The Eternal Return of Clara Hart
The Eternal Return of Clara Hart, a timely exploration of toxic masculinity, is structured around two time loops: the loop in which the narrator, Spence, is forced to repeat the same day over and over again until he learns something about himself and his milieu; and the loop of grief in which he and his father have been stuck since the sudden death of his mother exactly one year ago.
Self-absorbed, and numbed by his bereavement, Spence doesn’t bring much critical analysis to the behaviour of his friend group, until repeating the events of one fatal day forces him to confront some uncomfortable truths. Finch’s choice of a male narrator results in a convincing and gradual denouement, as Spence begins to recognise the behaviour of his friends for what it is, but also realises that you can’t save one person without taking responsibility for the group dynamic.
The narrative voice is compelling, and the well-controlled plot encompasses a number of issues affecting secondary school students. Through Spence’s struggles, Finch manages to weave in some core questions of moral philosophy, and examine issues of personal responsibility, without seeming overtly didactic. An important book, particularly for young men.