Firstly, huge thank you to Faber for sending me a copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review. This novel is published on 14th January 2021.
Little scratch follows our unnamed protagonist as they do everything possible to get through the day and ignore the maddening itch that bubbles under the surface of their skin-but can they ignore it? Will the itch ever go away?
CW: self harm, sexual assault, rape
Despite this novel being written in the first person, we actually don’t know too much about the protagonist. Of course details are revealed to us as the novel progresses but even then they are still a mystery to the reader. However, this isn’t something I realised until after I finished the book because being inside their head you feel like you knew the protagonist intimately and that totally hooked me. I wanted to keep reading and find out as much as I could but, because of how the novel is narrated, it also felt like the protagonist clings to the reader – not wanting to be alone in their own mind. The decision not to name any of the characters (not that you really meet or bond with many) was very clever of Watson given the subject matter as this is a situation that so many people could find themselves in that it makes it even more impactful.
Whilst this book is written in first person, it’s one of the only books I’ve ever read where I felt as though I was literally inside the protagonist’s head. This novel is written as if its poetry, with its experimentation with syntax – Watson challenges the way you should read and consume novels. With the words precisely picked and placed upon the page there are times when you can read the words in different sequences and combinations. This chaotic way of writing perfectly illustrates the constant conflict between conscious and unconscious thoughts that anyone can experience – maybe not always to this extreme but they are there. By presenting the protagonist’s thoughts in this way, the novel feels very brutal and raw. Although the content of the novel was heavy, by changing the pace of the words and sentences too frequently it was a genuine delight to read.
Due to the way this book is written it is actually quite short, however I found myself continuously rereading sentences to ensure that I was pruning up the right tone and flow as well as experimenting with the order of the sentences at times. Even with the threading of sentences this novel is easily read in one sitting and I would encourage you to do so as this book is made to be devoured whole.
This was a challenging read in more ways than one but, for me, it was such a rewarding read too. Little scratch doesn’t read as typical fiction but a modernist text presenting a very genuine and real story which is one that many people would be able to relate to. I understand how the content or the narrative may not be for everyone but I would urge anyone who can to pick this book up when it is released on 14th January 2021. Not only does it tell a story that needs telling but it has also made me reflect on the traditional way to read and how both authors and readers can go far beyond that.