This review is an extract from Inis 35. To read the full extended review pick up a copy of Inis 35.
The search for our identity, the question of who we really are, is one that we begin at birth and continue to search for until we die. When can we ever say that we really know ourselves? Every new activity, interpersonal encounter or spiritual experience allows us to learn something new about the personality that continues to develop.
In Flip, Bedford deals with this exploration of self-identity in a unique and compelling story. The subjective fantasy of Alex’s situation becomes an almost unbearable objective reality. The shock, confusion, guilt and anger follow the pattern of a person experiencing deep grief. And, indeed, when Alex finally discovers what has happened to him, it is as close as a human can get to being dead without in fact dying.
In the course of the story the protagonist has to examine every aspect of his life, simply because he is no longer perceived as that person. Every action and reaction he makes is initiated as one personality but perceived as another, so every facet of his being is constantly questioned and examined. It is a search for self, and in this particular case, a journey to return to self.
The penultimate chapter of the story is one where I found myself having to reread very slowly to capture the exact intention of the writer. The account of Alex’s journey back to himself is written in slow motion, suspended and surreal and, for me, needed to be read this way to grasp the meaning, emotion and physicality of the journey.
This is a compelling read, not alone for the examination of what constitutes personality or psyche, but also for the clever and unpredictable plot development. There are moments of pure comedy, romance and sadness, frustration and poignancy. It is a book that would open the mind of any questioning young reader to explore who they really are, not just as they perceive themselves but also how they are perceived by others.