#11 “Being Jade” by Kate Belle

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  1. City of Heavenly Fire – Cassandra Clare
  2. Every Word – Ellie Marney
  3. Skinjob – Bruce McCabe
    i.     Bloodlines – Richelle Mead
    ii.   The Golden Lily – Richelle Mead
    iii. The Indigo Spell – Richelle Mead
    iv. The Fiery Heart – Richelle Mead
  4. Silver Shadows – Richelle Mead
  5. Looking For Alibrandi – Melina Marchetta
  6. Goose – Dawn O’Porter
  7. Run – Gregg Olsen
  8. Love Letters to the Dead – Ava Dellaira
  9. Stoner – John Williams
  10. The Wrong Girl – Zoë Foster
  11. A Fatal Tide – Steve Sailah
  12. Murder in Mississippi – John Safran
  13. Elianne – Judy Nunn
  14. Being Jade – Kate Belle
  15. Martha in the Mirror – Justin Richards
  16. Shining Darkness – Mark Michalowski
  17. The Hound of the Baskervilles – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
  18. Divergent – Veronica Roth
  19. Insurgent – Veronica Roth
  20. Allegiant – Veronica Roth
  21. The Messenger – Markus Zusak
  22. Fragile Things – Neil Gaiman
  23. The Mammoth Book of Angels and Demons
  24. Eleanor & Park – Rainbow Rowell
  25. NOS4R2 – Joe Hill
  26. The Gospel of Loki – Joanne M. Harris
  27. Hades – Candice Fox
  28. Last Night at Chateau Marmont – Lauren Weisberger
  29. Thirteen Reasons Why – Jay Asher
  30. Are You Seeing Me? – Darren Groth

Last night, I went to bed with a rejection letter as the last thing I saw before drifting off. Rejection letters can be soul-crushing, hurtful things. They can make you question the validity of your chosen passion. Especially if rejection happens in a form letter. Ugh, form letters. These are mass produced letters sent en masse to hopeful writers who are waiting with baited breath for someone in a position of artistic authority to judge their piece (short story, memoir, poem, what have you) as worthy. Receiving a form letter says that your piece wasn’t even worth commenting on. It may not be what the publisher means to say, but this is what it says to the poor author holding the cold prose in their hands.

The rejection letter (well, email) that I received was not a form letter. Instead, it was personalised. Incredibly personalised. And this made me grin and squirm with happiness before mentally planning the changes I would make to the piece I had submitted.

Here are a few of the highlights from said rejection letter:

…this was an interesting piece – I really liked the sharp aggressive tone, and it’s definitely an interesting conversation!

As a memoir piece I think more structure and focus would be helpful.
(duly noted!)

At the moment, I don’t think this is the right fit for Scum, but I really enjoy your drive and your voice. In particular, I enjoyed the piece you submitted for 2am and think it definitely has potential – I’d love to see you workshop that piece a bit and play with it.

It’s moments like this that make me glad to be a writer. It’s rejections like this that make writers feel as though they’re being taken seriously; that all they need to do is polish up their piece just that little bit more and it will be fit for publication. These sorts of letters show faith in a writer’s skills and encourage those skills.

Sometimes, humanity is wonderful.

Not that my rejection letter has anything whatsoever to do with my impression of Being Jade. I just thought I’d share that tidbit of information, so you could get to know your book-blogger just a little.

Anyway, so, Being Jade was amazing. Everything about it, from its structure to its characters to its plot and its themes were top-notch. And this is a debut novel! Congrats, Kate Belle, for a beautiful entrance into the literary community.

Being Jade is an Australian novel. It’s written by an Aussie and set in Northern New South Wales (on the Australian east coast for those of you not from around here). But the fact that this novel is Aussie is a secondary thing. The Aussie-ness isn’t shoved down your throat. There aren’t very many kangaroos or koalas or anything that automatically brings to mind Australia. We get a few Aussie turns of phrase (thongs instead of flip-flops, ‘roo which is short for kangaroo, and a bit of the drawling Aussie accent) and Aussie spelling (Mum, not Mom; and u’s where there are supposed to be u’s – favourite, colour, honour) and that’s it! Being Jade is a story that readers from many different places could relate to because the setting does not exclude those who weren’t born in the land Down Under. But you still get a wonderful sense of what life is like in a small Aussie town. It’s win win!

