Through truly heartfelt, gut-wrenching poetry, Emmanuella tells the deeply personal story of the rise and fall of a relationship, against the backdrop of the devastating sadness of loss. She is a lovely poet, who feels every word, not so much writing them as sobbing, then eventually roaring them onto the page. Written like a journal, its entries in prose, you do find yourself suspecting this book is the direct publication of a genuine diary this author composed. Whilst feeling somewhat voyeuristic, if this were indeed the case, you realize that she has a strong message toward the end of it, and does indeed want it to be read.
It tells the tale of love found, which then self-destructs, leaving a bitter legacy. Emmanuella dissects and analyses the process of falling in love with wonder and disbelief, as if it were the most magical experience. The kisses of the title provide a metaphor for every aspect of love and the sexuality it brings. At first hopeful, her lover is breaking down the barriers between them – her defences – as she struggles to contain a repressed inner turmoil around trust; you find out the source of this turmoil in the book’s final third, as light turns to dark and hope to despair. Until that point, this chronological collection brims with mystery and ambiguity. Sadly, you do start to share the author’s suspicions that her feelings are not reciprocated, and that her lover may be treating her as no more than another conquest, like so many others do. She portrays this switch in tone subtly, yet clearly, but still she is head over heels, even when he leaves her. By the closing pages, her heartbreak has become a very unhealthy obsession, and you do find yourself wishing she could find her way to moving on, for the sake of her happiness. Saddest of all is that so painful is this time for her, she would have preferred not to have found the love at all.
Emmanuella is definitely suffering through this whole period, compounded by the gradual passing of her sister, and her unnamed lover’s callousness toward her at a time when she needed him most. Ultimately, though this provides the ingredients, it is an innocuous article in a newspaper which acts as the trigger for her to unlock that repressed anger within her, and it spews out in the book’s last third. At this point, this book becomes quite difficult to read – her heartbreak turns to bitterness and vitriol, as she recounts her appallingly misogynistic and at times abusive treatment, at the hands of men (and boys) through her life, as a woman and child. As a man, you do wonder at your own complicit obliviousness, wondering if this must really be what life as a woman is like; I found myself hoping that perhaps Emmanuella was an unfortunate and unlikely minority, in respect of the sheer amount of harassment she has endured, but I feel, deep down, that she is not – she is simply a woman in a man’s world, and this period in her life has acted as a catalyst for her revolution. The sense of abuse she feels is profound, and whilst clearly aggravated by the relationship breakdown, the loss of her sister has made her reflective.
I enjoyed reading this very personal account, though I’m not sure if I was supposed to. In literary terms, it is a well-written book and Emmanuella’s poetry is wonderful, her use of language sometimes sublime, and laden with metaphor from one line to the next. I hope she finds it in herself to move past the reason for her work, and comes to like it for its quality. Whether she decides to promote it or move on from it, I hope it has served its purpose, which is to give the author strength and closure.
In : Book Reviews
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