The Girl Who Was Saturday Night by Heather O’Neill

★ ★ ★ ★ ★

The Girl Who Was Saturday Night

You should beware of motherless children. They will eat you alive. You will never be loved by anyone the way that you will be loved by a motherless child.

This novel is bloody amazing. My socks have been well and truly knocked off. No, not knocked off. Blasted off. Look, there they are – on the other side of the room. On fire.

I don’t really know how to put what I thought of it into words. But I’ll try, seeing as I’m writing a review…

The Girl Who Was Saturday Night is the glitzy, grungy story of motherless twins Nouschka and Nicolas, growing up in separatist Québec. (Their teenaged mum left them at birth with their grandfather, who raised them.) Their father is Étienne – famous in Québec for being a bit of a desperado, singing weird folk songs and getting chucked in prison all the time.

Nouschka and Nicolas have grown up in the dark outskirts of his spotlight; little more than adorable props to enhance his persona, brought out as and when he needs them. Forgotten about when he doesn’t. For the twins, Étienne is more of a constant in Québécois tabloids and talk-shows than in their lives, where he flits in and out like a recurring character.

Now the twins are 19, wild and inseparable. They’ve grown up without boundaries, parents or role models, with only each other to love. They still share a bed and sleep naked together, like children. And they remain stupidly tangled up in each others lives. It’s a suffocating, toxic relationship. Nicolas is destructive. Like Midas in reverse, everything he touches turns to crap. (Nouschka is barely any better.) But they also have something indescribably tender. (This untangling from each other all ties in cleverly with the landscape of separatist Québec.)

It’s Noushka who tells the story and I’m so in love with her. She’s naive and child-like, vulnerable and crude. Her relationship with Misha and their seedy – yet incredibly loving – meetings are some of my favourite parts of the novel. Their relationship is so wonderfully odd. A weird blurring of sex and mothering. (Misha is a man, by the way.) The way they talk to each other is just beautiful, and Nouschka’s fantasies are so fantastically odd.

‘We’ll have a little baby. A little Russian baby. He’ll be very good at gymnastics, he’ll wear his hair long over one eye and he’ll wear track suits with gold chains. I would put honey on his pacifier. We’ll name him Igor. It won’t matter if everyone in his class hates him, because then he will come home and I’ll kiss his little tears on his cheeks and heat him up some borscht.’

There are a lot of similarities between this book and Angela Carter’s Wise ChildrenThe fascination with twins. Theatre. Absent fathers. Women. Sex. Taboos. Cats.

Yes. Cats.

There are cats everywhere. Feral and indecent like the twins. They just seem to slink into a scene, observe, and slink out again. It’s perhaps because of my association with Wise Children that makes me think of the cats as metaphors for female sexuality. I don’t really know what they symbolise (perhaps I should re-read it already and figure it out), but isn’t this simile just perfect?:

A white cat with beige spots that I’d never seen before tiptoed off the bed and down the hallway like a naked girl heading to the bathroom after she’s had sex in an unfamiliar apartment.

Sometimes when I read, I write down passages that stop me in my tracks. I didn’t do that with The Girl Who Was Saturday Night because if I had, I would have transcribed the entire book. It’s like the triple-chocolate fudge cake of the book world. So rich, so decadent. I just want to shove the whole thing in my face. And rub it on my body. And roll around in it. Naked.

I should probably leave it there.

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