Girl A by Abigail Dean: A Review

Synopsis:

‘Girl A,’ she said. ‘The girl who escaped. If anyone was going to make it, it was going to be you.’

Lex Gracie doesn’t want to think about her family. She doesn’t want to think about growing up in her parents’ House of Horrors. And she doesn’t want to think about her identity as Girl A: the girl who escaped. When her mother dies in prison and leaves Lex and her siblings the family home, she can’t run from her past any longer. Together with her sister, Evie, Lex intends to turn the House of Horrors into a force for good. But first she must come to terms with her six siblings – and with the childhood they shared.

Trigger Warnings:

Child Abuse, Psychological and Physical Abuse, Gas Lighting, Mental Health, Drug Dependency, Alcohol Dependency, Violence, and Blood.

‘They huddled together on the floor, bloody and naked, like the survivors of some terrible atrocity. Like the last people in the world, or else the first.’  

Girl A, Abigail Dean

I was three years old when ‘A Child Called It,’ was published, so I don’t remember a time before it. It makes it difficult, when talking about Girl A, because that’s the first comparison I want to make- and whilst both books look at the trauma of child abuse, Girl A’s angry protagonists are modern, cold, and broken survivors. And it’s part of what makes this book such a unique read.

I could also make a comparison to ‘The Room,’ in that Girl A is an introspective narrative directed to the audience with the limited information that the protagonist has. Lex, or Girl A as she’s known in her file, offers us the truth as much as possible, which is a refreshing take on such a twisted story. This book was initially sold to me as a thriller/mystery. But for all of her flaws, and there are many, Lex tries to be an open-book to the audience, even in those moments when she can’t be with her family. This book doesn’t have the pent up suspense of a thriller. It’s the aftermath of a horror, a brutal, psychologically damaging existence that each of Lex’s siblings have fought in their own way to escape. It’s intense, and overwhelming, and even in those moments when you want to hate characters, incurably human.

Little white wraiths squirming in the shock of sunshine.

Girl A, Abigail Dean

Because Lex is talking to us directly (from the opening page where she directs her conversation to ‘you’) it’s impossible to extricate yourself from her story. Dean has done a wonderfully-horrific job of tying the flash-backs together in a cohesive but fractured structure (which is, obviously, a great representation of the characters). None are wholly without empathy, even if Lex cannot bridge the gap to them, and each of their experiences are individual and dark.

I would recommend this book to those who enjoy dark mysteries, slow pacing and character driven narratives. The slow pacing isn’t a detriment to this novel (though I usually prefer faster/more action driven stories). It creates a cerebral quality needed for such dark/taboo topics, and it’s expertly crafted.

Buy your copy through Waypoint Books : here

The Sad Ghost Club Blog Tour – Review!

#Gifted: I was given a copy of The Sad Ghost Club, written by Lize Meddings, by Hachette Books in exchange for an honest review which you can find below.

#AD: there is also a link below for you to buy a copy of The Sad Ghost Club via Waypoint Books.

We are literally just a collection of atoms, bumbling around.

The Sad Ghost Club, Lize Meddings

Synopsis:

Ever felt anxious or alone? Like you don’t belong anywhere? Like you’re almost… invisible? Find your kindred spirits at The Sad Ghost Club.

This is the story of one of those days – a day so bad you can barely get out of bed, when it’s a struggle to leave the house, and when you do, you wish you hadn’t. But even the worst of days can surprise you. When one sad ghost, lost and alone at a crowded party, spies another sad ghost across the room, they decide to leave together. What happens next changes everything. Because that night they start the The Sad Ghost Club – a secret society for the anxious and alone, a club for people who think they don’t belong.

The Review:

Obviously, I felt totally attacked by Meddings’ portrayal of *cough* Me and My Anxiety *cough*. (It’s not actually about me. Meddings and I have never met, but it is a testament to how relatable the content is, that I feel completely seen (even if I don’t want to be) by this graphic novel.)
I want to get a bit nerdy, and talk about Ghosts as a metaphor for Mental Health and Loneliness. It will be relevant, I promise. Ghosts have been used as a literary technique since the beginning; sometimes as a metaphor for lost memories, sometimes for invisibility, ostracism, or loss.

