Faithless (Alice Nelson, Vintage)
Alice Nelson’s Faithless is an astonishing novel that unfolds as a love letter from protagonist Cressida to her all-consuming love, Max. In the beginning, Cressida is looking after a young girl and we can’t be sure how they’re related; it seems they haven’t known each other long. While watching this young girl Cressida reflects on her life and the weighty decisions she has made that have led her to this point. Her life orbits around her love for Max, and it’s to the detriment of her own wellbeing because Max is a married man. Setting him aside, Cressida’s life is rich and full; she travels, she writes, she has a loving friend and an adoring husband, but she would give it all up in a second. Nelson is an incredibly talented writer, creating a narrative voice that speaks directly and personally to the reader. The novel is strewn with literary references, and Cressida often draws on her own reading and the words of others to describe emotions she can’t quite articulate herself. Nelson has a deep understanding of the paralysing nature of love, but also of the complexities that come with the business of living—intergenerational trauma, the choices of your parents, reckoning with a life you weren’t expecting, and knowing your heritage and those of the countries you’ve inhabited. Faithless is gentle, multi-layered and incredibly intelligent. It’s a book for readers who adored Georgia Blain’s Between a Wolf and a Dog, and for those who want to understand and be understood by others.
Danielle Bagnato is a book reviewer and marketing and communications professional.