I just finished reading Bellevue Square by Michael Redhill. It hardly needs a revue, as it’s this year’s Giller Prize winner. I loved this book. It messes with the reader throughout, but that’s OK. It’s vexing and clever and it’s a page-turner.
What is real? We want to trust the narrator, right? But what if the narrator is living in an imaginary world, suffering from a “wiring problem”? Or what if the narrator is another person’s doppelganger, some kind of para-normal phenomenon, or a product of somebody else’s imagination and life experience? Bellevue Square is an unstable platform. You think you have a handle on it but you don’t.
Is it a book about mental illness?…a book about doppelgangers?….a book about the nature of reality and perception? I guess it’s all of these things. Much of the book is set in Kensington Market here in Toronto, a place I know well. In the little park known as Belleview Square, you’re apt to meet all manner of outsiders, out-patients, drug dealers, drug takers, performers, artists, and misfits of all shapes and sizes. What a perfect setting for this novel.
Bellevue Square starts as if it is a conventional mystery thriller-type book but that goes off the rails fairly quickly. Don’t worry about it. Just dive right in and roll with it. You’ll be fine….maybe.