I’ve been reviewing indie and small press books on the Blog since last year, but I have been a bit lax about updating it. At the end of the day, it’s probably more important to get the reviews up on Amazon and Goodreads anyway – they get more traffic than I do – but still, if I said I was going to do it then I really should stick to it.
It occurred to me last night that most other blogs highlight the reviews on the posts pages, whereas I’ve been putting them off on a dedicated reviews menu. I think I’m still going to do that as it’s an easy way to see where they all are. But from now on, each new review will also be a blog post so it has more visbility right after I’ve done it. So below is the first one in the new process – Andy Conway’s The Girl with the Bomb Inside:
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I liked this book, I really did. The synopsis claims it’s like a three minute punk song, and I kind of have to agree – it does bring to mind that time when bands put records out that were a bit rough round the edges and made their sleeve art from scraps of paper and handwritten text.
Likewise, this book is a bit rough around the edges. It has some great ideas in it, for example I loved the three false start chapters while the fifteen year old narrator tries to work out how to frame his story. But not all the ideas work as well as they were probably conceived – there is a chapter towards the end which points out the differences between the fictionalised version of events and the actual events as the narrator experienced them and I didn’t think that really added much. What it has got going for it though, more than anything else, is its representation of a fifteen year old consciousness and the realities of being at school in the eighties. I don’t think I’ve ever read anything before that captured that experience so well. Everything Andy Conway talks about I recognised, it was almost like he went to my school or tapped into my memories of the experience.
Some readers might be put off by the fact the book is a bit raw, but for me that added to its charm. Just because something isn’t polished to within an inch of its life doesn’t mean it can’t be good. There should be more books like this. For some reason we accept music that retains its rawness, but we expect books to be a bit more sanitised, and on reflection I have no idea why. I mean, just look at the cover, for me that’s a great example of the punk design ethic I mentioned above and it’s a good indication of what to expect inside. The references to Joy Divison and Throbbing Gristle will take you right back, and they add to the period atmosphere as well as the whole indie ethic of the book. A good, solid read in my opinion, very stylish in its own way, and one which would make me watch out for Andy Conway’s work in future.