This book is something of a literary earthquake. From the very beginning you are aware of a fault line; you know that in the depths there are tensions building. And as with all earthquake zones, the eye moves from place to place assessing the safe spots, the danger points, the escape routes, all in the knowledge that when the earth moves, all bets are off. Because when and where an earthquake is triggered and with what ferocity is wholly unpredictable.
Here, the seismic rumblings are of a personal nature. As the book opens, we follow Henrietta into the epicentre. And already we can feel the coiled energy that will release and turn everybody’s life upside down and inside out, knowing they will have to cope with a world full of aftershocks as they survive in the ruins and start the long process of rebuilding.
Such a novel could be unremittingly gloomy. Happily for us, it is not. The themes of love, loss, betrayal, faith, and illusion are handled well. There is no moralising, no sense that the author has an axe to grind, merely that she has an insight she wishes to share and the talent to share it in such an interesting and entertaining way. It treats serious subjects with sensitivity, yet it manages also to be comic. There are no knockabout routines, no custard pies in the face. The humour and the comedy are integral to the characters and to the situation – and much of what happens grows out of the characters in an entirely natural way.
Indeed, the book put me in mind of Jack Trevor Story, for it is a somewhat surreal yet convincing tale populated by characters who, for all their oddities and intensities, are wholly believable and deftly drawn. These are characters not always in control of their fate, who view the world with a bewildered eye, but who manage to survive. Swept away by the craze of Psychic Dancing, we are offered glimpses into the world of stage magicians and mentalists, as well as the lives of those caught out by success.
The author also does the reader the honour of treating them as intelligent. No spoon feeding of pap on plastic spoons. Rather, we are fed morsels of the best quality with a spoon that… Well, maybe there is no spoon. The writing is smooth and clear, like a good whisky; because it is also intoxicating. The story is well constructed and complex without resorting to tricksiness. The resolution is satisfying even if, like real life, all the ends are not neatly tied in a bow.
There were a couple of times I found myself wondering why it had been written in the present tense. I normally find this difficult to cope with, but the pace and content soon made me forget about it. It did however put me in mind of a film script and made me realise what a great television series this would make.
If you like an intelligent read that is both thoughtful and entertaining; if you like a book that is well written; if you like something a little out of the ordinary; then I suggest you buy this book. You’ll be doing yourself a favour and you’ll be supporting a writer who deserves much greater recognition.