The Ghost is almost always a metaphor for the weight of the past.

Tabitha King

The word ‘Ghost’ originally come from the word ‘Gast’ meaning breath, or spirit. It was, for a long time, exclusively a biblical term, for reference to the Holy Ghost, but in the 14c became a term for a ‘disembodied spirit’ (Etymonline). These spirits were believed to wander among the living, whilst separate from them. I know, I’m mansplaining Ghosts to you; but I think it’s relevant to the conversation because of the way Meddings’ incorporates Ghosts in their narrative.

In a visual medium, such as a graphic novel, Ghosts are an easy representation of the emotional impact created by Anxiety and Depression. There’s a panel on page 88, where SG (Sam/Sad Ghost) is at a party, but left completely on their own. They are surrounded by darkness, created by the simple monochrome palette of the artwork. They stand out, in their white persona, completely disconnected from the party around them. It’s just one panel, but it says so much. And for any introverts out there, myself included, it’s a situation we’re keenly aware of.

Like most narratives about Anxiety and Depression, there is a glimmer of hope when our main character find they are not alone. But it’s not an ‘easy friendship’, as both characters are carrying differing forms of MH – which I really appreciated. I’ve seen stories before where two characters have a Mirror-Image of Mental Health to one another. It’s a great way to remind the audience there are people out there like you, so long as you fall into those parameters. What makes The Sad Ghost Club specifically relatable, is the open spaces of dialogue, the panels where nothing is said, so the audience can easily empathise and relate to the characters.

I love a Character-Driven story – that’s a surprise to, literally, no one. So it’s important for me to have something I can hold onto when talking about characters. Both want the best for themselves, but their paths there are very different. And I really liked that. I don’t use the word ‘charming’ very often, because I’m not often charmed by narratives surrounding Mental Health; but, this book is the exception, and is exceptional. I really enjoyed it, and it’s been an honour to be part of this blog tour.

If you’d like to get your hands on a copy of The Sad Ghost Club by Lize Meddings, click the link here: 🔗

Why I haven’t finished the ‘To All the Boys’ series.

To All The Boys I Loved Before is a young adult romance series, written with care by Jenny Han, and turned into a Rom-Com for Netflix. I’d highly recommend it! As someone who prefers to watch romance (and it needs to have that comedy element to it, I’m not really a ‘Notebook’ style gal) to reading it, TATBILB was a head-turner for me, and really had me questioning whether I’d sold the whole genre short.

I’d seen the film, and wanted to know if the book held up. It did! There were enough changes that I could enjoy both in their own right. Characters were developed differently, because the book had more time to weave the story, but pacing in both was good. The main characters were flawed, but not to the point where I couldn’t relate/empathise. It was a generally wholesome experience, and I wanted to read the next two books in the series.

book blog

You may remember, back in November, I did a tour of the independent bookshops in Kent. I was surprised there were so few, and even more surprised that half of them weren’t open at the time of recording (but I assumed that was due to me and my lack of forward planning. (I didn’t check their opening times…)) I’m happy to say that the shitty service I’m about to talk about has NOTHING to do with any of those independent bookshops.

Anyway…

Having decided I wanted to finish the rest of this series, I took a trip in my car to a bookstore near me which specialises in kids books and toys. I’ve seen YA in their windows before, so I thought, ‘why give my money to Amazon, when I can support an independent?’ I’ve got a Waterstones which is closer to me, so, worst case scenario – I’d pop in there on my way back from this independent.

The lady behind the counter was lovely. Yes, she could order the books in for me, it would take two-three working days. It was a Saturday, so I could expect the book by the end of the week. Not a problem.

‘Do you want me to pay now or when the books arrive?’ 

