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Review of Cayleigh Bright's Close to Home PDF Print E-mail
Tuesday, 09 December 2014 17:22

By Caitlin Martin

Close to Home is Cayleigh Bright’s debut novel. Cayleigh is the online editor of Glamour South Africa, and the contributing books editor of GQ South Africa. She wrote this novel while completing the UCT Creative Writing master’s programme.

The novel centres on a group of friends, all studying at the University of Cape Town, and the suspicious death of a fellow student. Cayleigh explores the complex bonds that surround this group friends, as well as darker side of wealth and privilege.  Bright drew on her experience of ‘college drama’ gleaned in her honours degree in English literature and follows in the tradition of Bret Easton Ellis (of American Psycho fame) and Donna Tartt.

This novel grapples with the unsettling and disorienting period that exists between childhood and adulthood that university tends to offer.  The characters in the novel attempt to develop their identity as adults, away from their families, while still being afforded every luxury that having wealthy parents offers them.  This leads to a group of people who struggle to reconcile their wealth and freedom with responsibility and tend to rather wallow in lives of disaffected alienation and excess.

The novel consists of eleven main characters and is written in first person narration from the viewpoints of these many characters.  The narrators, therefor, are notoriously unreliable, viewing things from both a naïve, and self-absorbed, frame of mind.  By writing this way, Cayleigh believes she is able to show greater insight into the narcissistic and self-indulgent characters who have greater insight into their friends’ characters than they would be able to express of themselves.  Don’t try to remember all the characters, you don’t need to. Cayleigh argues that close-knit relationships that exist between the characters blur individual identity.  This unsettling writing style means that, as a reader, you are left alienated from these characters, and are in a position to draw your own conclusions on the characters and events.