I had the most wonderful time at the Canberra Writers Festival on the weekend. One of the sessions I saw included Canberra author Emma Batchelor, and after hearing her speak I couldn’t wait to read Now That I See You – her debut novel and winner of the 2021 Australian/Vogel Literary Award. I found it honest and raw, and so compelling that II want finished the book literally in 24 hours from picking it up.
What is Emma Batchelor’s Now That I See You about?
Viewed through the lens of a relationship breakdown after one partner discloses to the other that they are transgender, this autofiction spans eighteen months: from the moments of first discovery, through the eventual disintegration of their partnership, to the new beginnings of independence.
In diaries and letters, Now That I See You unfolds a love story that, while often messy and uncomfortable, is a poignant and personal exploration of identity, gender, love and grief.
My Review of Now That I See You by Emma Batchelor
I want to start by highlighting that Now That I See You is autofiction, which means it’s blend between autobiography and fiction. This means that the line between what is fact and what is fiction is blurred, and we don’t really know where the narrator ends and the author begins. We do do know though that Batchelor has lived the experience described in the book, of having her partner partner come out as trans, and as I read her story/the story of her narrator, I was continuously struck by how open and honest and raw the writing was, and really what a gift to readers it is for a writer to trust them with an experience in such a vulnerable way. The book isn’t a guide on what to do if your partner comes out, or an inspirational story about two women fighting to save their relationship through these changes – and nor does it promise or try to be. For me I felt like so much of the heart in Batchelor’s writing came from the honesty, and the fact that she doesn’t shy away from or try to cover up times when the narrator might have reacted or behaved differently. Rather, to me, it felt like the true uncensored gut reactions and thoughts of someone in the situation.
I felt like the diary entry/email format worked really well for the intimacy of the situation that unfolds – it was a really perfect way for the honesty of the words to feel natural. While the actual events – having a partner disclose that they are transgender – are really quite specific, I felt like there was a lot to relate to in the story. Grief and love and self doubt and worries about how to navigate supporting someone you love through something big are all so universal and I really think many readers will see themselves in parts of the story.
It’s always a bit weird to say that I ‘enjoyed’ a book that focuses on heavy or difficult topics like grief and loss, but I will say that I was so moved and engaged by this story, and I feel better for having read it. I’m looking forward to whatever Batchelor writes next.
Readers might also like to check out Batchelor’s interview with Barbie from Living Arts Canberra here.
Now That I See You by Emma Batchelor.
Out now from Allen & Unwin
Source: I bought a copy after seeing the author speak at Canberra Writer’s Festival..
Category: Contemporary autofiction.