When I mentioned the structure earlier, it was for a reason. Belle made a few brave structural choices that really, and quite spectacularly, paid off. We get two points of view: Banjo, Jade’s husband, and Lissy, Jade and Banjo’s youngest daughter. We get the past, from Banjo’s perspective, and we get the present from Lissy’s. We also get two tenses: past and present. Past is used for the first half of Banjo’s story and all of Lissy’s. Present is used for the second half of Banjo’s story, after the accident. You don’t really notice the effect of tenses in stories until they’re placed side-by-side. Present tense creates an immediacy that past tense just can’t provide. And that immediacy really fits with Banjo’s  story in the second half of the novel. But this was a brave choice, because changing tenses as well as narrators can alienate the reader. Not this time, trust me.

There is nothing I can say about the characters. They are beautifully human. All of the characters bubble and shimmer and leap from the page. And we all know how I feel about well-developed characters.

The last thing I want to talk about is what Being Jade is trying to say. I finished this book last night and I’m still not entirely sure what it means. Let’s have a look at this quote:

“My soul belongs to our children, my heart belongs to you, but my body is mine. To do with as I please. No one can claim it but me.”

Jade is a one-of-a-kind character. She and Banjo are tempestuously in love, and yet she takes dozens of lovers over the course of their marriage. She leaves her family life for a few days and comes back; she always comes back. The above quote intrigues me and so does the whole premise of an open relationship. Banjo knows all about the lovers because Jade doesn’t hide them from him. She is discreet and never shoves them down his throat, but Banjo is aware. As readers, we get a glimpse into Jade’s affairs and we come away from them feeling confused. Because fidelity is instilled into all of us. Marriage is fidelity. When that trust is broken, the relationship is broken, right? But not for Banjo and Jade. She never cheats on him because she never gives her heart away. She and these men have brief, intense, sometimes life-saving, affairs but through it all her heart remains with her husband.
So what does this say about love? I feel like my views on love have been incredibly limited. If you love someone, that someone should be enough for you. You shouldn’t need anyone else. But Jade and Banjo’s relationship brings to the fore a different kind of love. A love so strong that it doesn’t need 100% monogamy in order to survive.
Jade was never one to give into other people’s expectations of how she was to act as a wife and mother, not even the expectations of her husband and children. We could see her as selfish or we could see her as brave, but I choose to see her as honest. She knows she could never have been faithful, so she lays it all on the table for Banjo. Banjo chooses to accept this rather than lose his wonderfully maddening wife.

And there’s another thing: do we see Banjo as weak or strong? He chooses to stay with Jade because his love for her is all-consuming. He wants her and stays although she shares herself with other men. Is he weak for staying when he could have found a woman who would stay faithful? Or is he strong for being able to accept, however reluctantly, Jade’s lifestyle and loving her for the better part of two decades?
Or is he a bit of both?

I really do love the books that make you think about the way you see things. Books that entertain are great. But book that question your reality, or your interpretation of your reality, are the ones that will stay the test of time.

★★★★★

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About Bec Graham

Bec Graham, 24, was born on the wrong continent. Everything from her burns-like-paper skin tone to her inability to cope with the slightest hint of a hot day suggests she should have been born under the gloomy skies and mild sun of the UK. She hopes writing will get her to her rightful home one day. Failing that, she scans the skies for a spinning blue police box, hoping to catch a lift back to the motherland.
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4 Responses to #11 “Being Jade” by Kate Belle

  1. Pingback: Top Ten Most Influential Books | My Infernal Imagination

  2. Pingback: #23 “Goose” by Dawn O’Porter | My Infernal Imagination

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  4. Pingback: End of 2014 Book Survey | My Infernal Imagination

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