Trio of de­buts


This week’s book­case in­cludes re­views of The End We Start From by Me­gan Hunter, The Hop­kins Conundrum by Si­mon Edge and Spoils by Brian Van Reet.


As a wo­man with no chil­dren, the prospect of be­com­ing a mother for the first time is trau­matic enough. But to put my­self in the shoes of a wo­man whose wa­ters have bro­ken dur­ing an en­vi­ron­men­tal dis­as­ter is ter­ri­fy­ing. Hunter’s de­but novel makes an ex­plo­sive start by the wo­man nar­ra­tor giv­ing birth to her first child, Z. With a flood wip­ing out Lon­don, the fam­ily are forced to leave their home in search of safety. This is a story of catas­tro­phe, pep­pered with en­dear­ing ex­pe­ri­ences and mile­stones of new moth­er­hood. A poet, Hunter “tells” the story in sparse prose, which can be dif­fi­cult to get on board with. That said, it ap­peared to make me feel more emo­tion­ally in­volved, and the pow­er­ful end­ing made it ap­par­ent why it was done this way. The End We Start From is beau­ti­ful and most of all, haunt­ingly be­liev­able. A stun­ning de­but.


Si­mon Edge’s de­but novel has in its sights the Vat­i­can con­spir­acy thriller – a genre of re­li­gious or­ders, se­cret mis­sions and coded mes­sages that has proved so suc­cess­ful for the likes of Dan Brown. Tim Clev­er­ley has in­her­ited a strug­gling pub in North Wales, near the Je­suit sem­i­nary where Vic­to­rian poet Ger­ard Man­ley Hop­kins wrote the poem The Wreck of the Deutsch­land and hits on a plan to drum up trade. He in­vents a mys­tery around Hop­kin’s re­li­gious poem, and en­tices the Conundrum’s au­thor to write about it. This is a great read for any­one who has reached the end of a Vat­i­can thriller with an eye­brow raised.


Brian Van Reet en­listed into the US Army shortly af­ter 9/11, and this ex­pe­ri­ence is ob­vi­ous from the first page of his de­but novel, Spoils. Van Reet’s in­sight into the re­al­ity of war fur­nishes his straight­for­ward prose with vivid de­tail and gives the novel its hard­hit­ting punch. The three­p­ronged nar­ra­tive fol­lows eight weeks in the lives of Cas­san­dra, a 19-year-old US sol­dier who is held a cap­tive by the mu­ja­hedeen; Abu Al-Hool, a life­long ji­hadi strug­gling to ad­just to the new di­rec­tion of his broth­er­hood; and Sleed, a tank crew­man caught up in the res­cue bid of Cas­san­dra and her crew. Spoils doesn’t shy from bru­tal­ity, but of­fers a glimpse into the ac­tion and fu­til­ity of war.


Au­thor and il­lus­tra­tor Elys Dolan has penned her first young fic­tion book – an epic David vs Go­liath tale, that’s sure to treat the imag­i­na­tion and tickle the funny bones of all young read­ers. Dave is a dragon who’s re­ally pretty rub­bish at be­ing a dragon. In fact, he’s the first dragon ever to fail his Dragon Cer­tifi­cate. Cast away from his dis­ap­pointed par­ents, he stum­bles on a book called Knighthood For Be­gin­ners and de­cides he’d rather be a knight than a dragon. As the book in­structs, he finds a trusty steed in the form of ad­ven­tur­ous goat Albrecht. The odd-look­ing pair are soon im­pris­oned by tow­er­ing knight Sir Gnasty, who is plot­ting to over­throw the King. Dolan has packed 200 pages full of comic-strip il­lus­tra­tions, that fit seamlessly in with the words of her short chapters, mak­ing it a fun and speedy read.

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