13 December, 2016

How to set a fire and why by Jesse Ball


This was an oddballs little number that celebrates the misaligned, the genius outsiders who are overlooked by society, conveniently boxed as trouble makers, no-hopers or just unseen.

It is however, our greatest gift as readers to meet Lucia, her terrifying intellect, and her raw potential. Lucia lives in a  ramshackle converted garage with her Aunt, after something terrible, which we are never privy to, killed her father and caused her mother to be confined to an asylum. Initially you wonder if this is what the novel is leading up to, the big reveal, the dreadful cataclysmic events that have to led to the here and now. However, this soon fades into insignificance and  you just want to watch and learn more about how Lucia’s mind and thought processes work.

This book is Lucia’s manifesto, her workings out of what happens in life, for her, from her vantage point and it is something quite special to be witness to it. In a sense its also an ode to fire, the magnificence of a sparking birthing a flame leading to an inferno. So the girl likes starting fires, everyone has their thing, right?

It won’t be for everyone, it is for those who want to get to know the marginalised, who wonder at someone’s story, that person who clearly walks to the beat of a different drum, so to speak.

Lucia will stay with you after the book is finished and you wonder and wish you could travel some more with her and see how she navigates life, or finds her tribe.  But actually, you know she has already found her tribe, through her refusal to curtail to social expectations and scripted social pleasantries her tribe will always find her.

Witness one of my favourite excerpts from the novel. Lucia is quizzed on why she is turning up at school so late, to which she replies demurely, “ big night out whoring, you know how that can be”. Or words to that effect. Who wouldn’t want to have been that bad arse at such a young age.

Reviewed by: Sue W

Title: How to set a fire and why
Author:  Jesse Ball

Sue W loves her fur babies equally but differently and used to administer time out to think about bad behaviours. However, since Patrick the fox arrived, she can no longer lock a miscreant in the spare room least Patrick is set upon.

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