An Uncertain Grace by Krissy Kneen

‘First person is a very narrow and limiting point of view.’

A five-part novel, with five different narrators. The stories are linked: the last narrator, Liv has a role in each part of the novel. Where to begin? This is erotic literature, and sex is prominent and explicitly described. Each character has a different role, along a spectrum of sexual experience and identity. And it’s that exploration of identity, of the limiting expectations of gender that kept me reading. Caspar, in Part 1, experiences sex from the perspective of Liv, with whom he’d had a sexual relationship. It’s a very different perspective from his own. Each part of the novel introduces a different character: a convicted paedophile; a synthetic boy; L who is in transition to a state beyond gender; and Liv. I kept reading, wondering. Wondering about the role of gender, experiences of sex, and just how fictional the world of this novel is. Wondering about possibility, and what makes me uncomfortable and why.

By the end of this novel, Liv is 129 years old. Somehow, that length of life seems entirely possible in Ms Kneen’s world, as does the medical and scientific possibility she introduces. While I found this novel an uncomfortable read in parts, I admire the way in which Ms Kneen invites the reader to think about aspects of sexuality which we generally do not discuss.

‘Maybe I’m too old for all this after all. I don’t know how to tell anyone’s story without gendered pronouns.’

Jennifer Cameron-Smith