This was one of those quietly, brilliant coming-of-age novels that just snuck up on me and completely enamoured me. Set in a remote Scottish island, the novel follows two young girls, socially adept Lorrie and painfully shy Sylvie as they navigate the pressures of growing up in this intimately small town where everyone knows everyone. Angela Readman creates a beautifully nuanced portrait of girlhood and friendship, the pitfalls and highs, in alternating points of view, between Lorrie and Sylvie.
As the novel unfolds, the families of the two girls and various inhabitants of this town come into sharp focus through the lens of Lorrie and Sylvie. Lorrie’s meticulous understanding of people is journaled in as evaluations of their ‘nose’, ‘palate’ and ‘finish’ which I found incredibly clever. As a reader, there’s more that you can infer by reading between the lines than Lorrie seems to allude. Sylvie captures your heart as a precocious, innocent girl with a mysterious secret. As the story progresses, aspects of Sylvie that continue to befuddle Lorrie, become far more clear to you as a reader. The story meanders in the mundane but gathers momentum as it progresses.
What begins as blurry outlines are moulded into definite contours as the girls progress into their teenage years and are shaped by the judgement of peers and adults alike. Secret love interests, hidden agendas, yearnings for comfort, friendship, acceptance and being understood, all punctuate the landscape they navigate. Readman writes with such stunning clarity, maintaining a sense of small-town intrigue while never straying too far from the narrative. Something Like Breathing is an astute observation of growing up while being burdened by a gift. A gift that is wonderful but is made to believe as something dark.