Review by Shellie for: The Girl Below ~ by Bianca Zander
A “post-adolescent coming of age” story where the “lost” main character finds herself through a series of events, some paranormal in nature.
About: Told in the first person and mixing the past with the present, the narrator Suki Piper is a young English woman who has just moved home to London from an extended stay in New Zealand. She has come back to her old neighborhood where she lived prior to her mother’s death from cancer. The problem is that Suki can’t seem to get her life together. It’s one bad situation after another. Worse is that she is having flashbacks or delusions, which are clouding her ability to make decisions.
Fumbling through her muddled life, she accidently discovers the answers to the questions that are haunting her - questions that seem to be linked to a night in the past, where her mum, dad and family friends drunkenly explored a defunct air raid shelter after a party. It’s here that something which transcends time occurs.
Thoughts: I enjoyed this layered story with the author’s descriptive writing which is often dryly humorous. There is nothing like the British sense of humor for a good snicker, so expect some giggles. I also liked that it was a vicarious trip to London, New Zealand, Greece and slightly back in time. Set during summer it creates an enjoyable read for the warmer months. Lastly, with its light paranormal element there is an unusual twist to the story, creating it’s sweet ending. All wonderful elements for a story.
I did have several problems. One is that I did need to do some skimming to understand the plot, due to its literary nature - the author goes in depth about the characters and their experiences rather than the plot; not a bad thing for many readers. I also had a hard time relating to the damaged main character. She has an outlook that life probably could not get any worse, which is not the type of character I normally identify with. Suki was a series of car wrecks, understandably because she did have some tough events to digest.
In the end, beyond my niggles, I would say that this is a promising début from a talented author. I give it a 3.5 star rating. Recommend for Anglophiles looking for a story with a magical twist, a positive ending, and summer settings in Europe.
June 19th 2012; William Morrow Paperbacks.
Author Bio: British-born Bianca Zander has lived in Auckland, New Zealand, for the past two decades. An established journalist, she has written for numerous publications, including The Listener, the Sunday Star-Times, and the Dominion Post. She has produced radio shows and written for film and television, including writing the dramatic short film The Handover, which screened in competition at the Chicago Film Festival. Bianca holds an M.A. in creative writing from Victoria University, Wellington. The Girl Below is her first novel. Facebook page and a Twitter account.
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