Being Someone, by Adrian Harvey, is a story of relationships, love and of personhood. It explores how each individual lives with themselves; how this may be moulded; how each is seen through other’s eyes, and how difficult this is to control. With the lightest of touches the author burrows deep into the human psyche.
The tale is told in non-linear fashion, moving around in time and place. It opens in India with the story of an elephant and a death at a parade. It then takes the reader to late 1990’s London, when Britain was booming and the city was a wellspring for the arts. The connection between these strands remains nebulous for some time, but clarifies as the tale progresses.
The protagonist, James, has left his job in advertising to set up a promotions company with a colleague and friend. Through his work he meets Lainey, a beautiful and assured American lawyer. Together they embark on a whirlwind romance.
Their story enables the author to probe the thoughts and feelings of a man, over a decade of his life, as he falls in and then out of love. James is self aware and consciously reinvents himself for each new situation, including his relationships. He ponders why he is attracted to someone he does not yet know, if he desires them or their potential to change the trajectory of his own life.
The author uses the analogy of a shark, which some believe will drown if it stays still, to explain the festering of James’ gradual disillusionment. Within the constraints he has placed on his relationship James runs out of space for reinvention, for moving forward with his life. Whereas he had valued Lainey’s beauty, familiarity has disenabled his ability to see her in this way and this matters to him. His desire to “feast on sensation” leads him to consider change.
I paraphrase some of the author’s words: Lainey’s friends cast her in the role of victim and she resents the imposition. She comes to realise that she has lived much of her adult life waiting to become all that she intended rather than living it. She is frustrated by her inability to alter the stories others write of her, the fictions they invent to fill their own gaps.
The denouement draws together the many strands explored, revealing the meaning behind the elephant’s tale. It is a satisfying and uplifting conclusion.
This is an impressive work of literature that is vividly human, insightful and moving. It questions why we value others with a sometimes uncomfortable honesty. I would recommend this book to all.
My copy of this book was provided gratis by the publisher, Urbane Publications.