Book Review: The Eighth Girl by Maxine Mei-Fung Chung

The Eighth Girl by Maxine Mei-Fung Chung

I received a copy of this book from the publisher.

About The Book

One woman, many personas. But which one is telling the truth?

Only three people know the truth.

HER THERAPIST
HER BEST FRIEND
HER STEPMOTHER

When her best friend is plunged into danger, Alexa is soon drawn into London’s cruel underbelly to save her.

But will the truth lead to self-discovery, or to self-destruction?

My Review

Gosh this is a hard book to review, but I’ll do my best!

Alexa Wú is a young woman living in London with her stepmother. She is a burgeoning photographer and has recently acquired a job as an assistant to a photo journalist and her life is just beginning. She also suffers from Dissociative identity disorder meaning that she slips in and out of different personas, veering from being herself to one of the other personalities, sometimes she is childlike, other times she is aggressive and very often she puts herself in danger. Her best friend, Ella, is her protector, she can see when Alexa flits from one personality to another and protects her from herself. Ella though has got herself into a dangerous position, getting a job at a strip club named The Electra and finding herself well and truly out of her depth. When things get dangerous Alexa realises she needs to save Ella from herself, but when there are other personalities vying to take control, this is much easier said than done.

This is an accomplished debut novel which is incredibly well written. On the surface, a main character who jumps from personality to personality sounds like an incredibly complicated thing to read, but in fact, it isn’t. It is a strength to the writing that Alexa and her personalities are so fully formed that it is immediately apparent who is control of “the body”. Her mannerisms change depending upon who is in charge and at times she can look like a completely different person almost.

The author is a psychoanalytic psychotherapist and it shows in the chapters dedicated to Daniel Rosenstein, Alexa’s psychiatrist. It is through these passages that we understand Alexa’s damaged and difficult childhood and just why she has created these multiple personalities to protect herself. I found these moments, of Alexa sitting in Daniel’s therapy room opening up to him, or being combative or playful depending upon which personality she was using to protect herself some of the most intriguing parts of the novel.

Contrasted with the rest of the novel which sees Alexa spending time at The Electra, getting herself into a relationship with the barman there and mixing with dangerous people, these sessions feel almost cathartic. They provide respite from the almost overwhelming darkness overtaking Alexa’s life and I found I needed these moments with Daniel to take a breath, especially as things spiral further and further out of control.

I’ll make no bones about it, this is a dark book which deals with some difficult subject matter. It is challenging and uncomfortable but it is an incredibly compelling and wholly unique thriller which is unlike anything else I have read before. One thing I did struggle with was the odd Americanisms dotted through the novel which I found a little incongruous for a book set in London. Saying that though, it didn’t ruin my enjoyment of the book which is brilliantly paced, tense and features one of the most intriguing protagonists I have ever encountered.

Where You Can Buy It

My thanks to Poppy Stimpson at Pushkin Press for sending me a copy of the book.

The Eighth Girl by Maxine Mei-Fung Chung is published on 4th Match 2021 in hardcover and ebook

Leave a Reply

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

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com 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

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.