A couple of weeks ago (back in the days of my old blog), I wrote a post about the launch party for Aliya Whiteley’s latest book. I first ‘met’ Aliya on the writers’ workshop and forum UKAuthors site. Later, Aliya edited my first book, Déjà Vu; and yet it was only two weeks ago that I found out how to pronounce her name correctly.
(I’m not as bad as the Leopard speech engine, though, which pronounces it ali-YAH! like a someone in attack pyjamas killing a brick with his worryingly-floppy hand.)
I’ve just finished her latest book, Light Reading, and wanted to post a somewhat quick-and-dirty review in a John-Woo-firing-both-guns-while-jumping-sideways-in-slow-motion-kind-of-style. Alas, I wouldn’t be able to place this review in a respectable publication because I’m not writing from a particularly objective standpoint. This blog is the ideal place for it.
However, readers of the blog might recall: I always write honest reviews; if I don’t like a book, I simply don’t mention it (with some dishonourable exceptions).
Light Reading begins on a British RAF airbase. The men have flown away to fight in the desert. This leaves their wives with little to do but gossip, try to survive the long, dark tea-times of coffee-and-walnut cake, and commit suicide. This last option is selected by only one of the wives, but it sends the protagonists, acerbic Pru and sexy Lena, on a quest to the sleepy Devonian town of Allcombe.
You understand, reader, that a town described as ‘sleepy’ in such a book is far from sleepy; it’s often lively in quite unexpected ways.
That’s as far as I can go with the plot. It’s genuinely interesting and mysteries are revealed, yet deepened, in much the same manner as Lost, without the concomitant desire to hunt down J J Abrams and smother him with his own mystery box.
This book has some fantastic dialogue. There is a real tension between the protagonists. Aliya is skilful in her management of the two points of view. There are some moments when this device doesn’t quite work. For example, in her diary, Lena reports the contents of a letter verbatim despite having read it once over another character’s shoulder. But the duality of the narrative is itself a mystery that keeps the reader wanting to know more.
The ending is subversive and clever.
In an email to Aliya, I wrote that she’s taken things to a new level in this book. She’s firing on all cylinders in terms of her craft and the book stays in the memory long after the final page is turned.