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Small Fingernails, as a prequel to University on Watch, has a more reader-friendly narrative. This book is an exercise in the politics of friendship in the wake of the author’s unmatched and dangerously passionate experience with unrequited love. Jacques’s tremendous passion, bold and richly intense labile emotions are directed at his classmate in English class: Dorothea. This is a memoir at the heart of it.
The main character Jacques Peters, Dorothea, and his small circle of university friends at New London University are the focus of this story. The focus and vivid characterisation extend to Jacques’s friends: Mcdaggot, Vito, Jonas, Patrick, Shagwell, and Kim. Dorothea, however, is left mysteriously unbrushed. Dorothea’s character leaves room for multiple interpretive angles and only creates a space for doubt, and hope in love to persist.
The events that the writer pulled out of his personal experience have been pegged on a more solid storyline – sticking to a toxic relationship out of love and coming to an awareness of the situation. Beginning with flashbacks to less memorable and definitely traumatic events during Jacques’s experiences in high school, the storyline begins at his arrival in Freedomtown, New York and ends with a University on Watch, and the crisis that unfolded.
The reflections are as erudite as in the next book but presented in a voice that almost seems to consider to target the reading public – individuals who may be groping in the dark with their reactions to life events without necessarily realising that they are already dealing with a mental condition.
One thing that’s consistent between this prequel and the first book is the fact that it seeks to paint a picture of how the person’s struggles are impacted by the existence or lack of positive support from everyone around him. In that sense, it almost becomes instructional in that the experience and the insights can already serve as guides that readers who can relate may be able to work with.
Ultimately, this book makes for a compelling prequel to University on Watch. I recommend reading this book before or after its successor, as both stand on their own quite well.
Dennis Relojo-Howell is the managing director of Psychreg.