Wild Game is a memoir that reads like a novel. Brodeur’s writing is elegant — she is particularly good at describing the sights, sounds and smells of Cape Cod, with its sand dunes and fishing boats, and its perpetual harvest of clams and lobsters. I was strongly reminded of LP Hartley’s classic novel The Go-Between; both explore the feelings of a child caught in the complicated mesh of an adult love affair.
All this is fascinating – at times, gruesomely so. I found myself quite mesmerised by Malabar; like some desperate old actress, she’s permanently ready for her closeup.
But Brodeur’s memoir is somehow a lot less gripping than it should be. Why? At first, I thought this was down to her writing. Combine her travel writerly descriptions of Cape Cod with her lusciously precise accounts of her mother’s cooking – “Malabar lowered the artfully arranged pre-dinner offerings: paper-thin slices of ruby-red venison carpaccio, a bowl of wrinkled and briny olives, and a dish of her ethereally smooth venison paté” – and what you have is memoir as it might appear in Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop: varnished rather than visceral, more complacent than searching. “I learned to become a friend to myself,” she writes at one point, which, quite apart from being a cliche of self-help, seemed to me to be not much of a weapon in the war for independence from her mother.