I Will Not Kill Myself, Olivia - A Novel
Reviewed By: Editorial Board
The Editorial Board of The Columbia Review selects new books and films of interest, as well as paid submissions and sponsored reviews from authors, publishers, directors, agents and producers.
“I Will Not Kill Myself, Olivia” by Danny Baker is a contemporary novel set in Australia. Starting off with an extremely dramatic, realistic scene of a young man about to commit suicide in public, the novel is launched with an implied promise to tell the story as it is, harsh and direct, no holding back, unguarded. The author keeps that promise throughout the novel.
Told for the most part in the first person by the protagonist, Jimmy Wharton, the story follows a bright, handsome and successful young man at the peak of his life, full of promise and vigor, yet crippled by a silent enemy—an unrelenting depression and the resulting suicidal urges. For those familiar with clinical depression, either personally or through proximity to a loved one, this work of fiction would be very realistic and familiar.
“I Will Not Kill Myself, Olivia” centers around the couples’ heartfelt, passionate and troubled love. It allows the reader to look in via an open window into the main character’s life and mind. The author demonstrates a unique voice and a sharp pen that draws the reader into an authentic first person account of an active life, as well as internal thoughts, feelings and debilitating conflicts. The undercurrent of depression is deftly presented by the author; it is a mesmerizing portrayal of an all-consuming force that dominates the main character. This novel does justice to the way the illness afflicts sufferers in the real world.
While much of the novel is characterized by memoir-like ruminations and recollections, the style adds authenticity to the voice, making the story that much more credible. The author shows tremendous courage and capability in digging deep into the main character’s psych and reporting both actions and internal dialogues in a convincing balance of detail and action. “I Will Not Kill Myself, Olivia” is written in a highly realistic voice, not shying away from foul language, vile behavior, and the precious acts of love and betrayal that are necessary for the survival of those who live with mental illness.
“And because I was so convinced that I’d never get better, there seemed no point in fighting my illness.” If there ever was a more honest sentence in a work of fiction dealing with depression! Which leads the novel to a dramatic conclusion, by closing the circle back to the beginning.
As an aside, for the non-Australian reader, the novel offers an extra gift of experiencing one of the most wonderful cities in the world, Sydney, and a highly believable fictional life of the main characters in Australia.
In summary, this is a painfully honest, authentic and provocative novel. It takes the reader on a highly emotional journey, with peaks and valleys that add suspense and anticipation. “I Will Not Kill Myself, Olivia” serves a perfect balance of emotions, action and drama, making it a highly engaging experience for the discriminating reader. Recommended!