I really enjoyed Gemma Chilton’s debut novel. It is a book set in Australia about family and secrets and returning to your roots and how all of these things can shape you into the person that you are but they do not necessarily have to define you completely; only if you let them. Families are good fodder for novels and I felt like Chilton’s characters and their relationships to each other were well-defined within the narrative.
Chilton’s main character, Liam is a man whose life lacks purpose and when he decides to return to his home town, Elanora, he is faced with the past as well as the present and it is not an entirely comfortable experience; his family has secrets as most do but for him, the disappearance of his father at a young age, is the key to a lot of his issues.
The narrative develops at a slow pace with a muted tone, which is deliberate as Liam leads us to meeting old friends, reconnecting with his mum and finding new people who may well be as listless as him. Liam’s life alters from what he has known and he regains contact that he thought he had lost. This is partly to do with confronting the past and attempting to leave it behind and I have to say that the book, which is quite dark in places, ends on an optimistic note. Chilton is fully in control of her plot and as more and more is revealed to Liam so we, the readers, are given other information through the thoughts and lives of other key characters who Chilton introduces us to, and also to the role that they play in Liam’s story.
I have to say that I found the route that the book took surprising, as I was not anticipating some of the things that were unearthed during Liam’s exploration of the past and this is a compliment to the author: that I did not see them coming. Chilton crafts her novel so that the unexpected twists are executed and delivered well and I felt compelled to continue.
This is always a sign of a good book; wanting to see where the narrative and characters will take you, and this was a good book. I look forward to reading more by Chilton in the future.