Author: Kate Belle
Being Jade is the second novel by Australian Kate Belle. The Yearning received some fabulous reviews so I was excited to see Being Jade come across my desk.
Compelling and confronting I found Being Jade addressed quite a taboo subject with compassion and really opened up new perspectives for me.
This novel is told from two perspectives, one in the first person and one in the third so it was quite easy to follow. The interesting part of this is that our first person narrator is the newly deceased Banjo, it is very different to read a book told by a spiritual onlooker who can not affect the world he observes.
Jade is a complex character, vividly drawn, and hard to settle on a reaction to. We meet her through Banjo as a troubled teen, always the outcast and too tough to show she cared. Jade never knew her father and was raised by her drug addicted, prostitute mother. She was taken in by Banjo’s parents after the death of her mother and the two married young.
Banjo and Jade could not be more different, from their appearances to their personal codes they share nothing except their love and later their children.
Kate Belle draws us a picture of their marriage and their relationship, beginning quite sketchy and slowly filling in the details until everything looks completely different. We enter the story near the end and fill in the details through memories.
Jade is a character that it is difficult to be sympathetic to and the depth of her depression at Banjo’s passing could easily be taken for a guilty conscience that finally caught up with her way too late. It is only as the story unfolds that we truly get to know Jade in a way that no one person has ever done before.
It is easy to judge, and judgement is something Jade has been faced with her entire life – often without cause – but as we are dragged deeper into the story we see that there is more to all of this than has ever been recognised before.
There is so much to say, but I don’t want to say too much so I am a little lost for words.
Jade was determined to be true to herself and her nature, regardless of the consequences, but it often seemed that she never really grasped just how deeply her behaviour touched her family. They live in a small town and small towns talk, nothing is secret regardless of how hard you try to be discreet. Banjo made allowances and weighed his options, always deciding that a life without Jade wasn’t worth contemplating.
Their children on the other hand did not have a choice. Cassy was outspoken about disagreeing with the whole situation, and was aware of what was going on from quite early. Lissy was the younger daughter and she seems to have been quite sheltered and naive about it for as long as possible. It isn’t until she has to face the truth of her parents relationship that she starts to see what has been going on, even though she can see that it has been affecting her entire life.
Now it is Lissy that needs answers and so she finds an inner strength to ask the hard questions and do the awkward investigations. Lissy that finds her feet in the midst of her worlds collapse.
Kate Belle has written a novel that is very sensual and at times quite erotic but that is secondary to some deeply nuanced and very complicated characters. She addresses fidelity, loyalty and betrayal in an interesting light and illustrates the importance of making sure you are on the same page to begin with.
Being Jade is a compelling read that made me want to read it at every available opportunity to see where Belle would take Jade next and to see how it all came together. It has definitely left me wanting to go back and read her debut because her writing is intense, original and thought-provoking.