Monday, 8 September 2014

Book Review: A is for Angelica by Iain Broome

As part of my new year's reading resolution, I added this novel to my reading list for the year. It isn't the kind of thing I normally read but it sounded interesting and I'm always ready to stretch my literary experience.

Here's the blurb:

'My life is different now. I don't go to work. I don't have an office. I stay at home, hide behind curtains and make notes. I wait for something to happen.'

Gordon Kingdom struggles with the fate of his seriously-ill wife patiently observing and methodically recording the lives of those around him: his neighbours.

He has files on them all, including:
  • Don Donald (best friend and petty thief)
  • Annie Carnaffan (lives next door, throws footballs over the fence)
  • Benny (the boy who paints with his eyes closed).
And then Angelica, the new girl (42) on the street, with her multicoloured toenails and her filthy temper. It's when she arrives that Gordon's world of half-truths really begins to unravel.

You can find more details, including a video trailer, on Iain Broome's website.

Presented in first person, from the point of view of Gordon, we are shown his world by peeping out of the curtains of his perception with him. I've always found first person to be a limiting way of writing but it fits here, adding to the limited experience of Gordon's life now he's given up work to care for his wife. His world has become smaller with less human interaction.

His days have been reduced to a regimented routine. This routine is self imposed to an extent, Gordon's way of taking back some control in his life. This control, routine and his carefully maintained filing system is further suggested by the labelling of each chapter from A to Z (Angelica to Zero Tolerance).

Gordon can seem a begrudging, judgemental, miserable character at first but as the book proceeds, we see glimpses of his kindness and love - the way he ultimately treats his friend, carrying his dog around in a box when it is ill, and his nursing of his wife. He wants human contact but he also shies away from it.

The use of flashbacks to explain Gordon's family, how he met his wife, and their married days was done incredibly well. Each flashback added to the story and our understanding of the characters and their motivations.

This novel made me feel all kind of things. There was a level of ickiness (bed baths and dog diarrhoea) that made me feel uncomfortable on occasions. I often became annoyed at Gordon's pettiness (his rejection of his friend's kindness). The relationship with his wife portrayed the wonderful, warm companionship of a long time marriage, something that seems to rarely be celebrated nowadays. I wanted to know what happened to the characters in the book, especially Gordon and his wife, and this kept me turning the pages.

A is for Angelica is Iain Broome's debut novel. I found it to be well written and insightful. I'm looking forward to his next novel which he is currently working on. I love my fantasy novels but sometimes, a snapshot of down to earth reality can be just as refreshing.

2 comments:

  1. Sounds like a very interesting read. I can imagine how many feels a book like this can cause.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I'm a big fan of realistic fiction. Thanks for your insights on Broome's novel.

    ReplyDelete

Your comment will appear once it has been approved. Thank you for your interest.