Kevin Marman's debut novel In The Day is part narrative, part journal, part interior monologue, chronicling the book's narrator, Tom Seagrave, in his struggle to overcome the consequences of a suicidal breakdown. The seeds of that breakdown are many, when over the course of the novel he reflects on his relationship with his father (an alcoholic), with predatory sex abuse suffered as a child, with his own battles with alcoholism, with a marriage breakup, and with the family and platonic relationships he has so far experienced. Tom Seagrave is forty-nine. He has been diagnosed with borderline personality disorder (BPD), which a note at the end of the book tells us is unclear in its causes, though a 'particular contributing factor is trauma experienced during childhood.... Major symptoms are emotional instability, disturbed thinking patterns, impulsive (including self-harming) behaviour, and unstable or dysfunctional relationships with other people.' All those elements are expertly realised in a book that could and should be unbearably depressing, yet is exhilarating for the sheer verve and precision with which a mental health condition has been defined, through the medium of fiction, with an account probably of more psychological value than a closely observed clinical study might give us. It's a testament to Marman's skill as a writer that, for the reader, it is very difficult indeed to decide to what extent his material is derived from personal experience, and to what extent it has been meticulously researched.
Paperback, 235 pages, In The Day is published by Longmarsh Press. Highly recommended.