On her website, Carmen-Shea Hepburn describes herself as 'writer: in wanderlust'. And it shows. This is a writer for whom place is just as important aOn her website, Carmen-Shea Hepburn describes herself as 'writer: in wanderlust'. And it shows. This is a writer for whom place is just as important as plot, and her love of travel sings through the narrative. This mixture of stories on the micro, human scale, combined with the greatness of landscapes is surely one of the main things that I will carry away with me from this book. I have never been to South Africa, let alone visited Hepburn's hometown where this story is set, but I have such a clear picture of Amanzimtoti - its beaches, its cliffs, its streets and its people - all drawn in my head through the experiences of her characters.
'The concrete wall of the saltwater pools was built almost to the edge of the short cliff, with only a small ledge of space left for a person to shuffle past. But you could manage if you were brave enough to try, sidling with your back pressed up against the rough concrete, toes curling over the slippery edge, screaming out in excited terror as the waves crashed up against the rock, spraying you wet as they tried to pluck you off.'
As for the plot itself, I was completely carried along by Wayne’s story. His relationships with his best friend and girlfriend felt true, while his anguish and self-torture over the return of Kyle made my heart ache for him. I will not give any spoilers here, as much of the enjoyment of reading this book is of experiencing Wayne’s emotions along with him, not knowing what’s to come or how he’s going to deal with it. Suffice to say that the portrayal of his pain and mental health feels totally believable, if a little overwrought at times.
If I had to make any criticism, there is the occasional overuse of the word ‘bodily’ (‘he shivered bodily’, ‘she trembled bodily’) which, while it certainly has the intended effect, might have been more effective had it been used less frequently. In addition, as this is the first in a trilogy, there are a lot of questions left unanswered, and the ending might feel a little abrupt. But this just makes me all the more eager to seek out the sequel. Can’t wait!...more
I think for me this is a case of the wrong reading location. I took this away on holiday with me thinking that it was nice and short (and light for luI think for me this is a case of the wrong reading location. I took this away on holiday with me thinking that it was nice and short (and light for luggage!). However, I really needed to be reading this somewhere where I could concentrate properly on it, as it definitely isn't standard holiday reading. There were lots of bits I didn't fully understand, so this deserves a second reading and my rating may well go up. The sense I got of it was mystical, brutal, poetic and prosaic all at once. Each story tells a different perspective of war and its aftereffects with a almost fantastic-seeming Iraq as the backdrop (the setting moves from Iraq to Finland and elsewhere, but as the title suggests, Iraq is the centre point).
In summary, I enjoyed the experience of most of this book. With a second read, and the chance to fully immerse myself in it, I will probably get more from it....more