By Gurnish Kaur
‘Not To Be Overlooked’ introduces a variety of wonderful but lesser-known books to assist readers in finding their next great reads. This week’s column covers a review of None of This Is Serious by Catherine Prasifka.
None of This Is Serious by Catherine Prasifka
Shortlisted for the Irish Book Awards 2022, None of This Is Serious is a short novel about the uncertainty of life and the absurdity of our own expectations. None of This Is Serious is Catherine Prasifka’s debut novel after studying English Literature at Trinity College Dublin and obtaining her MLitt in Fantasy from the University of Glasgow. Thus, Prasifka is well versed in the literary field.
As someone who graduated in the summer of 2021 and completed their degree in the midst of the pandemic, I found myself relating a lot to the story of Prasifka’s protagonist, Sophie. The novel is set in the heart of Dublin as Sophie and her friends come to the end of their time at university together. Catherine Prasifka writes Sophie’s character in first person narrative, which ultimately brings us closer to Sophie and her problems. As I was reading None of This Is Serious, Sophie’s thoughts and feelings felt familiar. Despite her issues being personal, her thought process and coping mechanism are things which a lot of Gen Z can relate to.
In None of This Is Serious, we are introduced to the protagonist, Sophie. Sophie is a 22-year-old Irish university student with the question of: what is her next step? Along with Sophie we meet her friendship groups, annoyingly accurate Gen X parents and her twin sister Hannah. The novel opens with a typical university style house party where Sophie is surrounded by many people she knows, but many more people she does not. The house is full of chatter, music, drinking games being played, but the only voice she can hear is the one in her head. Prasifka does an eerily accurate job of writing about the loneliness felt within a room full of people and the constant mental battle of being present.
While Sophie adjusts to the changes life inevitably brings, the world is faced with a potentially catastrophic crisis. The world has been hit with a crack in the sky. A literal crack. The bridge between the coming of age and magical realist elements of the novel put in perspective the anxiety felt on a national and individual level. The element of the mysterious crack is potentially a metaphor for the COVID-19 pandemic, or the climate change crisis or even the cost-of-living issues. Overall, this extended metaphor does a great job of creating the anxiety that the world felt with the ambiguity at the start of the pandemic. The uncertainty of the crack is an added layer to Sophie’s unsettled thoughts and feelings about her future.
Another layer to Sophie’s story is the power of social media. Sophie is engrossed in the depths of social media and its discourse. Her obsession of consuming information and distracting herself from the realities of the world is something everyone is victim to. However, Prasifka uses Sophie to depict a generation navigating the bridge between reality and online presence.
Prasifka sums up this generational struggle in the following quote:
“I want to grasp the future that is available to me and stop fixating on what I've done. I'm not alone, I've never been alone; I just had the wrong idea of what loneliness meant. I want to stop pretending I believe what I've been taught happiness is: I have to find out for myself.”
The artwork on the book cover is also an element of this novel that should not be overlooked. The cover displays an illustration of a fragmented silhouette of a woman. The shattered pieces of the woman’s face are a great reminder of how fragile our self-image and mental health can be. It reminds us to take a break and remember that the image everyone curates online is only a glimpse of their life.
This novel is a great read to remind you that none of this is actually serious. Sophie’s character is a reminder to every young person that they are not alone in figuring life out. Even better, sometimes, life does not need to be figured out, but simply lived.