I enjoyed this book. I enjoyed it very much indeed.
But before we get into why, let me warn you that there will be a few spoilers and a lot of adjectives.
Before this book was released, I was asked if I would like to write a review. I’m a writer and I have a long established blog that occasionally writes reviews. Then, they promptly forgot about me, but to their credit, when I pointed this out they sent me an actual book to read and I am very pleased that they did.
When the initial request came in, I was up to my armpits in work and I was fighting a deadline to publish my two latest books, TRUST, and SLIGHTLY SPOOKY STORIES, but I was intrigued to read that this book came into being because it was ‘plucked’ from the publisher’s ‘slush pile’. My early manuscripts languished on a few slush piles, so I have a vague idea how it would feel to be ‘discovered’ in this way.
I can see how the person [I wanted to say ‘unfortunate person’] who had the job of reading these manuscripts felt. If they were anything like me they would have taken a few pages to get into the rhythm of the book and then they would have said something like, “Wow, this is really good.” They may even have stopped what they were doing and grabbed the mail boy as he sailed by and got him to read a bit. “I’m not imagining this am I? This is really good, isn’t it?” I had visions of someone who looked a bit like Hope Lang in ‘The Best of Everything’ taking home manuscripts and reading them on the train on her way into Manhattan, except that she would be on a train heading into Sydney or Melbourne [I don’t actually know where Pan Macmillan people hang out, but I’m hoping that it is in Melbourne.]
Okay, so I’m a romantic. I know that there was probably an agent involved [they get a credit in acknowledgments] and this isn’t a Cinderella story, but the idea did get me interested.
Being an Australian writer I like to support Australian writers, but I would not normally head for this kind of story, but I have to say that the genres are less important than the talent of the writer and Claire, in my not-so-humble opinion, is a very good writer.
Let me explain what I mean by that.
I’m one of those readers [and writers] who loves characters. Plots are okay, but seriously, who can be bothered with all the twists and turns! A solid plot that lets us readers discover the characters that heave into view is my idea of heaven.
I instantly fell in love with the mini-biographies that Claire uses. So often, the bit-parts in a novel get little respect. These characters are ALWAYS of interest to me [my short stories are full of them].
The age group of the two main character is far removed from my own, but I do remember being that age and I do remember what it felt like trying to make your way in the world and waiting for the day when you felt like a grown up. Ms. Varley captured this masterfully.
I won’t spoil the ending for you, but I must make a few comments. Firstly, it is brave and completely in character with the rest of the work. It left me wondering and we [I read it aloud to my wife over a period of evenings] found that the story and the characters and the ending stayed with us; we needed to talk about what we had experienced.
I am very much looking forward to reading more of Claire Varley’s work. I hear a lot about how there are not enough opportunities for women writers. It isn’t about gender, it’s about the ability to engage the reader, and Claire Varley has that ability.