The Virgins, by Pamela Erens
John Murray, £7.99
Opening in 1979, at a New Hampshire boarding school, this assured second novel is an elegiac account of the doomed teenage love of Seung and Aviva. It deftly explores the complexities of adolescence, that time of experimentation, self-discovery and, potentially, self-destruction, but The Virgins is more than a nostalgic coming-of-age tale. Seung and Aviva’s story is retold by a fellow student, Bruce, now a theatre director – a narrator who is more biased and engaged than at first seems. He knows his version of events is itself a fiction, an attempt to give order to the memories, hearsay and imaginings. The Virgins is about the pursuit of pleasure and discovery of pain, the desire for control and freedom, and the creation and dissolution of self. But at its core it is about storytelling and the contradictory overlapping of fiction, myth, truth and lies.