‘No, it’s fine, pay when you come back. We’ve been having trouble getting books in for people. We’ll call you when it gets here.’

In hindsight… maybe this should have been my first red flag? They took my name, my number and I was on my way. I had the rest of my Top Trumps TBR to get through, and (much to Kate Macdonald‘s chagrin) I don’t have a problem waiting between books in a series.

Sidebar: the reason I don’t have a problem is a little bit down to Cassandra Clare, and her Shadowhunter series. I really enjoyed the first four books. But then I missed a couple, and binged four more and it was too much. Unlike a tv series where my impatience gets the better of me, because I like to take my time with a book, I don’t mind waiting for the next one so I can ruminate over the last. (Sure I just googled to double-check I knew what ruminate meant… I was right though).

A week passed. Then a second. No word from the bookshop. Weird. But she’d told me they’d had a problem getting it in so maybe it wasn’t available at the moment. Netflix had released a promotional trailer for PS I Still Love You, the second book to be turned into a film from the series. It was coming out on my birthday. It could be that all the copies have already been scooped, I thought to myself. And as I’ve asked for both, they’ve not called until both are ready. I can’t read the 3rd book before the 2nd anyway…

No harm in asking. So the following Tuesday, I went down to the bookshop. I still had a month. Plenty of time to read book 2 before the film came out. I even dragged my brother and the dog along for the walk.

But when we got there, all the windows were dark. And a little note in the window said, ‘closed due to sickness.’ Fair enough. I can’t be mad about sickness. Cold and Flues were going around, and I’m not a heartless bitch. (For the most part).

I gave it another week, and tried again. During storm Dennis. Because we’re on the coast, we get a lot of wind generally anyway. But the rain was something else. I layered up, convinced the dog and my brother for a second time for a walk, and we made our way to the bookshop. It was open – THANKFULLY – and whilst my brother took the dog on a little stroll, I went inside.

‘Hi,’ I said, ‘I’ve come to find out if my books are in. PS I Still Love You and Lara Jean Forever After?’ 

‘Oh yes! We’ve been trying to call you!’ the lady said. 

This filled me with hope. Hope that was shortlived.

‘We tried to call you on the shop phone, but it kept getting to the middle number and cutting out.’ 

Guys. My dudes. Friends. Countrymen. It’s 20-fucking-20. Everyone and their dog has a mobile phone. Many have mobiles INSTEAD of landlines. I don’t have a house phone. But my mobile is currently sitting in front of me. (On silent, I’m trying to concentrate). A bad handset is ZERO reason not to call someone. Especially if calling them is going to bring money into an industry which is hard graft at the best of times.

I said nothing.

She switched on the computer (which should have been my, what, third red flag at this point?) and waited for the thing to load. I tried to make small talk.

‘It must be great working here.’ 

‘It is. I’m only here a couple of days a week but it’s great.’ 

‘I saw there was a sign saying someone was sick last week?’

‘The lady who owns this shop, her little girl had the chickenpox. Couldn’t very well bring her in!’ she laughed. 

‘Well, you’ve got my number – in case you ever need a shift covering!’ I joked. 

She didn’t laugh. 

The computer connected and she wrang up my books. I tapped my card against the machine

‘Oh. It’s declined.’

Panic. I hate it. There’s money in the account, I know there is, but suddenly I’m thinking ‘shit, shit, shit, shit…’

‘I’ll try inserting it,’ (hehe) I say, trying to stay calm. 

‘No, it’s saying it’s not connecting,’ she says after a moment. 

Relief. It’s not my fault. Not my problem. Wait. Yes, it is my problem.

‘I don’t have any cash I say,’ looking at the two beautiful books in front of me.

‘I’ll try a different wifi connection. I’m so sorry about this.’ 

I’m trying not to be unreasonable. She’s doing her best. She’s being polite. But Waterstones and Amazon wouldn’t have had these issues… I grumble to myself.

‘It won’t connect. I’m so sorry about this.’ 

