Monday 20 February 2023

TOMORROW, AND TOMORROW, AND TOMORROW by Gabrielle Zevin Reviewed by Adèle Geras

 "Above all it's about creativity; how it works and why it's vital to everyone's happiness."

Geras has written many books for children and young adults and six novels for adults, the latest of which (under the pseudonym Hope Adams) is Dangerous Women, published by Michael Joseph. She lives in Cambridge. 

If you were looking for a target audience for this novel, I would be the last person to be considered. I'm old, and it's mainly about teenagers and youngish people. It's set in a world I have no interest in at all: the world of gaming. I have never played a computer game in my life and even reading this wonderful novel has not tempted me to try any. I downloaded it firstly because my younger daughter said it was very good indeed and secondly because I have read a book by Zevin before: the fascinating YA novel called Elsewhere, which I enjoyed very much. I read it a long time ago and details I remember are hazy but it deals with the Afterlife. I knew she was a very good writer, so I started reading quite optimistically but ready to give up if the gaming became too difficult for me.

I needn't have worried. The story is about people and their relationships with one another, their difficulties, their triumphs. Every character is brought to life most beautifully and we end the book feeling we've spent time with good friends. We care about them. Also, you will need a tissue at several points in the story.

Sam and Sadie meet as very young teenagers in a hospital. Sam has a foot that causes him pain and disability throughout his life and the sections dealing with the treatment he receives are sometimes very hard to read. The two of them find they have a love of gaming in common and the story follows them through their lives. They become creators of games and for me, more than the love stories that play out, more than the sharp dialogue between the characters, more than the bonds that bind Sam and Sadie and several other characters together, more than the excitement in following their fortunes to heights neither could have imagined when they first set eyes on one another, it is the actual process of creating the games that is the most interesting and important part of the book for me.

What I learned from this novel is that building a game involves many of the same processes as those involved in writing a novel. You are making a new world. You are deciding who the characters are, and what they do and how their adventures play out. You find out how they can progress through the game. You put difficulties and obstacles in their way and give them the means to overcome these. You also find out about the Market, and how certain games succeed and make vast fortunes while others fail and come to nothing. You share the anxiety (well known to every writer) of wondering to what extent people will be able to understand your vision, sympathise with your characters, share your world. This novel can be read as a love story, the tale of a group of friends and a moment in history when games became such an important way for people to access stories, but above all it's about creativity; how it works and why it's vital to everyone's happiness.

Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow is published by Chatto & Windus.

No comments: