THIS BODY by Tessa McWatt (HarperCollins), 325 pages, $32.95 cloth. Rating: NNNN
tessa mcwatt reading Wednesday (October 27) and on a round table October 29. See listings this page for details. Rating: NNNN
Tessa McWatt has always had huge observational powers in stories that touch on the experience of displacement and loss. But with This Body, her third novel, she takes a big fat artistic leap.
For starters, the 30-something McWatt manages to inhabit the mind of Victoria, a woman in her 60s who inherits her nephew when her sister dies in a car crash in Guyana. Victoria, living in Toronto at the time, decides to take Derek with her to London, where she works as a cook and copes with unexpected new motherhood.
Obsessed with the minutiae of her recipes, she lives with an emotional emptiness that has engulfed her ever since her Kenyan lover, Kola, disappeared. This emotional reserve gets in the way of her relationship with her nephew and looks like it could derail anything approaching a budding romance.
In precise and vivid prose, McWatt conveys how an aging woman feels in a body that's starting to give out, and understands the startling sensation of being sexually reawakened well past menopause.
She also creates a believable eight-year-old boy in the character of Derek, who's preoccupied with finding a father he can never know and a way to stare down the school bully.
Bonus: yummy Guyanese recipes, offered not just to make us salivate but so we can appreciate Victoria's culinary art.
An emotionally powerful novel about loss and connection. Beautiful.