong. Commentating on the North/South divide and taboo topics of sexuality, this is such a fantastic debut from Clark. I haven’t been this excited to read more of an author’s work in a long time.