Published by Chicken House!
‘Under Rose-Tainted Skies’ is all about Norah, an agoraphobiac and sufferer of OCD. Her anxiety means she’s housebound, afraid to step beyond the realms of her porch watching spot. Except one day, that is challenged. When her mum goes away on a conference, stuck unexpectedly overnight, Norah has to deal with the invasion of the Helping Hands Guy right there, in the middle of her freakin’ home, and his subsequent tardiness of leaving her food shop outside. Caught in a bit of sticky situation, Norah tries fishing for her groceries, using a broom to drag them the final distance to the safety of her porch. Except, of course, Norah doesn’t get to get on with her business unnoticed — cue her beautiful new neighbour, Luke who’s completely dazzling and just maybe manages to worm his way in. With a safe bit of distance between them, of course.
I’m not quite sure how to explain how much I loved ‘Under Rose-Tainted Skies’. The narrative of being an individual suffering from agoraphobia was so incredibly heart-wrenching and eye-opening. As an #OwnVoices novel, the honesty provided a real look through the keyhole as to what it’s like, offering a perspective very rarely found in books exploring mental health. For that, I cannot commend Louise Gornall enough. Not only does she deal with her own day-to-day struggles, but she bravely puts them out there in a physical book for all to read and experience a fraction of. What’s more, it was told in such an enchanting way. I loved Norah a lot. The way in which her voice was woven throughout the story felt like a stiff reminder that although mental health can feel like it’s taken away all control, you’re no less a person. You’re not abnormal; you have likes and dislikes, aspirations to travel the world. And, just like everyone else, your heart rate picks up irrevocably fast when you see the person you’re falling in love with. You’re here, you’re breathing. Life won’t always be like this, you don’t have to let it.
What’s more, whilst also writing what felt like the most honest portrayal of mental health, and agoraphobia specifically, that I’ve ever read, Louise didn’t write a perfect, put-a-bow-on-it, ending. There was a serious plot twist that I didn’t see coming a mile off, there was hope (and you can bet I was grinning on my train like a maniac), and there was the recognition that progression does take time and that that’s very, very okay. Not only that, Luke didn’t fix her, or try to either. I repeat: Luke didn’t fix her! Norah was a shining fictional feminist icon. She recognises she doesn’t need no man to get her through her dark times; if she wants to get better, she has to do it all by herself. And Luke respects that and doesn’t forcibly push her in some warped attempt to be romantic and heroic. Praise this book and praise Louise Gornall! I loved your book so much I couldn’t even write a remotely coherent review about it.