I used to work for my mum in a Wedding Dress Shop. Clients don’t get more unreasonable than a bride, her mother, and their entourage. If you don’t learn good sales tactics, a nice manner, you get a bad reputation and your business goes down the toilet. So, from that experience, here’s what I was expecting:

An apology. Directions to the nearest cashpoint. And a bookmark/token gift with a marginal mark-up so that the customer walks away feeling pleased with me and happy to come back. So they think that, even though I’ve messed up, it was worth coming all this way. (No matter the ACTUAL distance, if you know what I mean.)

Heres what I got:

A shrug.

The lady kind of looked at me like I was helpless. Put the books back in their bag and told me she’d keep them for when I came in again. I put my purse away and walked back out into the rain. I walked past the two cashpoints I knew where in the high street to find my brother under a canopy with a very soggy dog. And we went home.

I ranted to anyone who would listen. ‘How stupid is that?! No wonder independent bookshops keep dying!’ My dad told me he’d have ordered from Amazon the moment the shop was closed the first time. But I was still adamant I’d buy local. My next nearest independent bookshop was over an hour’s drive away (The Margate Bookshop). And I knew the books were there! They were tucked safely behind the counter. I didn’t want it to be a complete waste of time.

My birthday came and went. I had no books. The film was out. It was getting weird reviews, a real mixed bag of people wanting John Ambrose to be more book-like, and also happy Peter K (these are the two love interests if that wasn’t clear) was less book-like. But I didn’t know what the book versions of these boys were first! So I still haven’t seen the film.

My brother took the dog for a walk, knowing it would be a sensitive subject (I know, so sheltered that this is my biggest gripe over the last two months – but come the hell on!) but the bookshop was closed for lunch.

And I started feeling like a mug because, I’m constantly going on about independent bookshops. The Margate Bookshop has been shortlisted for the 2020’s Independent Bookshop of the Year Regional Shortlist. And yet this whole experience has been a complete waste of time. And as Rita Mae Brown once said, ‘Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.’

I went back yesterday. The shop was closed again. A little sign saying, ‘cash only’ in the window, but nothing to say when they’d be back.

And my books are in there. Waiting to be read. That’s why I haven’t finished the series. (Crying emoji.)

🖤 If you need to find me🖤

Tw: https://twitter.com/hannaho92

GR: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/18106960.Hannah_O_Donnell

IG: https://www.instagram.com/ladettem/

WEB: https://silvertonguecreative.co.uk/

WISH: amzn.to/37fQm46

On 3… The Sin Eater

For those of you who have not read an ‘On Three’ review before: I review books after the 3rd chapter and determine whether I’m going to continue reading or not. Most agents only give a book three chapters (or the first 50 pages) and I find it’s gauge enough to know whether I’m going to enjoy a book or not. Sometimes I’m wrong but hey – what’s life without a little surprise?

The Sin Eater.

For some, history has an uncanny way of drawing you in with seemingly mundane facts that illuminate a world so distanced from ours. Me, I’m some. I bloody love little history blossoms between a thicket of fantasy; so when the opening words are an author’s note saying ‘this isn’t real’ (I’m paraphrasing) and a list of sins and their associated foods, I’m not only intrigued, but inspired. What platter would be laid next to my death bed? Is that too morbid? Who would be the one eating it? What kind of person does this, and gets paid to? I have so many questions, and the narrative hasn’t even started yet!

I was less interested in the family tree, but is a historical fiction really a historical fiction without one?

Also, there’s a mild prologue. I say mild because whilst it builds the word our Protagonist is in, being harsh, and visceral, and real, it is short. The stage is set. The descriptions of the food alone set the scene for the rest of the narrative. This is not a light read. This is not escapism for escapism’s sake. But I enjoy that about it. And then chapter 1 begins.

