Jonathan Taylor’s novel Melissa (Cromer: Salt, 2105) is a multi-faceted novel on the impact of decay and loss, of the complexity of events leading up to these, as well as looking at what happens in the aftermath of such events. Anyone who has experienced loss, through death or through personal or societal change, or who is facing the inevitability of a loss, will be able to relate to at least some of the characters and events portrayed in this novel.
It is a study of what happens to one family as they face, experience and then struggle to cope with their loss. It shows that it is not just the immediate family that is affected but how events affect those around them. There appears to be little in common between neighbouring families, but then they experience a common phenomenon. There are unseen connections we either choose to ignore, or do not bother to discover. In this case, the residents of a whole street struggle to deal with what comes next and attempt to move forward with their lives. Sometimes, we simply cannot predict where our lives will take us, and sometimes, we are better off not knowing.
But it is also an examination of how death is sometimes turned into some kind of fairground or carnival. Those who most need their privacy are denied it because the world seems to want to know their business. People who have no connection become voyeurs, invading private space and thriving on spreading Chinese whispers or creating legends. This is not helped by the media creating even more of a mess and adding to the mayhem.
Given the central theme of the story, this novel is not a depressing one. Melissa is a very beautiful book for many reasons.