Review: Now That You See Me by Emma Bachelor

The winner of the prestigious 2021 Australian Vogel Literary Award is a heartbreaking work of auto-fiction. The protagonist's life is turned on its head when her partner, Jess, confides in her that they are trans. Although wholeheartedly supportive of their partner, the protagonist experiences a wide range of emotions that she is completely unprepared for. Told as a series of diary entries and emails (during which we never see Jess's replies,) it soon becomes clear that the relationship is going to break down.

I'm not going to lie. This was a tough read. As well as gender and sexual identity, Now That You See Me explores some dark themes including depression and suicide. It is crystal clear through every page, every line and perhaps even every word that the protagonist truly and deeply loves their partner. Unfortunately, that love isn't enough to keep them together. Jess didn't seem to be in the right headspace to be in a relationship at all--and lets face it, what Jess is going through is huge. It takes a lot of time, courage and heartache for someone to come out, let alone transition. 

That said, to me much of this relationship felt quite toxic. There were occasions when I wanted to shake the protagonist and tell her to get out of (and later, give up on,) the relationship for the sake of her own mental health. To tell her that leaving didn't mean that she was any less supportive of Jess, or that it meant that she was against trans women, it meant acknowledging that she deserved to be treated like something better than a doormat. I also wondered if, perhaps, there were problems in the relationship well before Jess came out. 

Overall Now That You See Me is a well written and intimate exploration of the emotions experienced by one woman after her partner comes out, and the slow breakdown in their relationship that follows. Neither the protagonist nor her partner are perfect, and their thoughts and experiences making them human. This isn't a book about role models, perfect relationships and happy endings. It is an auto-fiction by a writer keen to tell the world of her unique experiences.

Recommended.

This book counts toward my reading goal for the 2021 Aussie Author Challenge.

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