[Published by Overlook Press, 2001]
Reading ‘Damage’ revealed that Josephine Hart has an immense talent for exploring the underbelly of our darkest psychology as humans and turning it into fiction that is both gripping and revelatory. ‘The Reconstructionist’ is no exception.
Jack is a psychiatrist and it is revealed early on that his relationship with his sister Kate (and, it would seem, his relationships in general) is somewhat unhealthy, although the reason for this is only uncovered as the story unfolds. It doesn’t take long to realise that what binds them is the cause for why Kate is so broken and fragile – the deep-seated underlying issues that urge the reader on in a flurry of curiosity. Stylistically, Josephine Hart has mastered the technique of laying clues for her readers; facts we can think back on as the story unfolds, as pulling past and present together.
As Kate is about to be re-married, we get the sense of an ending between them. What was the catalyst that turned their relationship into such an unconventional one? What made Kate so needy and Jack so bound to her as protector and guide through the darkest avenues of life?
The story takes something of an erratic path, with descriptions sometimes void of real detail, until the mystery starts to unravel, which it does at pace. Once I started to get my answers from ‘The Reconstructionist,’ I realised that one of the reasons this was so satisfying was because the writing and the story appealed to some of my deepest questions by virtue of living – is there futility in looking for a happy life when, perhaps, the best we can hope for is reasonableness and content? Is this the only way to carry on after life has dealt its tragedies – through reconstruction? And, if so, is this real or will grief’s sediment stay with you always?
It seems almost unusual that subject matter that may go against the grain of the comfortable, conventional scenarios for a lot of readers can be the source of such a personal identification – a universality in a set of circumstances from which we would naturally shy away.
Going back to Ireland, to his family’s home, opens the floodgates on their history and shows that, no matter how many times you may try to reconstruct the truth during the course of a lifetime, it persists whether we choose to disguise ourselves from it or not.