I am continuously amazed by the choices that people make, not to mention the mere fact that humans make so many choices in a day. Making a choice is like blinking: we have choices that feel like second nature to us—choosing to hit the snooze button in the early morning or picking out an outfit for work. Then there are the more serious, or tough, choices. Who are we if we cannot choose to learn about issues that make our minds whir, or choose to be with someone who makes our heart sing! Of course, seeing how precious the value of a choice is, it’s not difficult to understand just how easy it could be to make the wrong one, or even how often other people are willing to snatch them away from you.
It’s this idea of the unpredictability and messiness of the effects our choices have, that is woven throughout the enthralling prose of Annabel Lyon’s latest release, Consent. The novel, which focuses on the parallel relationships between two sets of sisters, is an example of how a few choices can throw people so off course and deconstruct their lives in such a way that removes all artifice, leaving only awful truths. When the studious and straight-laced Saskia has to take care of her twin sister, the charismatic and self-absorbed Jenny, after she is badly injured in a car accident, we ask, “Can these twins reconcile their stark differences and choose to connect in a time of despair?” And when the status-obsessed Sara forces her kind, intellectually disabled sister Mattie to annul her marriage to a handyman in an attempt to protect her family’s wealth, we ask, “Where is the line between care and control?” Shown through these sister’s various choices and culminating in a thrilling and tragic connection, these questions and more are unearthed and dissected with alarming precision in Consent.
Choice is present in actions, like the turning of a goblet. Holding the book in my hands while pondering the marvellous hand-crafted goblets at Circle Craft, I saw how perfectly designed a goblet can be. Upright, it is the picture of elegance. But when I turned the goblets upside down, to mirror the book cover, I found myself shuffling with unease… and to my surprise, a little bit of giddiness. My choice to upend the regulated order of things turned out to be more satisfying than I would have thought, but I suspect Lyon has long been aware of how unexpected choices can be, if her dazzling and unpredictable Consent is any indication.