Boy Parts, Eliza Clark’s debut novel, is the most deliciously grim book I’ve read for a while.
Irina is a photographer; she obsessively stalks the streets of Newcastle and the aisles of Tescos, handing her cards out to random men she meets, inviting them to her studio to model for her. Her photographs are angry, erotic, unflinching. Her lifestyle is funded – in part – by a man on the internet who pays exorbitant amounts of money for her art.
After a misunderstanding at work, Irina is sent on a sabbatical from her bar job, and lands an exhibition at a London art gallery. While she prepares for the show, her grip on reality starts to slip, and she’s increasingly unsure of what’s real, and what’s not. The more she’s left on her own, in her bleached-clean apartment, the more her version of the truth shifts away from her, and the more her stories start to unravel.
Boy Parts absolutely warrants all kinds of content warnings. It’s been compared to American Psycho (a book I so viscerally hate that I can repeat whole pages that have welded themselves onto my memory), but Irina makes for a far more interesting monster, and I was genuinely sad to leave her when I finished reading. Transgressive fiction is often very masculine, so Irina’s subversions feel fresh and fearless. Here is a psychopath in a corset, eating supermarket salad out of a bag. But it’s not just Irina. Throughout the novel, Clark’s characters inhabit their scenes so bodily. They sweat and bruise and hurt. They’re flawed and broken, in so many different ways.
Clark’s writing visits some very dark places, but I snort-laughed at her choices of simile more than once. The book is as funny as it is repulsive, and I loved it. Despite some of the content having the potential to veer into voyeuristic violence, nothing felt unnecessary. I can’t wait to discuss Boy Parts, and I can’t wait to read more of Clark’s work.
Boy Parts is our book club pick for September. Order direct from Influx Press.
Terri-Jane Dow is the editor of Severine, and a writer based in London. You can find her on instagram @terri_jane.