Joe Heap: The Rules Of Seeing
Published By: HarperCollins
Buy It: here
What The Blurb Says:
Nova is 32 years old and she is about to see the world for the very first time.
Jillian Safinova, Nova to her friends, can do many things. She can speak five languages. She can always find a silver lining. And she can even tell when someone is lying just from the sound of their voice.
But there’s one thing Nova can’t do. She can’t see.
When her brother convinces her to have an operation that will restore her sight, Nova wakes up to a world she no longer understands. Until she meets Kate.
As Kate comes into focus, her past threatens to throw them into a different kind of darkness. Can they each learn to see the world in a different … and open their eyes to the lives they could have been living all along?
What I Say:
Rules of Seeing is a novel that I really wanted to read – I have to admit that the cover made me want to get hold of a copy! The beautiful proof that I was sent by Charlotte at Harper gave nothing away about the story, it was white, resonating with calmness and I thought I was going to be reading a simple love story.
What I found instead was a unique and powerful, genre defying book about what it means to be able to see, and how sometimes the things that are right in front of us are what will change our lives the most.
Jillian Safinova (Nova to her friends) is a police interpreter. Fiercely independent, witty and kind, she lives her life to the fullest and is not prepared to take any rubbish from anyone. She also happens to be blind, and has been from birth. Nova has learned to live in a world of darkness, negotiating everything we take for granted and living happily enough as she juggles her personal and professional life.
Nova’s brother Alex, who is a doctor, tells her of an operation that would potentially restore her sight, and she is then faced with a massive choice. Take a huge leap of faith and change everything she has ever known to be able to see, or carry on as she is. The thing is, when Nova decides to have the operation, this is not one of those trite cinematic moments where Nova’s bandages are removed and she jumps from her bed, runs outside and drives a car away. Imagine going from a state of no vision to a world where everything hurtles towards you at once – you have to learn the rules to survive. The Rules of Seeing. Nova has to work her way through all of these in order to understand the world around her that we take for granted.
As she struggles with recovery and rehabilitation, she meets Kate. An architect married to a policeman, Kate is increasingly realising that her husband is far from the upstanding member of the police force he pretends to be. As well as having a side line in dealing the drugs he has seized in various drug operations, he is an abusive husband. Kate’s existence is punctuated by the vicious and unprovoked attacks she suffers at his hands. She believes that she is not worth anything more, and is resigned to living her days in the restricted world that he allows her to inhabit.
So, when Kate bumps into Nova attempting to destroy a vending machine to get the snack she wants, the two women are set on a course that will change their lives permanently. Kate and Nova are both faced with learning new rules for their lives, and this brings them even closer together as they realise that they are attracted to each other.
What I loved about this novel, was that you really understand what it means to be blind, and more importantly, how truly challenging and frustrating it is to be invisible because of your disability.
Getting your sight back must seem to be the most incredible thing, but what Joe does is show how it can also be the most frightening and isolating thing too. Imagine going from darkness to a world where you have to learn the rules that everyone else has known from birth. The difference between objects, what it’s like to travel on a bus or in a car, to learn what an object you know the word for actually looks like. How do you know how big a car is or how you distinguish colours and shapes? Nova has to relearn every little thing, absorb it and put it into practice at the same time as continuing with her personal and professional life.
As Nova battles to accept her sight, Kate is stuck at home in London, living with a man who takes pleasure in finding ways to distress his wife. One of the most appalling things he does is to slowly and deliberately skin a rabbit in front of her, knowing how upsetting it is, relishing the distress he causes and the power he has over her.
All the time, Kate is trying to stop herself falling for Nova, but she can see a glimpse of how happy she could be, if she could make the decision to move away from her husband. However, when they finally do kiss, Kate, perhaps scared of what Tony would do to Nova if he found out, sends Nova away. The journey for Nova into a world of sight is at a critical point. She could carry on with her therapy, or purposefully forget everything she has learned to this point, and retreat into her blindness again. Rejected by Kate and bewildered by what has happened, Nova decides to return to the world she knows best.
A final awful attack on Kate by Tony, gives her the courage to leave him and stay in the flat she was renovating. It is only then, when Nova comes to see her, that Kate is able to tell her how she has really seen Tony for who he is, and the truth about her home life comes tumbling out. Joe’s tender and eloquent writing shows how in loving each other, Kate and Nova have found a way to navigate the life changing events they are facing, and that by being together as a couple, they can start to heal and live the lives they truly deserve. For me, the fact that they do have ups and downs, doubts and fears about their relationship makes them seem even more real. Who hasn’t read and re-read a text before, during and after sending it. or worried about how long is too long before getting in touch? Their tentative steps in the relationship means that we are completely engaged by them and want only for their story to end happily
If only life was that simple, and happy ever afters were found with the turn of a page.. Tony, infuriated by his wife’s abandonment has other ideas, and Kate and Nova fall victim to his sadistic nature as he attempts to finally destroy the relationship they have fought so hard for. Of course, as always, I am going to say nothing more other than you will need to buy The Rules of Seeing to find out whether Kate and Nova’s love triumphs.
The Rules of Seeing is a novel unlike any I have ever read. It is a powerful, complex and challenging book that shows us unflinchingly not only what it means to be blind, but also how shocking and upsetting living in a violent relationship is. Far from being a cosy and straightforward love story, it is a novel about how too often we settle for the way things are, and that by having the courage to be willing to really see ourselves and the world around us, we can truly have the life we deserve.
I loved it.