Camilla Bruce’s debut You Let Me In is quite unlike anything I have ever read before and although it was odd, it was also strangely compelling.
Eccentric and reclusive romance writer Cassandra Tipp has disappeared….or died…no one is really sure. Her life has been a strange one which has included the death of her husband and then the apparent murder-suicide of her brother and father. In her will, she leaves everything to her sister’s children, but first they have to read the manuscript she’s left them.
Cassandra’s life has been difficult. Her mother was “a stern woman, maybe not too happy.” Her father was “a big man with fleshy lips and cheeks like a basset hound.” She had a younger brother, Ferdinand, and a younger sister, Olivia. By her own account, Cassandra was a bad girl and
No one keeps an eye on the bad girl. The peculiar daughter is left on her own. So easy to slip away then, fall into the twilight places of the world. To be taken and lost. Preyed upon.
This is how Cassandra comes into contact with Pepper-Man, a twilight figure who would “appear at the end of [her] bed and sit there cross-legged, grooming his hair with a comb made of bone.”
Cassandra’s relationship with Pepper-Man is an intimate one. He feeds on her; sometimes Cassandra wakes up with “his deep buried deep in [her] throat.” It’s difficult for readers to know if he is real or whether, like Cassandra’s psychiatrist believes, a manifestation of childhood trauma because sometimes “something happens that is so horrible, so painful and confusing our brains take charge and rewrites.”
Dr. Martin writes a whole book about Cassandra: Away with the Fairies: A Study in Trauma-Induced Psychosis. This book tries to explain an alternate view of Pepper-Man. Its publication doesn’t do anything to make Cassandra and the strange circumstances of her life any more palatable, and it sure as heck won’t help the reader determine what the heck is really going on in Bruce’s novel.
I do have my own theory, but I won’t spoil the book by offering it up. You Let Me In wasn’t at all what I was expecting, but it was – I was going to say enjoyable, but that’s not the right word- definitely a fascinating read.