Published 23rd April 2015 by Penguin UK Michael Joseph
When Alice Salmon died last year, the ripples were felt in the news, on the internet, and in the hearts of those who knew her best.
But the person who knows her most intimately isn’t family or a friend. Dr Jeremy Cook is an academic whose life has become about piecing together Alice’s existence in all its flawed and truthful reality.
For Cooke, faithfully recreating Alice’s life – through her diaries, emails and anything using her voice – is all-consuming. He does not know how deep his search will take him, or the shocking nature of what he will uncover…
T. R. Richmond is an award-wining journalist who’s written for local, regional and national newspapers, magazines and websites.
Alice Salmon is a twenty five year old journalist. She dies. We follow various accounts of her, some first person diary entries, others are twitter posts, phone messages, online forum chatter, letters and all kinds of other third party accounts of her. We hear from her lovers, her friends and family. Her old professor, Jeremy Cook takes it upon himself to investigate what happened to Alice. He looks at her online presence and accounts of her from the real world. Over the course of the book, with all the varying documents, we start to understand what happened to Alice and gain an impression of her.
This is a very post modern, fragmented account of a life. It was uncomfortable and awkward at times to read. Yet there is truth in it, at the same time as untruth. We cannot truly know anyone without their first hand version of themselves. We never really got to see Alice in her full glory. Alice shared plenty of herself online and it was this echo of her that remained. I liked Alice. The book is a sharp reminder that we are all guilty of sharing too much of ourselves, at times and leaving a massive online mark.
At times, it felt that the story was impossible to follow and make sense of. At about half way through, it all seemed to come together. The main question was what had happened to Alice? Although I was quite keen to suss out Jeremy Cook and work out why he was obsessed with Alice.
I thought the book was incredibly fresh in its approach. I could feel the realism of the different accounts, from the twitter feeds to the letters. I do think that ultimately readers will either relate to it and have the patience to get through the first part or find it too hard going. I am pleased to say it worked for me and I wanted to make sense of what happened to Alice.
A promising debut, that reflects on how so much of our lives are lived online.
Many thanks to Netgalley and the publishers for my review copy!