Dan Holloway – Songs from the Other Side of the Wall

Songs From the Other Side of The WallSongs From the Other Side of The Wall by Dan Holloway

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Where do I start? I’ve just finished this book and it’s left me a little bit dumbfounded. I know I really enjoyed it, but I’m kind of struggling to put my finger on exactly what made it such a good novel.

Ok, starting with a little bit of context, it’s not really like anything I’ve read before. The closest author I can think of is maybe Murakami – there are elements in here that remind me a little bit of ‘Sputnik Sweetheart’ or ‘After Dark’. Like Murakami, there is a sense of magic realism to the novel: there are dreamy conversations that go beyond realism and border a little bit on the arty, the pretentious even, and yet work really well by stopping just short of being unbelievable.

After starting the book I have to be honest and say I found myself wondering why I was enjoying it. Just from a purely ‘personal taste’ point of view, it seemed to be about being a sculptor, being a teenage girl, being a blogger – triggers in books that would usually have me putting them down as they’re not amongst my primary interests in life. But for some reason it just drew me on and I became immersed in it. I was also a little bit confused about the chronology of the narrative at first, but checking back found that was my fault – I hadn’t paid attention to the date stamps on the chapters. So that was quickly sorted out.

Essentially, this book is incredibly well written. That’s the first thing. It’s perfectly paced and has some great descriptive passages that are well balanced within the narrative and handled with a lightness of touch. And the tone is absolutely consistent throughout. It’s wistful, and textured, and really well conceived as a view of the world from the eyes of a precocious teenager – ie. moments of intelligence, moments of naivete. The author has created a world in this book that stands up on its own and you just go with it.

If it was less well written, I’d be saying at this point that I found the ending a bit ambiguous and that I was left unsure of whether the co-incidences in the book were actually co-incidences or not. Which is still true, but because of that consistency of tone throughout, that dreamy quality which makes you feel like you’re in a parallel world, those things were actually quite fitting. I think I would have been disappointed if it hadn’t ended in the way that it did.

All I can ultimately say is that this was a great book and one which I’ve enjoyed reading immensely. I felt really engaged with it in a way that doesn’t often happen, even with the best books I’ve read. Maybe it was the emotive nature of the writing itself. But it’s definitely a book I’d recommend to anyone who wants to read something original and interesting and thoroughly absorbing.

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