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Ali Millar – Ava Anna Ada (book review)

The latest work from Ali Millar, author of memoir The Last Days, Ava Anna Ada opens as it continues – flowing from one dreamy, gossamer sentence to another like black liquid, shaping with it a world that feels jarring and coldly dreamlike.

Set in an all-too-familiar potential dystopia characterised by desperation, the creeping unknown, and an obsession with image, Millar sets the tone of their novel with the simple yet distressing event of an injured animal – a moment that will carry each character forwards with dread into the uncomfortable haze of a story that forces us to examine how things truly begin to look in the dark, even if we’d rather ignore them.

Told in split prose from multiple voices, Ava Anna Ada is a dark and beautiful gem. Opening readers to a story twisted with threads of violence and rage, climate change, sex and lust, and unbridled human impulse, Millar explores a world controlled by anxieties of The Screen and threats of the Deportations Bus arriving from the Sorting Centre, set in a claustrophobic realm called The Spit – a place that seems to hover above time and space, somewhere unpinnable yet freakishly familiar.

Shifting from chapters under Ava, Anna, both, and ‘We’, Millar’s debut novel draws us – sometimes peeking through fingers with apprehension and fear – to confront just how much humans hide of themselves, and the terrible repercussions born when truths emerge and thick deception comes to light.

Uncomfortable, skillfully written, and ringing clear with gorgeous references to literary giants of the past, Ava Anna Ada is a book you will wish to read again and again, thankful to be protected from the story’s dire hauntings and warnings by the safety of our present light, open rooms.

Ava Anna Ada by Ali Millar is published by White Rabbit Books

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