Book Review: Constellations of Eve // Abbigail Nguyen Rosewood

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The prose in Abbigail Nguyen Rosewood’s second novel Constellations of Eve leaves you winded, gasping for air, but simultaneously awakening your mind to metaphysical possibilities. It is a novel with little plot, but the striking and impactful one-liners keep the prose, nearing poetry, flowing steadily to the point you cannot put the novel down. It has it all: love, art, lust, beauty, obsession and death. 

Constellations of Eve, in short, presents three realities packed into one story. The protagonist Eve — mother, artist, friend and lover — is introduced as throwing herself off a bridge due to the recent passing of her husband and son. While doing so Pari, a stranger, tries to prevent her from doing so. But it is too late. So instead Pari throws some cards into the water, consequently plunging the narrative into three possible realities in which Eve could have lived. 

The first card is called ‘The Mute Sculpture’, the significance of the title shockingly revealed as the chapter progresses, following Eve becoming more unstable. The chapter sets the tone instantly, revealing that both her husband and son will betray her. And for Eve, betrayal is synonymous with death. Dreams and reality become blurred, leaving Eve to conjure stories to cope with the fragmentation of her life. It profoundly exposes humanity’s incapability of coping with change and the extremes we go to to keep things as they are. 

As the first section crumbles to an end, the second card is drawn: ‘The Soft Shackle’. The juxtaposition represents the gentle nature of love but also how quickly you can be trapped in a marriage. The chapter follows Eve’s husband, Liam, although this time he is no longer Eve’s husband. He marries her best friend Pari but yearns to be with Eve — a perfect ideal reminiscent of the biblical figure. Death, likewise, pervades this chapter and is equated with beauty. Rosewood suggests that the power of beauty is that it vanishes, it dies. The process of art, therefore, immortalises beauty. Rosewood manages to turn a difficult chapter into a well-crafted piece of prose that leaves you wondering if you ought to be so afraid of death.

The final card is called ‘Being Eve’. This is a short chapter and by far the happiest. Here it seems Rosewood is permitting Eve to be the truest form of herself, a self that is cherished by Liam. It is an evoking chapter on love and how it can be an organic process. Love should never be stagnant but ever-growing and evolving. True love is about constant excitement and surprises.

Nonetheless, the novel does not come to such a satisfactory conclusion. The ending section, ‘The Voids of Cards’, is where the cards settle and the ultimate destination arrives. The outcome is ambiguous but there are hints of Eve’s life resulting in nothingness. 
Rosewood’s Constellations of Eve looks at our most intimate intentions and the story of betrayal and obsession that comes with them. It is a painful story that at times can be difficult to read but beyond the plot are insightful philosophical ideas that bring your own life choices into question. It is a novel that will linger with you long after you have finished it.

Constellations of Eve will be available in UK bookshops from the 11th August 2022. You can pre-order it from Platypus Press here.

Words by Georgia McInnes

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