Each chapter is carefully crafted to balance the microcosm narrative – that of May Owens, our main character – and the wider context of the world outside. Through conversation, we determine era, religion, context, without it feeling heavy-handed or forced. And because our main character is a chatterbox, and we are in her internal dialogue, she guides us through both in equal measure.

May Owens is not wholly good or wholly bad. She has agency, opinions, and personality. I like her. An orphan, a thief, and isolated as a new, young sin eater. No one speaks to her. No one looks at her. And the cruelest part is, all she wants is the company. When her parents die she actively seeks it out. Now she cannot.  She doesn’t need your pity. I like her for that too.

Megan Campisi bridges the gap between genre and literary effortlessly, and as we wind through the old streets, activities and understanding of an old world, we’re also embarking on a journey of melancholic self-discovery. I will finish reading this book because the character-driven narrative and interesting world are so rich and well developed, it would be rude not to!

Highly recommend this book, the first three chapters have broken my heart without any promise of mending it!

 

The Book Junkie Trials Readathon – Blackhearts.

62074345_629893724185915_2830962498607777675_n(1)

So, I’ve completed my first book for the readathon – and to be honest, I’m pretty proud of myself. I haven’t finished a book in two weeks since I was at school, and it’s nice to get that feeling of accomplishment even if the books was – and I’m being generous here – mediocre.

This will be an ‘uninterrupted’ book review, and will cover more than three chapters but first: a quick reminder of the prompt given and why I chose Blackhearts by Nicole Castroman.

“Dwarf Mount: You spot a fair tavern wench, however, the Dwarf Mines, grimey and dusty, didn’t evoke a very romantic feeling. Read a book with a hint of romance to get you in the mood.”

Blackhearts has been on my general TBR list for at least a year, and had lived in my Amazon wishlist for a year before that. It wasn’t a ‘recommended’ book, from either a friend or an algorithm, but the front cover intrigued me and the promises of passion and pirates ticked a lot of boxes.

On Three: Initial Response. 

The opening chapters delivered on the promises made by the blurb and the front cover. The audience is given two perspectives; Anne’s, who is a mixed-race maid, daughter to both a well-reputed merchant and a slave from the West Indies, and Teach, otherwise known as Edward ‘Teach’ Drummond, a ship’s captain and the son of the wealthiest merchant in Bristol.

We learn that Anne isn’t afraid to defend herself, after an altercation between the two main characters. Teach is immediately intrigued by Anne and there’s obvious sexual chemistry.

The one thing they have in common is that they’re prisoners of Teach’s father, the master of the house and cold fish. He’s not interested in his son’s passions for sailing, but wants him to be married to a Baron’s daughter as soon as possible so that the family can become titled.

The historical backdrop of Bristol in 1697 helps to cement the characters amongst brutal tradition and an inescapable destiny. We feel for Anne who is trapped, and hope that Teach might be the one to help her escape.

Upon finishing. *Spoilers ahead*.

Yeah. Hope springs eternal – I guess.

For the next twelve chapters, the characters are caught in a cyclical argument of

‘Just give me a chance.’ ‘No.’ ‘Why not?’ ‘You’re engaged, you’re a bad influence, your dad would be mad’.

All justifiable responses, but the narrative drags. Their actual ‘relationship’ lasts one chapter, before they’re torn apart through actions that are signposted to the point of being predictable earlier on in the story. A maid with a grudge finally gets Anne into a situation she can’t talk her way out of, and the only hint of Piracy is the threat hanging over Teach’s head after he’s accused. This also only lasts two chapters.

There’s no substance to this book. The conflict has no drive, and there are no real stakes. Anne becomes grating because she’s so determined to think one thing and then act another. And Teach’s behaviour is borderline problematic, but we’re supposed to forgive him because he’s in love with Anne.

TLDR:

I gave this book 2/5 stars on Goodreads, because it’s not awful. But it’s monotonous and I’m not running to the bookshop to buy the next in the series. Here’s hoping my next book for the readathon is better!

