Read Me: A Novel by Leo Benedictus


My subjects do not choose to be my subjects, it is true, but only because such a choice is impossible. If you volunteer to be studied, you stop being you. 

Frances doesn’t know it, but her life is going to unravel when a violent stalker choses her for his attentions. A man who has the wealth through inheritance to spend his days as he pleases choses to hunt people, through observation, manipulation and violence. His wealth inspires in him a need to “behave strangely”, one that never lets up. It all begins with his first victim, Laura where curiosity becomes obsession. Stalking the hairdresser with dreams of acting, in the beginning he studies people with no intention of harm. Just creeping about, learning everything he can never daring to interact directly. After his first, he begins to switch to other people with ease, always knowing he can return to those he has abandoned for a time.

Then he notices Frances, the main subject of this novel or should I say specimen? Frances is a consultant who ‘stirs his nerves’ in a new way. It isn’t long before minimal notes about her escalates to creeping into her house, inserting himself like a ghost haunting the living. Toying with the idea that if the victim doesn’t know, can they really be a victim? He tells us how he pulls it off, all the stalking so this book feels like a how to manual from a twisted mind. Through many chapters he stalks, and it’s hard to feel the thrill of it, all that waiting seems exhaustively pointless and boring with little reward. He spends time informing the reader that we all ‘will pay the bill’ in the future for what the person we were in the past chose to do. A little game of ‘who are you really?” which is interesting because you never quite pin down who he really is. There isn’t a solid reason why he began stalking, and as a person there is mostly detachment. He is absorbed so much in knowing everything he can about his victims that he is a half-formed thing himself. Truly, does he really know these people because he can watch them like an animal in a cage, and as with Frances when her life unravels, isn’t it true interfering alters a person? He has blown up her life, and the spoils are in watching the aftermath.

He is at times trapped in a sort of corner by his own philosophizing. It would have been a far more interesting character if we could in turn study him, but he doesn’t really have a past for us to dissect. Maybe he is meant to be without explanation, and that is the point, that there isn’t a why. He is repulsive, the novel turns to horror after a slow trudge through the watching and still I wonder… why? Did he just need something to do with himself? What the heck caused this split in his mind? Why Frances? The answer seems to be, why not?

Obviously he gets high on his voyeurism, and in a sense it’s like playing God when he manipulates things with Frances. It begins with a cup of hot tea, and ends with it as well, but will Frances still be alive at the end? It is intelligently written and the idea is horrible, people want to be seen so badly, heard, known but not like this. This is scrutiny we could all do well without. It was a decent read, and it’s disturbing, graphic in parts, but I was left scratching my head? Maybe we’re meant to feel like the victims wondering why, never really coming to any solid conclusion?

Publication Date: August 7, 2018

Twelve Books

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s