Last year, not too long after having finished reading her self-help book All I Know Now, I remember watching one of Carrie Hope Fletcher’s videos announcing she was writing a fiction novel. I was both incredibly excited and curious. As ever the idea of a new book to read is a wonderful prospect, but at the same time I just didn’t know what kind of book I’d expect. So my anticipation was even stronger, as the months went by and she revealed more aspects of it, and it was becoming closer to the release date. Then April Fools Day of this year (my 21st birthday) my flatmate tells me he has pre-ordered On The Other Side for my birthday. BOOM. Now here we are, the book came on the exact day of my Uni graduation, so all kinds of emotions were buzzing around! Now a little while on from receiving the book, and getting over the excitement of graduation I have, sadly, come to the end of the novel. Naturally, I wanted to talk about it, so here’s my review. As always, because I write these to talk about books but also to recommend them I’ll keep it as spoiler free as possible!
Now the book begins (don’t worry this doesn’t count as a spoiler) with the narratives protagonist Evie Snow having died. She wakes up in her old flat hallway, the location that provides a limbo between death and heaven. To be able to cross into heaven (in this case, being her flat) she must relieve the weight on her soul, by entering different situations within the alive world. As a spirit she has to try to reveal secrets, and say things she never managed to say when alive. This provides us with a beautiful split narrative, as we see Evie in the present trying to lift the weight of her soul, while also reliving the past.
Having finished the book I worry a little that the … lets see, how do I phrase this?… sceptical or more … well… closed-minded of readers may struggle with the fantasy element. Personally I don’t. What I mean is that there are parts I think are well written fantasy tropes, but what really makes it special is how fantasy elements are so well blended into the reality. Many books of this nature will brand it either ‘realistic’ or ‘fantastical’ but very rarely both. Carrie takes on the task of mixing both together, without feeling like there needs to be an explanation. There is, don’t get me wrong, a reason and a substance behind their existence but the book doesn’t worry about justifying the existence of fantasy in reality. That is one of the most endearing aspects of the book for me. I have always held a certain mind-set which I can never properly pin point to one thing, that I guess is a mixture of Spiritualism and Actual Idealism. A mixture between a belief in spirituality, and there being more to just our minds and our bodies, and also that our view of reality is purely mental. There is fantasy in everything we see, but at the same time, it’s not really any less real than the things we believe to be reality. That is what I love about this book so much. It explores the effect of our spiritual being on the world, and also how one person can be connected to another in a way that maybe no other person can be.
People are always so afraid of taking that sort of stance, whether it is in a fictional narrative or a verbal belief. So it’s beautifully inspiring to possibly see it taken so bravely. I say this all the time but this is of course my own interpretation, it could be completely different, but it’s what I take from it. I think that’s the other thing. The personal element. Books, especially those containing fantasy are a way of escapism, of a deserved indulgence in happiness and tranquility. The way they work best is when they can be so personal, but so universal. On The Other Side deals with so many subjects that are universally known, and as a result gives so many people the ability to connect to it. The two biggest elements being What Happens When We Die? and also Did We Live Our Lives Right? and they’re dealt with the utmost sophistication and wonder. On The Other Side delves into our deepest worries about our lives, and offers a splendid way of exploring them. I’m going to mention two things now, they’re not spoilers as such, they are things you should look out for. Little One and The Tree. I won’t explain what they are, I just want to express my fascination with them. They both act as metaphors for so much, but also act as a literal physical manifestation of the fantasy-reality I was talking about earlier. It’s those two as well that I wonder if some critics will struggle to fully accept. But maybe that’s sort of nice, it leaves the book to those of the world that believe in an open mind, and like to dream.
In short On The Other Side presents us with morbidity, romance, idealism, fate and the afterlife all in one narrative and does so rather well. Almost all characters were so incredibly developed and became a great staple in my life, as I read through the book. The only person, maybe people, I wanted to know more about was Evie’s mother and maybe even father. I knew part of them, and their beliefs, but I think it would have been really nice to have had a separate scene with one or both of them, to just understand their past as well. I don’t know, but it’s not enough of a problem to ruin the book at all, it’s just something I wished for a little when reading it. When you read it, let me know what you think! It is still an interesting, and fantastically unique novel, especially as a debut fiction work for Carrie. More than being a great book, having watched her videos for such a long time I can’t help seeing so much of her authenticity and personality from her videos in the book. But also enough of a difference that the characters are separate from her and her videos and are their own people. Basically… hurry up and read it!
Rating : 4.5/5
Currently Reading: Half of a Yellow Sun – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
“There are times in life when two people who want to talk do not do so for no other reason than each of them fearing that the other person does not want to talk to them.”