19th May 2016
I loved the way this story (winner 1831) grabbed my interest from the very first line: ‘You don’t want to go out there’ he said, ‘you never know what might happen’. Where is ‘there?’ Who is telling me this? And why? Who is ‘he?’
This hook is immediately followed by confirmation that the story is written in first person viewpoint, with another teasing line, reeling me in: ‘My whole life I’d had warnings running through my head.’ Within the next few sentences we discover that our principal character is female and has recently left home so we have a vague idea of her age. But nothing else. Not her name, where she lives, the colour of her hair, whether she has any pets. Nothing. But we do know just enough to enter her world. Enticing! After only a few lines I was hooked, and wanted to know all about her situation and her!
Then, while we’re given enough backstory to explain how she became the way she is, there are no long flashbacks or flat spots to slow the pace or flatten the arc of the story. In a well-crafted explanation of the potentially harmful effects of extremely over-the-top protective parenting, the author constructs a character who inhabits a world governed by fear and mistrust of the unknown extremely well. ‘There be dragons!’ sprang to mind a number of times. And it is in this section that I read my favourite sentence:
‘I know it’s sad that Penny died but I wish I hadn’t had to die with her.’
Over the course of the story the author paints a wholly believable picture of a character craving love and struggling to find a sense of individual identity, but who has been so stifled and ‘protected’ that she fears just about everyone and everything instead. I found myself empathizing and sympatising with her and willing her to break free, trust and explore, but then as the story progressed I found myself genuinely fearing for someone who feels safer in a virtual world where she believes she is in control. Her online world has become more enticing, and comforting to her than the real one she locks herself away from.
As a parent myself I found the peeping tom views into a world of camouflage and subterfuge more than a little disconcerting! But it is to the writer’s utmost credit that in so few words she has created a believable and empathetic character.
The author has an easy to read style with great use of varying sentence lengths. Pace, suspense and the gradual build-up of threat are handled superbly. I found myself reading faster, keen to find out how the story develops.
I also appreciate the way the writer respects the reader’s intelligence enough to provide bits of vital information or character development without spoon-feeding the details, thereby allowing the reader to fill in the gaps, for example –
‘Gary says I should be in the cinema and he says he enjoys replaying the films we make together because it keeps us close.’ – Brilliant!
An excellent ending, full of suspense, menace and threat and I was left genuinely concerned for our character. All in all an emotional, well-paced and gripping story. All I can say in summary is - Please hurry up and write a sequel!
David Brazier: A Brief Biography
Born in England in 1961 he has lived half his life abroad, firstly as the fortunate offspring of a Royal Air Force marriage and subsequently as a young man, moving to the Middle East in his twenties and spending more than two decades there, in locations as diverse and fascinating as Dubai, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the Sultanate of Oman, before returning to this often underrated green and pleasant land.
Having started his own recycling and waste management consultancy six years ago, David now works part-time in order to pursue his passion to write whilst thoroughly enjoying life aboard his current abode - A widebeam boat moored in a beautiful marina in Derbyshire, where he has lived for the past three years writing ALONE and surrounded by regal swans, boisterous ducks and honking Canadian geese.