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This is a review of the 2009 book 'Can you see me?' by Ruth Gilligan, covering Alice's experiences of being a long way from home (Dublin) starting her life at Cambridge University. Getting used to the old university traditions, the English way of life, fitting in and making friends until something awful happens and it makes her withdraw from her once-excellent life.
The book follows Alice, starting in her first term at Uni and making nice friends and having a good time whilst getting her work done to a high standard. Third year student Robbie has his eye on Alice and fancies his chances with her, making a bet with his mates that he'll be the first to go to bed with her. One drunk night he fulfills his fantasy but not with Alice's consent and the story focus on how much it unbalances her, affects her mind and the questions she asks herself like was it her fault because she was drunk? did she lead him on? did he hear her saying no?
I found it good that the book looked into the options of the victims and accurately portrayed the struggling helpline that was underfunded, the lack of police support in the system (whilst the policeman himself was sympathetic and supportive), the doubt in the victim's mind about whether it warrants counselling, the shame of the doctor's surgery to see if sexually transmitted disease or pregnancy were an issue. It is a horrible journey that has to be taken before life returns to a semblance of normality for Alice.
I think whilst the subject is harrowing, Ruth Gilligan writes with sympathy and accuracy of the horror rape brings on the victim. Gilligan also has experience of being at Cambridge and the insight into the traditions and old colleges are wonderful. It's not all library and hard work but there is an element of that too.
My copy of this book was different to the one pictured above, and had quite large pages and large print so I found I was turning the pages more often. It didn't take me long to read but it was a good read and I found myself returning to it often. It reminded me of the fun times I had at Uni and the good friends I made whilst there too.
Before I read it, I read somewhere that this book would appeal to those who enjoyed PS I love you and I also found it linked to The Lovely Bones and Alice in Wonderland.
The friendship between her and college pal Millie was hit and miss. Millie was a selfish and childish character at times who liked to share the good times with Alice but it seemed a shallow relationship that Alice was never entirely immersed in. Alice seems to get on with the lads Joey (who reminded me of Joey from Friends!) and Henry much better but never in a sexual way. It never got too detailled about her history degree that she was doing at Uni thank goodness!
I wanted Alice to come good and guessed the relationship between her and her mysterious college friend Flo. The narrative was mainly written from Alice's point of view but the odd chapter was also written from her friends' viewpoints which was a little confusing but necessary at times.
I will look out for other books by this author as I did enjoy this one. I hope you found my 300th review helpful and thank you for reading (and rating it). Much love x