To be read more than once

The End of Mr. Y - Scarlett Thomas

I read the paperback version of this book (first in 2013 and again in 2019). I have never read a book where so much care was taken in its presentation. The edition I read had a deeper coloured cover. The edges of the pages were blackened and the paper scented in a way which promised arcane knowledge. Reading it was a multi-sensory experience.

The story itself is wonderful. I read a few other reviews before I started and some readers have complained that it's too distant a narrative, that they feel separate from the story. A lot of this is probably because of the overuse of passive tense, I think, but as you read more and more this style feels right in the context of both characterisation and story. The main character is also distant from the world. She feels separate and only really exists in the intellectual plane. I suspect she's on the autism spectrum, brilliant mind, struggles with the real world. It spoke to me. As I read the book I felt closer to Ariel and saw aspects of myself in her. 

The book mixes fantasy with quantum physics and philosophy. I would suggest that it could be a female version of the classic "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance". If struggling to understand new concepts doesn't put you off reading fiction, I would highly recommend this book. I finished it with new understanding.

I have recently finished reading this book a second time. I got more from the second reading than the first and understood that as well as a piece of fiction the story is a thought experiment of the type Ariel is studying for her phd. Ariel remains (on 2nd reading) a wonderfully relate-able protagonist. She has been damaged by her childhood, is often self-destructive and is uniquely intelligent. She seeks answers. Like "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance", "Mr Y" is part narrative part philosophical musings.