On one level, ‘My Sweet Friend’ is an insight into the way power struggles and politics operate in business and in personal relationships. Beneath this narrative is a rather brilliant and poignant analysis of the human mind and mental illness.
Alexa and Rosie are presented via a first person narrative, and this insight plays tricks with the reader’s mind – one questions whose ‘game’ is dominant. The contrasting characters are presented using animal imagery of the cat and the mouse. Careful choice of verbs indicates who is ‘ambushing’ the friendship.
Alexa, with her ‘immaculate looks’ appears very measured. Her controlled behaviour’ is teased out in every action and word. Once self-control is lost, and the clouds are overhead, then it is a frightening place for Alexa. Alexa’s state mind ends up in a place where the ‘waves had turned against each other, foam crowning as they crashed to the shore.’ Fear for the character evokes empathy.
Before reaching the crisis point, Alexa wears a mask of control like a cat waiting to pounce. Rosie, is forced to confront her vulnerability. She learns how ‘empathetic skills’ are viewed as weakness by some, if not ‘managed’. Rosie’s language flows, driven by emotions, and she explains:
‘My cheeks were wet with tears by the time I reached home, feeling abandoned and used and stupid for letting myself be dragged…’
The long sentence and outpouring of emotions amplify the sense of vulnerability. But the ‘sweet and sour’ characters begin to shift, as the dichotomy is not fixed. If one deconstructs the manipulator’s ‘game’ it is possible to fight back. However, Alexa becomes isolated, vulnerable and needs support. I was intrigued with the way that this story manipulated my emotions.
‘My Sweet Friend’ is poetic exploration of vulnerability. The novella is a shrewd demonstration that:
‘Behind the façade we are all human, fragile and sensitive to judgement.’
Leuschel cracks open the fragility of the human psyche in an artful manner, and clues about the characters’ vulnerabilities are woven into the text. This brutal, haunting story of the human psyche arms the reader with some survival tactics. Despite an uneasy feeling, one finds empathy for the manipulator. Perhaps, this novella will lead to a novel examining what shaped the manipulator’s behaviour, and what happens next.
To find out more about Helene please see my interview with her.