If you haven’t read Meg Rosoff’s “What I was” yet, you should take the chance and get to know the third novel of this year’s ALMA laureate.
“What I was” (2007), takes the form of a retrospective personal history where body, identity and gender issues, and themes of loss and memory, are central. It is a complex tale of friendship, love, and liberation, of reflections on a wounded past, and of difficult crossroads in life.
The story takes place in the 1960’s in a coastal landscape that is slowly sinking beneath the sea: a suggestive setting that mirrors the transgression of boundaries staged in the novel. In this barren world, we meet a sixteen-year-old narrator who has been sent off to a school for boys after being expelled from two previous boarding schools. His father demands that he clean up his act and become a man, but being a boy who measures up to the middle-class ideals of his family and school – popular, smart, athletic – is hard enough. Chafing at the future that has been laid out for him, he finds an escape when he meets Finn, a boy who lives alone in a shack by the ocean. In Finn he sees the person he would like to be, but his all-absorbing love has dramatic consequences and blinds him to who Finn really is.