There’s a distinct pleasure in discovering a gem of a novel by a debut author and The Adult, the first book from Toronto resident Bronwyn Fischer, sparkles with sharp observations of human nature from the first page to the last.
It has been said that every story is built around one of seven plot types and this coming-of-age tale about a student and an older woman, certainly has elements of other books. However, do not be fooled – this is not a carbon copy of predecessors such as André Aciman’s bestselling queer love story Call Me By your Name. Fischer’s storytelling ability is strong, and this brings a fresh take to the familiar story of age gap romance.
The Adult centers around Natalie, a sheltered university student from a rural forested area, as she adapts to a new pace of life in an unfamiliar city. Navigating her new-found independence shows her naivety, especially when compared to her peers, self-assured roommate Clara and knowledgeable course-mate Rachel. Although ‘wet behind the ears,’ Natalie is a likeable character that readers will relate to, perhaps seeing echoes of their younger selves in her.
When exploring her new neighborhood, Natalie crosses paths with Nora, an enigmatic woman who strikes up conversations with Natalie in the park and the supermarket. Flattered by the attention, Natalie finds herself thinking about Nora in a romantic light and the pair soon embark on a love affair which highlights how much the student still must learn about life and love.
As the pair spend more and more time together in Nora’s perfect grown-up apartment, their differences become ever more apparent. Although Nora’s age is never mentioned, her life experiences suggest she is significantly older than Natalie. This age gap brings with it an uncomfortable dynamic that causes the reader to question the older woman’s motives, something which is highlighted as the story builds. Underlying secrecy and half-truths on both sides expose the vulnerability that accompanies lust and longing; bringing with it a palpable tension that will leave readers with a thrilling sense of voyeurism. The pace continues to build as the novel reaches its climax, willing the reader to devour each page more quickly than the last as they race towards the conclusion.
Ultimately, it’s Fischer’s ability to capture the fine line between the powerful, all-consuming desire of first love and being controlled which sets this book apart from others exploring the age-old theme. The novel dissects the depth of emotion that comes with lust and jealousy with an unflinching honesty, touching a raw nerve with anyone who has ever been infatuated.
The Adult is an exquisite example of lesbian fiction from a fresh new voice in the literary sphere. A painfully poignant and captivating read which fully deserves the buzz surrounding it.
Believe the hype. This is magnificent.