Joe Jacobs, a Jewish ex-refugee now turned poet, and his wife Isabel, a war correspondent, are holidaying in the south of France with their fourteen year old daughter, Nina. They have been joined by their old friends, Mitchell and Laura who run a failing souvenir shop near Kings Cross, London. One afternoon, they find a young, naked Kitty Finch swimming in the pool of their hired villa. Isabel, without consultation with the others, invites Kitty to stay and so begins the fragmentation of the group. Kitty’s penchant for naturalism, coupled with her mental health problems, breakdown the controlled order of those around her.
Whilst Kitty appears to be a very fragile character, her underlying determination shines through. ‘Swimming Home’ is the title of Kitty’s poem, a poem based on her thoughts that: ‘Life is only worth living because we hope it will get better and we'll all get home safely.’ She is so desperate for Joe to read it, that she’s deliberately tracked him down on holiday.
This is a story of the devastating effects of depression and how it ripples through family, friends and the community however the story is so subtly told that it lacks strength at times.
The theme of the story is great but the characters surrounding the main protagonist, Kitty, are too understanding and in this way the novel lacks a sense of reality. Having said that, it is interesting in the way in which Kitty is able to connect to the people around her and by drawing them out, she is able to show to them their own unbalance world. Her relationship with Joe is tragic in many senses of the word and can leave question marks as to the reality of this relationship.
Being selected as Radio 4’s Book at Bedtime also shows how quietly and subtly the subject matter has been dealt with, which in itself, may not be a good advert.
Alison OREilly 1/10/2012
The Revelations by Alex Preston
Set in the West End of London, four university friends: Lee, Mouse and the ‘ideal’ couple Marcus and Abby, having clung together at university, still cling together in their young adult lives, protracting their immaturity. They continue to drink excessively; indulge in drugs and engage in promiscuous sex in order to avoid reality until they meet David Nightingale, a priest and founder of The Course (a fictional version of the Church of England’s Alpha Course) who entices them into the church. Having agreed to become Course Leaders, the four of them set out for a retreat at the home of the Earl, the priest’s financial backer, where the pressure to succeed in recruiting all the young attendees into this new religious section of the church is immense. It is at the retreat that it becomes more than obvious that David, the priest, is keen on global religious dominance for himself and the Earl has his eye on capitalising on the believers. It is at this retreat that the relationship of the four friends begins to fragment and the events that occur at that weekend that make the four course leaders examine their reasons for being there.
The Revelations is a commercial novel probably aimed at the teenager/young adult. The first half of the novel relies on the sensationalism of sex and drink against a background of the hypocrisy of the church. It’s only well into the second half of the book that the thriller side of the story begin to kick in. The ending is vague, which is not in itself such a bad thing, but coupled with the Christian caricature-type characters it could leave some readers feeling quite irritated.
Alison OReilly 3/6/2012