Friday, 25 March 2016

Viral by Helen Fitzgerald


Reviewer: JJ Marsh

What we thought: In a similar way to Louise O’Neill’s use of a real incident as a basis for her fiction, Fitzgerald uses an infamous viral video as the trigger for this unsettling story.

From the first line – I sucked twelve cocks in Magaluf – the reader is drawn into an experience much like a nightmare: how did I get here and what happens next?

Su wants to be a doctor. She’s a virgin and a good girl. She wants to make her adoptive parents proud. Her sister, a natural conception shortly after the adoption, dismisses the ambition of good girl and chases good times instead. When the two travel to Magaluf with a bunch of friends to celebrate their exams, only one will return home.

Su’s drunken (drugged?) escapade is filmed by the club staff and put online to go viral. She can’t bear to go home and face her family, friends, boyfriend, neighbours, knowing they’ve all seen it. So she runs.

Her mother, Ruth, is a judge (or Sheriff as it’s known in Scotland). Enraged at the judgement of her daughter and the lack of any shame attached to the men or those filming, she goes after them. This is not just for Su, but for herself.

All the three women are significantly changed by their efforts to manage the impact, and the ending is unexpected yet satisfying.

Fitzgerald’s black humour and skill with changing pace makes this a speedy read while luring the reader into genuine emotional investment. Not to mention striking a terrifying note about social media.

You’ll enjoy this if you like: Jodi Picoult, Louise O’Neill, Fay Weldon

Avoid if you don’t like: What really goes on in Magaluf, exploitation of young women and emotional stress

Ideal accompaniments: Gin and bitter lemon, dried seaweed and Amanda Palmer’s Machete

Available from Amazon

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