Lead Review and the author talks about setting
- Book: See you in September
- Location: Rotorua
- Author: Charity Norman
I have always enjoyed Charity Norman’s novels and she always chooses an interesting subject for each book. See you in September is no exception.
Cassy’s family waves her and her boyfriend, Hamish, off for a Summer trip to New Zealand. She is part way through her law degree and is having a few doubts about the course her life is taking. Does she really want to go for the high pressure job, with long hours but good money? Her parents have encouraged her to take this particular path and are happy for her to have a couple of carefree weeks before she has to buckle down to the final year, starting in September. But in the car to the airport there is the hint that Cassy is having serious doubts about her future. A slightly fraught departure ensues.
Partway into the trip Cassy and Hamish hit a real low point in their relationship and she is whisked off by a van full of up-beat and jolly people who take her to a remote encampment by the Lake at Mount Tarawera. She can, of course, leave at any time… at junctures the author slides in snippets from The Cult Leader’s Manual by Cameron Allsop, a several stage guide to ensnaring new acolytes, just to underline the gradual process of entrapment.
Cassy is bright, she takes the community for what it is, set in the most tranquil and idyllic location away from the horrors of the world. The members have formed a community with a laudable moral and spiritual ethos that is very seductive, all under the watchful and caring eye of Justin Calvin – a listener to whom the acolytes are in thrall (even though he can be absurd in his all-in-one romper suit, knitted by member Nana Kazan). It is also no coincidence that the members are named after places around the world…Rome, Cairo, Aden, Gaza…
Just how deeply involved does Cassy become?
Most of us are unlikely to ever find ourselves in the position of becoming enmeshed in a cult and I think the author has done a great job in showing how the tentacles of entrapment slowly take hold. Most community members have place names and it is hard as a reader to quite get a grip on who is who, the members are an amorphous mass of people – this demonstrates just how powerful our own names are to give us identity. Lose your name and personal items, and you lose your ‘self’. Members’ thinking is gradually changed too because no negativity is allowed. Negative thoughts, however, help us to process our understanding of the world; take that out of the equation and we can only function on half the cylinders. Already, perceptions are changing… As time passes it becomes clear how seductive the rituals and the group mentality become, and how closing off the outside world aids in institutionalising the individuals within the community, leaving them fearful of functioning outside in the horrible big wide world. People are taken back to childlike dependency and innocence.
I found this read really gripping, well written with a very interesting subject at the heart. The end was a little drawn out for me it lost its punchy pace, which however picked up again towards the end.
“And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music” Friedrich Nietzsche
The author talks about locale on THIS link