Monthly Archives: November 2018

Review – Attend by West Camel

The Blurb

Under their feet lies magic…

When Sam falls in love with South London thug Derek, and Anne’s best friend Kathleen takes her own life, they discover they are linked not just by a world of drugs and revenge; they also share the friendship of the uncanny and enigmatic Deborah.
Seamstress, sailor, story-teller and self-proclaimed centenarian immortal, Deborah slowly reveals to Anne and Sam her improbable, fantastical life, the mysterious world that lies beneath their feet and, ultimately, the solution to their crises.
With echoes of Armistead Maupin and a hint of magic realism, Attend is a beautifully written, darkly funny, mesmerisingly emotive and deliciously told debut novel, rich in finely wrought characters that you will never forget.

My Thoughts

Attend is the captivating debut novel by West Camel. Firstly drawn in by the striking cover, I couldn’t wait to read this book and I hoped the inside would be equally as stunning … and it is.

A book about life and crossed paths, Attend follows the lives of three disparate people who are brought together by a seemingly higher force. Anne and Sam have both had their fair share of difficulties in life and are finally getting back on track when they meet Deborah – a teller of stories and, in my mind, the orchestrator of fate. As both Anne and Sam negotiate their way through their new purposes in the world they find themselves wrapped up in Deborah’s life and enraptured by the story of her life and the possibilities she introduces to them.

I adored Camel’s prose as each word is perfectly pitched to draw you in, intrigue you and make you fall a little in love with each character. He has managed to combine historical fiction, magical realism and modern grit which, in all probability, shouldn’t work but it works wonderfully. Deborah’s stories fascinate and while we are never sure where the line between truth and fiction lies, she manages to make us all believe that just maybe there is something higher than us and that magic does exist.

Attend is the perfect book for a reading group as its themes – both current and historical – lend themselves to discussion along with the imagery that Camel uses which, I’m sure, will be open to individual interpretation. I have been deliberately vague about the storyline as I want you to experience Attend in the way that I did when I first read it, although I am desperate to discuss it!

The writing is sublime and Attend is a book that is rich in imagery and metaphor, leaving me thinking about it, and feeling it, long after the final page was read. It is a beautifully spun tale that defies being pigeonholed into a genre. A delicately balanced tapestry that combines current social issues, history and a little bit of magic, Attend is an assured debut by a talented writer. Lovers of literary fiction will adore it.

Attend is published on eBook on 15 November 2018 and paperback on 13 December 2018 by Orenda Books. You can get your copy HERE.

Fred’s Funeral by Sandy Day

The Blurb

It’s 1986. Fred Sadler has just died of old age. Seventy years after he marched off to WWI. As his ghost hovers near the ceiling of the nursing home where he’s died, Fred listens in dismay as the arrangement of his funeral falls to his loathed sister-in-law, Viola. Fred’s ghost follows his family, eavesdropping on his own funeral, and agonizing over his inability to set the record straight. Did old Uncle Fred really suffer from shell shock? Why did his family lock him away in the Whitby Hospital for the Insane? Couldn’t they have done more for him? Fred remembers his life as a child, his family’s hotel, the War, and the mental hospital. But his memories clash with Viola’s version as the family gathers one rainy October night to pay their respects.

My Thoughts

Fred’s Funeral by Sandy Day is a moving novella based on letters written by her great uncle Fred who served in the World War One. This is not, however, a story about one man’s experiences in the trenches but rather the story of what happened to him afterwards partly as a result of this.

Told in third person narrative, it starts, as the title suggests, following Fred Sadler’s funeral. Unusually, we see events from the perspective of the deceased Fred as he sits in on his family’s discussion on him. Fred was the black sheep of the family before he went to war and the impact of what he saw and experienced while fighting compounds this further on his return. Fred’s Funeral is delicately told and Day gently draws you in to this moving story which, for me, is a tale about the far-reaching consequences of war, mental health and the lack of understanding that surrounds it.

As his behaviour on his return becomes erratic, his family place him in the care of a psychiatric hospital. Misdiagnosed with schizophrenia rather than ‘shell shock’, Day writes about the lack of understanding around what would now clearly be post-traumatic stress disorder. At times Fred’s Funeral is a difficult read as Day’s descriptions of his experiences in the psychiatric hospital are upsetting but necessary to the book as it represents the period of time. I love how Day also portrays Fred’s views of his own mental health by having him as a ghost looking on. As he finally discovers what his family members really thought of him we are privy to his feelings and thoughts about what he was experiencing at the time. Again, this touched me as we never really know what other people think of us.

I found his family’s lack of understanding and also their lack of appreciation of Fred upsetting. Day has perfectly captured the attitudes of the time and how they change and evolve with each generation as awareness and understanding grow – and thank God that is the case! As we discover, however, the road to understanding and awareness is paved with horrors for those suffering.

Fred’s Funeral is a great piece of historical fiction based partly on fact and influenced by a real person which makes it all the more likeable. The fact that it documents and explores the impact of World War One on the individual immediately after its conclusion makes it an interesting and a timely read. While small in size, this beautifully crafted novella packs a big punch and I recommend it.

Published on 28 November 2017, you can get your copy of Fred’s Funeral HERE.