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Changing the Subject

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Welcome to the first comic contemporary novel from Kate Abley. Sue, a nice lady from Chingford, was 18 in 1979. Now, thanks to an Alzheimer’s Drugs trial gone wrong, or right, she is 18 again. But she soon remembers that youth isn’t all plain sailing; she’s in the dating pool with her daughters, the political waters are stormy and the public-private octopus wants her mental capacity. Are Somali pirates the only people she can trust? Can she navigate herself to freedom?
Sashay, stride, and scuffle in great boots and brave hat choices, with Sue and her friends as they do battle with Big Fat Pharmas, off-piste agents and the DNA lottery.

Sue, a nice light electricals designer from Chingford, has started wondering again, now she is back on dry land. She has a lot to wonder about. The Alzheimer’s drugs trial she volunteered for, because her best friend’s mum was suffering, has left her looking and feeling 18 years old again. Her DNA is now worth a great deal of money and she is worried that she can’t even trust the good ole NHS. She ran away from the mess made of her life by her rejuvenation only to end up chained to a hospital bed. Now she has escaped and is trying to get home again. She misses her daughters, who now look like her sisters and the only person who can help her get back is her ex-husband.

Kindle Edition

First published September 30, 2019

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Kate Abley

3 books15 followers

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Displaying 1 - 3 of 3 reviews
Profile Image for Steph Warren.
1,269 reviews22 followers
January 31, 2020
*I received a free copy of this book, with thanks to the author. The decision to review and my opinions are my own.*

Changing the Subject has an intriguing premise which hooked me in the moment I read the blurb. Sue, the main character, is a middle-aged mum-of-two from London who volunteered for an Alzheimer’s drug trial, only to find that something went, well… unexpectedly right, and she was still herself but in a body that looks and feels about 18 years old.

There are some slapstick-style shenanigans involving spies, attempted abductions and financial, political and moral shadiness, but the true heart of this story is Sue’s. Her relationships with her friends, her daughters, even her ex-husband, are all explored with genuine warmth and humour as Sue struggles to adjust to her new life situation and all the uncertainties it brings, whilst remaining, at heart, Sue.

I did struggle at some points in the story because it is all told in a stream-of-consciousness inner monologue from Sue’s perspective – which is great for creating intimacy with the reader – but the author has faithfully reproduced actual human speech patterns for the dialogue, making it a little hard to follow with all of the hesitations, repetitions, revisions and fillers that that entails. Similarly disruptive to the narrative flow, was Sue’s habit of reproducing all abbreviations phonetically, causing the reader to circumnavigate an awful lot of Bee Bee Cee, Em Eye Five, Dee En Aye and similar occurrences. It got a little bit wearisome Eye Em Aitch Oh!

Regardless of these stylistic quibbles, the characters were lovely and very realistic – I’ve met plenty of Sue’s, Sam’s and Julie’s myself – and the plot was great fun. I particularly enjoyed the apple motif and the clever foreshadowing.

This is a story with real warmth and humour, and quite a lot of ridiculous silliness; great for a bit of light, not-taking-yourself-too-seriously reading. Especially if you are a woman of ‘a certain age’.

She was that woman, that woman with the long blonde hair and the great boots, a great stride and a hold-all over her shoulder. Taut-faced-tight-arsed and confidently walking along a jetty somewhere warm towards a bar. She looked just like that woman in the shampoo advert. Mind you, that woman’s hold-all was probably full of the swimsuit and evening dress she would need for the next cutaways. Not like hers. Her bag was loose and lumpy. The contents exposed what was too much backstory for a shampoo advert. Probably too much backstory for her. One-minute sitting on the Seven-Oh-Five reading in the Metro about Bloody Brexit; next minute, well next year, an ‘illegal’ bombshell cum lab rat with great boots. But she was definitely worth it. In all that time no-one had mentioned actual numbers, that’s how big they were.

– Kate Abley, Changing the Subject

Review by Steph Warren of Bookshine and Readbows blog
Profile Image for Peter McGinn.
Author 11 books3 followers
August 16, 2021
Changing the Subject was an interesting and enjoyable read. The issues it raised and its plot made me think after finishing it. Being an author, I wondered how else the situation could have developed, what other places the science could take the story.

The book starts out with the main character, Sue, inside her head, where it will remain for the entire book. There was a lot of exposition at the outset, which is to say, her thoughts taking us through her recent history, how she got to where she is when the story begins for us. I try to avoid this in my own writing, having the phrase drilled into me by creative writing teachers: Show, don’t Tell. But Obviously this is a style choice and gee, don’t tell Dickens I said that. It works if handled adroitly, as it is here.

The characters are likable in this book or, at worst, tolerable and somewhat sympathetic. There are no caricatures or two-dimensional people, no Mr. Evil that we want to see get thrown off a high bridge at the end. (A low bridge, perhaps.) As for the plot. Abley is brave in two ways, in my opinion. I enjoy stories with science fiction themes, but wouldn't dream of immersing my plot in the stuff. I think the author has done her homework here. Neither would I open the floodgates and let politics play a great role. But this traces back to my first novel, where I found myself lecturing to the readers about my political viewpoint. Big mistake, and I never did anything with that book after I finished it. Lesson learned. Author Abley does not lecture. As a matter of fact, her main character develops as the story rolls on and finds her views altering due to her experiences. So as a fellow author I take my hat of to her, one of the hats that a few of her characters buy at Selfridges, perhaps. There is a very minor spoiler for you: the ladies buy hats!

I must confess, and it is probably just me, but the comic elements seem too subtle for me. Perhaps HBO's John Oliver would explain to me that this is British humor, friend. Or maybe the humor in my own novels is too broad and obvious. But the writing is certainly what I would call witty. I have read a few modern novels that were compared to Jane Austen's writing, and I never saw it. But I see it a bit here, as we have mostly female characters discussing men, money and society's expectations of them. And the above-mentioned wit. But perhaps invoking Austen's spirit is so overused I shouldn’t go there. Still, I said it and I won’t take it back.

Finally, I need to talk about the ending. It won't be easy, for I am determined not to give anything important away. But even the book description here on Amazon talks about the character's newfound youth, and as I passed the halfway point, I began to worry about where we were headed. Would Sue age slowly, or not at all - how would it be resolved? One way would be to avoid the issue altogether, in a way I won't go into, or the ending could be open-ended, leaving it to the reader's imagination. It is almost an amalgam of the two extremes. I will say no more about it. Judge for yourself, for it it worth getting to the end, and that is what counts.
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