Book Review: Disclaimer by Renee Knight

Disclaimer by Renee Knight - Header

Picking what you read from pictures on Instagram must be the most blatant example of judging a book by its cover. I lurk on Instagram, posting occasionally, but more often than not spending my time browsing pictures of food, cats and piles of books. But it was when a friend shared a combined picture of a book and a cat that I took notice. The book in question was Disclaimer by Renee Knight.

I trust my friend. She reads a lot more than I do and also shares my interest in film. In fact, she has often recommended some of the best independent and foreign language films I’ve seen. So that, tied to the fact that the plot – a thriller based on the premise of what you would do if you discovered a mysterious book only to realise it was actually all about you – seemed wonderfully open ended to the twisting, dark possibilities it could contain. I was sold. I bought it electronically and set about reading it.

Twisting Snakes - Disclaimer by Renee Knight

Sadly though, that initial hype and belief in its idea didn’t translate to the story I found. Whether I had created a subconscious idea as to what to expect I do not know but I am sure, however, that Disclaimer was not like anything I could have predicted.

Told from the twisting views of the book’s author and it’s subject, Disclaimer weaves their stories together jumping backwards and forwards through the differing timelines so much that everything just became a muddle. It didn’t take long for the book to completely lose me and leave me scratching my head as to what exactly was going on and how the two stories were meant to be connecting together. Often things I thought I understood would suddenly be thrown into doubt as the stories overlapped and evolved. It didn’t help either that it would swing from one character to the next without warning. Each chapter destined for a new, unknown angle and time. Each one demanding that I spend the opening lines firstly working out who was speaking and then secondly how this related back into everything I already knew.

Ultimately, it was just too much information presented in a slap handed and disorganised way and left me more often than not confused than rather than content.

Sexual Body - Disclaimer by Renee Knight

Even worse than the construction of the narrative was the actual story itself. I was expecting it to be dark and difficult but what Renee Knight has actually imagined goes even further than that. The story is simplistically tabooed and awkward. It’s a story twisted out from sex and the further it goes, the further the characters become despicable and abhorrent. Honestly, the longer the book went on and the more warped and screwed up the actions became the more I withdrew from the book. I started to hate every character more and more and it felt at times like it was being obtusely obscene and nasty purely because it could.

The story simply lost it’s sense of realism and acceptability to such an extent that while I never came close to closing cover and giving up I would, spend the shortest amount of time possible reading it. It wouldn’t hold me there, reading away chapters with ease like I have before. I’d simply get in, stomach it for as long as possible and run away. It’s plot forcing me to never empathise with the characters. I could see them clearly in my mind but they were just people, visible but implausible. Dictating an scenario so uncomfortably removed from sanity that I didn’t know where or how to start connecting with them.

Renee Knight At Her Writing Desk - Disclaimer

While I detest how the plot unfolds, I have to admit I found it easy as a literacy work. Renee Knight can write in a way that feels natural and fluid. It reads like you’re listening to a speech. The language felt modern and of it’s era and while it’s story is overly depraved it does flows from page to page with ease. However, the juxtaposition of Knight’s writing style and horrendously uninviting plot and characters meant that the book felt both quick to read but slow to conclude. Words become paragraphs and paragraphs become chapters but all the time the pages appear stationary. Often I’d feel like I’d read a lot, stomached a sizeable chunk only to realise I hadn’t moved far through the book at all.

I truly don’t know if I could recommend Disclaimer. I just found it’s story so unpleasant and awful that it was impossible for me to find enjoyment in it. I read to escape, to feel good, to imagine. Not to be tortured by depravity simply because it can. It’s an interesting idea but ultimately, I don’t think it’s been handled well.

Posted on by 5WC in Book First Edition

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