Tuesday 24 July 2012

Book review : As Above ~ So Below - Jeffrey M. Borowski

I love chocolate. I also love cheese. But if I bit into a piece of chocolate and it tasted like cheese, I'd say it was horrible and vice versa. The problem is, when your brain is expecting one thing and it gets another, it automatically thinks it is "bad" or "wrong". My reading tastes are very eclectic. I'll happily read most genres, from violent crime fiction to frivolous chick lit and all things in between, so when I was offered a review copy of As Above ~ So Below, I was happy to read it and see what I thought. I was immediately slightly wrong-footed though because I had no idea what to expect - should I set myself up for a chocolate or a cheese moment ?!

Well, I've just turned the final page and I'm still not entirely sure what I was supposed to be tasting ! The book is labelled as "A channelled, assisted, unfolding story" and the front cover gives its aim as "Bringing Light, Love & Knowledge". The notion of a "channelled" and "assisted" story had me intrigued. One of my favourite all-time TV shows is Most Haunted, which I watch as an open-minded sceptic, as some of the TV crew say. I'm therefore quite used to Derek Acorah and the other psychic mediums talking about "channelling" voices and saying words and phrases that just come into their head "from beyond". I have no totally defined beliefs, religious or otherwise, so I'm always open to listening to other people's viewpoints, even if I don't necessarily adhere to them.

This is actually the perfect mindset to have when picking up this book. I didn't bat an eyelid at the narrator describing his pagan beliefs and - what some would call, quite probably incorrectly - "white witchcraft" cleansing rituals with incense and pentagrams. I didn't even question the ghostly appearances of the former owner of the narrator's new house, Michelle. I was just perturbed by the fact that being French and male, his name should be Michel, rather than the female version Michelle !

What did leave me feeling disconcerted however was not knowing how to define what I was reading. When reading a book, one of the questions I frequently ask myself is, if I were a bookseller, which category would I put this book in? As Above ~ So Below is full of great little nuggets of wisdom and life lessons to ponder, so could be classed as a self-help book or maybe esoterism. The narrator, Jeff, and his lovely wife, Brennie, a pair of writers having moved from Arizona back to Upstate New York, have a lifestory and lifestyle that seems to be 100% autobiographical, yet the front of the book clearly states "This novel is fiction. Any similarities to any person alive, deceased ~ or at any level in between, is purely coincidental" and the author refers to it as "a passionate, magickal fantasy that I began writing so very long ago, about a new writer that moves back to the mountainous northeast with his wife."

As a work of fiction, I kept waiting for something - anything ! - to happen. There are a lot of detailed descriptions of taking showers, feeding the wild animals and using a snowblower that were cute the first time but rather tedious when repeated several times. The narrator (author?) says numerous times that he is well aware that he is forever going off on huge tangents or repeating things that he has already said several times before but that he feels need to be underscored, so at times, I found myself wishing that a ruthless editor had gone through, cutting out superfluous "samey" sections ! I also frequently found myself thinking that this outspoken, opiniated narrator should have had the transparency to say "this is me, this is my story and my viewpoint" rather than hide behind the "fiction" tag, if that is indeed what he is is doing.

So that says it all really. It's a slow, meandering read, more essay than novel, that is lacking in action but does have many things to make you reflect, which is ultimately what it sets out to be. I'm just left still trying to work out if that's chocolate or cheese that I can taste on my tongue !

star rating : 3/5

RRP : £11.54

  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: lulu.com (26 April 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1105597776
  • ISBN-13: 978-1105597770

Disclosure : I received a review copy of the book.

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