I haven’t read any of Frey’s previous novels and only when looking at other peoples reviews of this book did I realise there was massive controversy surrounding his book A Million Little Pieces. I have read this book ‘blind’ in that I haven’t read any of his previous work nor did I know about the controversy prior to reading Katerina in the hopes that my review is accepted as totally unbiased.
To start with I found the strange sentence construction and lack of punctuation difficult to follow and not easy to take in, but the more I read, the better I got at ‘getting’ it. It’s James Frey’s unique writing style and he has every right to write and punctuate, as an artist, as he wants. It’s raw and passionate and at times so gut-wrenchingly sad and pathetic. It’s full of profanities (don’t read if you don’t like unnecessary swear words – it’s full of, and punctuated by, the f-word) but I strangely got to like it and felt his anger, disgust, hate, fear and love pounding through.
It’s written over two timelines and two countries – Paris in 1992 and Los Angeles in 2017. Jay is a disillusioned, non-conforming young student in America and decides to sell unwanted personal items and make fast money from drugs to fund himself in Paris, France. We go back and forth from Jay in Paris to Jay’s present day and really just learn his background, his strengths, weaknesses – oh, the weaknesses!!! loves, life and beliefs, and, of course, meeting Katerina. It’s a roller-coaster of a young life which I read with loathing and longing in equal measure.
It’s written like a memoir and after the furore I’ve now read about Frey’s earlier ‘memoir’ novel A Million Little Pieces, it feels like this is ‘the real thing’ or at least has put some reality into the fiction. I thoroughly enjoyed Katerina and now need to read the very controversial Million Little Pieces.
James Frey’s Amazon profile
James Frey on Goodreads