A review of Precocious, by Joanna Barnard
Fiona is thirty and quietly dissatisfied with her comfortable but dull life. She always wanted to be a writer, but instead settled for a career in sales and a safe relationship with her husband, Dave.
So when she runs into an old teacher in the supermarket, a man who she got far too close to at school, a part of her life that she had forgotten comes rushing back. But along with the thrills and excitement, come realisations that might have been better left in the past.
Precocious is the debut novel by Joanna Barnard, who won the inaugural Bath Novel Award in 2014. I was one of the writers who made the longlist in that competition, so I was curious to read the winning novel.
Barnard has managed to capture that feeling of dissatisfaction that can pervade everyday life, which make people overlook what they have, as they’re always in search of something better.
Fiona isn’t initially an easy character to warm to. Most of us have some parts of our lives that we’re unhappy with, or that haven’t turned out as we hoped. But she is determined to risk her marriage for a relationship that teeters on the edge of inappropriate.
As the novel progresses, the story of Fiona’s teenage love affair unfolds, making her behaviour suddenly much easier to understand and making the story itself much more powerful.
This is a book full of unhappy relationships: from Fiona’s parents, to the school friend with an unfaithful fiancé, to the friend who grew up without a father. Each of these relationships mirrors something about Fiona’s love life, causing her to reconsider her feelings and her situation. And as each of the troubled relationships finds some kind of resolution, it becomes obvious just what decision Fiona should make.
Precocious is sometimes an uncomfortable read, but the snappy writing makes it easy to engage with, pushing the action forward at a good pace. It’s a book that deals with guilt and the overwhelming need for something that you recognise can never ultimately be good for you.
Find out more
Precocious on Goodreads
Precocious on Amazon (affiliate link)