Monday, 8 February 2010

Review: The Loss Adjustor by Aifric Campbell

Where do I start with this book? The second novel from Serpents Tail author Aifric Campbell, inspired by the Sussex house she now lives in...

At once startling, moving and raw, this is very good prose draped over a very powerful story. If I am honest, it contains plenty of elements that, when put together, ought really to have a sense of the done-before. A city worker with a small-town past, a childhood friendship full of secrets and tragedy that continues to plague her into adulthood, an intoxicating first love that tails off without resolution and leaves our protagonist, Caro, unable to move on, that pain magnified by the object of her affection becoming a world famous rock star. Caro is left to replay the memories of his first guitar solos in their childhood bedrooms, and interrogate his lyrics for any mention of her.

Add this to the challenging and slightly antagonistic friendship Caro is forming with Tom, an elderly man she often sits opposite in a churchyard as they ritually pay their respective dues. It is this that drags her back into the history of the town in which she grew up, forcing them both to confront the demons that accompany them along their lonely paths.

It should be familiar. But somehow, due in no small part to the beautiful prose and commanding language, it is wholly new. The story is compelling, managing to be at the same time nostalgic and contemporary. Caro is likeable, but only just, making her a very three dimensional character - constantly dipping in and out of functionality in a way that we probably won't want to admit we can relate to. The landscape is well drawn, and the twist in the tale was, for me at least, completely unexpected.

A beautiful, riveting book that I hesitate not to recommend.

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