The Rules of Seeing by Joe Heap
Publisher: Harper Collins
Publishing Date: 9th August 2018
Source: Received from the publisher, thank you!
Number of pages: 416
Genre: General Fiction (Adult)
The Rules of Seeing follows the lives of two women whose paths cross at a time when they need each other most. Nova, an interpreter for the Metropolitan police, has been blind from birth. When she undergoes surgery to restore her sight her journey is just beginning – she now has to face a world in full colour for the first time. Kate, a successful architect and wife to Tony, is in hospital after a blow to the head. There, she meets Nova and what starts as a beautiful friendship soon turns into something more.
Nova is 32 years old and she’s been blind her whole life. She’s coping very well – she speaks five languages and works as an interpreter for the Metropolitan Police. Now she’s going to undergo an operation that’ll allow her to see for the first time in her life. Contrary to what other people think, it’s not an easy decision – Nova has fears about what’s going to come, about not understanding, about not finding herself in her new life. And it’s true – she can see, but she can’t understand, she must learn everything anew. Will she be strong enough to preserve in being a sighted person?
Kate is an architect who lives in an abusive relationship. While in a hospital during an accident when she fell down and experienced some injuries, she meets Nova, and their friendship, full of bumps, turns and twists, begin. It turns out there is more than friendship – but will Kate’s husband Tony accept this new situation?
The way the author described Nova learning to see was… well, it was actually indescribable. I don’t know how it is with you but I thought, OK, she’ll get her operation, she’ll be able to see and that was it. But nothing could be further from the truth! I didn’t take into consideration the fact that she has never seen, so how is she going to perceive it now? To see? Will it be painful? Will she immediately get used to it? This, what is obvious for me, was not so much for Nova, and I just didn’t think about it this way, and it took me so much by surprise. You may think, she should be happy that she can see, right, but is it really so? Is it better to really see, all the things, everything that happens? Nova has had to learn everything – how to live a life as a sighted person, how to write, how to identify shapes and objects, and it wasn’t as simple as we can think it can be. The author really opened my eyes and pointed out things that I would never have imagined might be so surprising for a person like Nova. He has done a really great job in making me understand how hard it was to Nova to learn to see.
Nova was the strong one and Kate was the weaker one, and well, I sometimes felt desperate with Kate. As much as it was the story about Nova, I think that it was in fact about Kate and her learning to see, to take actions, to face her fears and I couldn’t wait to see when she’s eventually going to grow a backbone. It may sound harsh but I simply cared for her so much, I was worried that the next time will be this one too much and that something really bad is going to happen to her.
The rules of seeing from the title are notes made by Nova, her observations on things that she’s learnt, and they were always connected with the events that happened to the characters. Again, they were brilliant observations about things that we take for granted but if you stopped and wondered for a moment, you’d see that actually they’re not.
I’m not so sure about the ending, to be totally honest. I understand that the author had to solve one of Nova and Kate’s subplots and perhaps add this little drama but firstly, it felt too much at the margin, and then the shift in tone was too abrupt, too dramatic and too rushed. There were moments that the book slowed down, that it felt a little too slow and too philosophical for my liking but there were also moments that were full of drama and were really scary, there was a touch of thriller to this book as well.
This book was not what I was expecting but on the other hand, I’m not sure what I was expecting – probably a little teary tale about a woman who can miraculously see after years of not seeing, and not this thought – provoking, sometimes dramatic and so deeply captivating debut. It was really about learning to see – both in literal and metaphorical aspects. It was honest and refreshing, affecting, thought – provoking and it made you think, so really it had all the things to make it a great read. There was a great mix of romance and contemporary, lightness and darkness, hope and losing it. It gave the reader a very different perspective on almost everything that we take for granted. A real read with a difference and for sure Joe Heap is one to watch. Highly recommended!
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