The Truth About Emma by Gary Crew

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At a first glimpse of the beautiful young woman on the cover of The truth about Emma, the reader would expect this book to be a teenage romance, but that is not Gary Crew's style. He delivers an involved, disturbing and memorable story that has quite a punch about the power of the press and the complexity of human relations.

Emma Burden has been the target of international media, with headlines about an affair with a university professor while she was still at school and accusations of murder. Journalist Rafaelo Innocenti, hoping to get his big break, interviews her to see if he can find out the truth.

Told in a series of thirteen interviews, Crew leads the reader through the convoluted details of the life of Emma Burden. The story is told with an intellectual quality that demands the reader's commitment. From the very beginning when Innocenti states that for a man and woman to fall in love, they must 'both understand and practise the meaning of two words: compliance and antagonism', Crew insists that his reader think about relationships much more deeply than a mere newspaper or magazine story demands. References to Emma by Jane Austen, Madame Bovary and Lolita also move the reader into a higher level of thinking.

At the same time, the issues are ones that are of intense interest to young people. Popular media emphasises fame, clothing, and appearance and Crew spends time setting a scene where beauty is all-important and wearing the right designer apparel essential. The casual approach to sexual relationships is also a sub plot. One can't help being reminded of the stories about Paris Hilton and other celebrities.

Crew maintains a high interest level as the reader is swept along, avid to follow the story of Emma and for younger readers this may be enough. More discerning readers will want to pursue the many threads in this story and will find themselves pondering questions of morality and celebrity.

Pat Pledger