H Gareth Gavin’s Never Was is a novel that feels, all at once, like the best and worst of Virginia Woolf. At the beginning we meet two characters who sit staring out at the sea as snow trickles down around them. They don’t seem to really know each other and they don’t seem to know why they’re even there. In order to try to make sense of things, one of them, Daniel, begins to recount a story about their family in the north, about their salt-mining father called Mika and their cousin Crystal. This is, basically, the novel — two characters in search of a meaning.
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Never Was maintains a semi-lucid quality throughout, a sort of oneiric narrative that may or may not take place in limbo. Much like with Woolf, this approach can sometimes lead the novel to soar past what is traditionally seen as possible with mere text and, sometimes, allows the book to become carried away with itself. Thankfully, Gavin just about pulls it off, and Never Was ends up being a dreamy and
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