I was very lucky to have been sent a copy of “The Rules Of Seeing” to read and review. After previewing the first chapter or so I knew that I wanted to read the whole book immediately. This post will contain spoilers as I really want to discuss this book in its entirety.
The premise of the book is the development of a friendship and relationship founded on unusual beginnings. The main characters, Kate and Nova, both happen to be recovering under the same neurologist for very different things. Nova, born blind, has a revolutionary operation to allow her to see. Kate, in an abusive relationship, is injured by her partner, leading to a bleed on the brain. The story follows as their lives change, for better and for worse, together and separately, covering a time span of just over two years in total, sometimes jumping forward in months at a time to show the developments in that time period.
I must pause here to say that being both visually impaired and a domestic violence survivor, I knew I would be able to relate with both Kate and Nova right from the beginning, although I underestimated exactly how much. There was an accuracy in even the descriptions of living life in an abusive relationship – approved outfits, humiliating in front of friends, learning how to keep safe – that resonated with me deeply. No matter how long you’ve been safe for, you never forget that particular shade of fear.
As for Nova, I wasn’t born blind. I started to lose my vision about five years ago, and use my long cane along with endless other adaptive techniques to try and live a semi normal life. The ability for the author to put himself into the mind (and eyes) of someone partially sighted was something I was hugely impressed with, and at points even I couldn’t have described my visual perception more accurately.
Full praise is also deserved for writing a romantic and sexual relationship between two women without it being hyper sexualized; remember that thing on social media about how male authors can tend to write women in a “she boobed boobily with her boobs” type manner? This was, to my joys, far away from that. These characters were written as 3D creations, who happen to be women, who happen to be in love. It was so refreshing.
This book strode along a beautiful path, managing to be both lighthearted and serious at the same time. I was trying to decide how I would classify this book, because it is an “easy read” in the sense that it is an addictive read, and it is also quite deep at times, with subjects such as violent assaults. But it is a balance that Joe Heap treads very well, especially in his debut novel. The ease with which he treads his balance makes me entirely sure this won’t be the last we see from him.