 

On 3…Review of The Flatshare by Beth O’Leary

The concept: 

You know that feeling when you’re half way through a book, and you’re already sick of it but you have to finish it? No? Oh… yeah… erm… me either… I guess. Well, I’m trying to break that habit – which I don’t have – with popular fiction books I’ve not read. Yet.

So I’m trying something different. When submitting to agents, you have to hook them with three chapters. So, I’m going to review the following novel on three chapters – and no more. These reviews are a teaser of what’s yet to come within the narrative, the questions the novel sets before the reader, and whether I would continue to read or not. 

And – as so much of my life is – this review will be interrupted and ‘corrected’ by my mum.

The Flatshare, Beth O’Leary.

The Flatshare
My promise to review this months ago…

 

The Flatshare has a really fresh premise for a love story. Two people, in the same space but never meeting. Communicating by little notes around their shared space. The blurb promised imprisoned brothers, obsessive ex-boyfriends and demanding clients. All tropes for a perfect storm of conflict, and because romance isn’t my go-to genre of favourite reading, this seemed like a new leaf for me and my reading habits.

Mum: “I like it. It’s definitely the sort of book I would take on holiday and will finish within the first few days sat by the pool. I didn’t read the blurb deliberately so that I wasn’t in a position to star second guessing how the story would go.”

But my cynical brain couldn’t turn off when I finally met the main characters.

Tiffany is an assistant editor who puts plants in the way of people she doesn’t want to talk to. She’s got polarised best friends who seem to have all met at university but never lived together; which I’ve got a lot of questions about, but I’ll get to that. She’s also got an ex-boyfriend, who has a sofa she’s been living on for the last few months. Which I’ve also got a lot of questions about, but I’ll get to that.

The other main character is Leon, a monosyllabic night nurse who speaks only to the reader through truncated sentences and with ‘need to know’ information. He has a girlfriend with suitable ‘antagonist’ appeal – but that’s all the information about Leon we get.

Mum: “I struggled with the change of style of writing to reflect Tiff and Leon. I can understand his sentence structure will not be as flowing and romantically created as Tiffs and is maybe trying to reflect the difference between a creative person and one in a medical/scientific environment but his early story was too staccato for me and I was glad to move back to Tiff.”

You’re wrong, mum, but okay. This was my first disappointment. Tiffany feels like a collection of so many romantic heroines that it was nice to have Leon’s thoughts to create some discord from the usual. But of the totalled eleven pages the first three chapters get, Leon only gets two. We get a physical description of Leon from Tiffany, who has the audacity to explain he’s not her type. Come on. We’re reading a Leon is a romance. You can’t pull the wool over my eyes that easily. But, if anything was going to make me read on, it’s Leon’s perspective.

But as we get more of Tiffany – I need to return to her story.

I mentioned questions I had about her living situation:

  1. Why did she and her boyfriend break up? She mentions that he ‘always comes back’ suggesting maybe he plays away or finds her lacking in some way.
    • Why do romances have to perpetuate the idea we have to stick around for someone who doesn’t appreciate us to ‘make it work’. You might love that person but love yourself enough to know this isn’t healthy. Please.

Mum: “She’s hanging on to her romantic past with a guy who has clearly moved on to his next conquest. She’s being used as a ‘fuck buddy.’”

Please. For the love of all we hold dear, never say Fuck Buddy again in my presence.

Mum: “But she is! He keeps coming back for more!”

I feel sick.

  1. Why does she think it’s okay to live on his sofa for months? Why is she surprised that after months he wants rent money? Why is she surprised that the new girlfriend isn’t happy with the arrangement?
    • If I was dating someone, and their ex was still living on their sofa – I’d be out of there. Ex’s can be friends but having someone that you were emotionally and physically intimate still in your space is baggage you’ve not dealt with yet. And I’m bringing my own pile of damage- I mean baggage for us to deal with. I don’t need hers. She’s got to go.

Mum: “I’m guessing the split was much more one sided. I’m not surprised her replacement wants her out of the flat.”

