I mentioned that I would be incorporating lots of different books in my reviews moving forward and Karen Connelly’s The Change Room was something completely different for me!
A sort of a twist on the “coming of age” story, Eliza, a middle aged, married woman, finds herself in an adulterous affair with a woman (Shar) she meets at the pool. What starts in the change room soon takes over Eliza’s life as she battles between what she feels is right and what she feels in her heart.
I initially chose this book, not only because I wanted to switch things up, but also because a Canadian author wrote it. I am making a serious effort this year to #readthenorth. So, I was pleasantly surprised to find that I I read this novel easily over the course of a few sittings; I found myself completely engaged in Eliza’s world.
However, this one left me feeling conflicted. I don’t know if I loved this novel or if I hated.
I felt an instant connection to the Eliza character. Something about her was so realistic and she truly was well developed. One thing I liked about her was her banter; she was funny and smart. A few things she said had me smirking with delight. She seemed to be modelled after an “every woman” type of character. She works hard, loves her family but, for whatever reason, finds herself with discontent. For whatever reason, Eliza kept reminding me of the protagonist from Kate Chopin’s The Awakening.
I struggled in the middle of the novel because, as much as I enjoyed the character development of Eliza, I didn’t find myself interested in Shar. Not even a little. I’m not sure if I was supposed to be shocked by her sexual experience and feel as if she was an edgy, breath of fresh air into Eliza’s life. But I didn’t. In fact, she kind of bored me.
By the end, I was even more conflicted as I loved the general storyline but hated the abrupt ending.
Regardless of my mixed feels regarding the actual content of the book, I must applaud Connelly for her writing style. As mentioned, she kept me engaged and wondering how this would play out. I also must applaud her on tackling such subject matter; this novel does portray sexually explicit material but I never found it to be “in your face” or too much. Instead, it was very authentic.
I also felt like the story screamed a prominent and glaring message about the fluidity of sexuality. Eliza does not identify as straight or gay or bisexual. She identifies as Eliza. I felt like this message was very important, especially in the society that we currently live in.
Overall, I enjoyed this one as a break from my regular reading and would not hesitate to read another novel by this author. I would recommend it!