Book Review: Rainey Royal


ashley | There were so many great things going for Rainey Royal by Dylan Landis. It took place in Greenwich Village in the 70’s, there were some strong comparisons to Catcher in the Rye (which is my favourite book), and it screamed and breathed art. I knew this was something I needed to read, but I also knew it was something I needed to read in a certain state of mind.

Even so, I had a hard time reading this. It’s not really something you can prepare for. There are some hard truths and hard characters. Rainey – she just isn’t a nice girl. Brought up in a cult-like jazz house by her father and his best friend, who is entirely inappropriate with Rainey, it’s not hard to see why she’s rough around the edges, but she causes trouble just to cause trouble, she exploits her new found sexuality to gain power over her opponents, she bullies other kids at school. And watching her come of age and become aware of this power is frightening. It’s dangerous.

But Rainey is a doll compared to her father, who lives this eccentric bohemian 70’s lifestyle that invites musicians into their home, supports free love and basically turns a blind eye every time someone takes advantage of his daughter. And there is no shortage of that happening in that home. It’s just horrifying to read, really. It did not sit well with me at all.

This reaction is important, though. We need books that push boundaries. That’s why I loved Catcher in the Rye so much when I read it in high school. I hadn’t read anything like it. Now it probably wouldn’t have the same impact on me, but Rainey Royal did have a similar impact. It touched upon things that I have a far greater appreciation and respect for. It hit me in sensitive areas that I don’t think I will ever become tolerable of.

Somewhere in the last half of the book, the narrator shifts. This was awkward for me. There’s a lot of shifting through time periods and character focus. The structure itself is kind of a mess, which complements the story, but makes it difficult to keep up with. I lost steam towards the end, just waiting for it to be done with. It was an interesting and challenging read, not in a bad way, but I was right about needing to be in a certain state of mind. It certainly isn’t for everyone and might not have the right impact on everyone, but I’m glad I read through it, even if it was just for some of the conflicting feeling it provoked.


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september 9, 2014