  1. What did Tiffany do that ‘disappointed’ Justin (the ex) so much that he wrote her a Facebook message doing a 180 on their creepy little arrangement? And why is that not what Tiffany focuses on, but the fact he says she’s ‘been taking advantage’ of him?
    • She may well have taken advantage. He may well be emotionally manipulating her, but we’re not given what the behaviour or thing was – so how can we fully back either character? It doesn’t feel like an ‘unreliable narrator’ or ‘untruthful narrator’. It just feels like she’s self-absorbed. Maybe she is.

And at the end of chapter 3, we learn Justin is engaged to this new girlfriend. Her friends think she’ll handle this so poorly that they get her drunk before telling her. Sounds like a healthy coping mechanism…

So, her friends:

  1. What degree did these people do? That you’ve got an assistant editor and a barrister and a scruff bag on the same course?
    • I’m assuming the same course because at no point have they lived together. And having been to Uni twice, I met people through three things. Course, societies and living situation. But these friends are so polarised – it doesn’t seem authentic. People don’t have to be dressed in opposites and act opposite to have differing opinions and behaviours.
    • Friends should have something in common, no? And you can’t tell me Tiffany is their link because they’ve started living together!

Mum: “I like Tiff and her friends. They are stereotypical of the friendships I like to follow. Friends I would like to have in my life although mine know better than to ply me with alcohol.”

Thank God.

Mum: “Her friends care. In a similar vein to Four Weddings and a Funeral kind of way. I feel like I know Tiff early on in the book and I like her.”

  1. How old are Gerty and Mo?
    • There’s a historical fiction concept called the ‘Tiffany Problem’ that suggests people have set ideas about history and anything that jars with that idea is questioned. So even though the name Tiffany is medieval, if you had King Henry VIII talking to a Tiffany – no one would believe it.
    • Equally – Gerty and Mo age these characters. Not only do they seem more emotionally mature than Tiffany (prepped to buy their own flat which is ‘eye wateringly expensive’, and don’t think the flat share is a good idea) their names make them sound like they should be in their forties.

Okay – I think I’ve really dug into the characters enough… Sorry O’Leary.

Dialogue though… that’s something I’m struggling with in this novel. I’ll give you an example:

‘We could have put you under the dining table if you were less than 5’9’ – Gerty about Tiffany.

Erm, what? I’ve never met anyone who drops descriptive exposition bombs like that in a conversation before. There are so many ways for someone to be shown as tall that this is just… weird.

Leon’s take on dialogue is interesting because it reads like a transcript of the events. But, as I’ve already said, there isn’t enough Leon to really create a contrast between characters. If I were to take all the dialogue from Tiffany’s chapters and get you to link them to people who say them, unless you know the book really well it would be difficult to separate them. They all get the Tiffany twang and idiosyncrasies given to them, which is understandable. I do a particular voice when I’m repeating dialogue from people I’ve spoken, but she’s rendering the dialogue as it happens so there should be some individuality that breaks through that. And yet it doesn’t.

So: how does the first three chapters leave me?

Do I care that Justin is engaged? Not especially. Good luck to him. Tiffany needs to grow up a bit.

Do I care that Leon is nervous about telling his girlfriend about the flatshare? Not really. It would be more interesting if she’d suggested it, thus creating the wedge between them whilst Leon kept working towards a strong relationship.

But it’s a romance isn’t it? The two main characters are going to get together. Was I tempted to read the last line and found out if I was right? Yeah, actually I was. Because even though I find Tiffany bizarre and unreliable, and the dialogue difficult to chew through, Leon has potential. And I’ve not got to the premise of them actually living together yet. I want to know how that pans out. How their behaviours fall into patterns and how they eventually meet in person. What does Justin do that makes him obsessive because I’ve not seen anything yet? And where’s the imprisoned brother?

Mum: “I’m looking forward to pinching this book to take on holiday so that I can finish it!”

Yeah. Well done O’Leary, we’d both read past three chapters.