Bellevue Square is a mind-bending, existential-anxiety-producing book. It’s difficult to write about without giving away the surprising twists, but the novel explores identity, depression, and mental health with insight and sensitivity to the human condition. I’m still haunted by lines like, “Time goes differently in a place you can’t get out of,” and “I imagine depression as a concavity in the spirit. Something gets scooped out.”
I’m a huge fan of the Hazel Micallef mysteries Redhill has written under the pen name Inger Ash Wolfe (who intriguingly appears as a character in this book). Bellevue Square is not as “fun” to read, although there were parts that made me laugh out loud. It is deeper, and darker (okay, The Calling is pretty darn dark), and verges into magical realism toward the end.
There is a mystery to figure out that propels the book forward and kept me turning pages, but it’s really Redhill’s style, which has a foot in the poetic, and the shattering observations he leaves scattered about, like the ingrained habit of yelling at oneself coming from having been yelled at by a parent, or the casualness with which men can take women’s household work for granted (“an ignorance of the peripheral”), or that we’ve become accustomed to not one but two screens at once, and the hallowed place TV now has in our lives where the main character observes of her children that they “abide with it.” I still think about that one. A lot.
I do love the mysteries, which I hope Redhill will continue to write, although my sense is that he’s moved on, but this is a brilliant, challenging, not-to-be-missed book, the first in a triptych series he describes as “Modern Ghosts.”