Whiteley, Aliya - 'Light Reading'
LIGHT READING is published by Macmillan New Writing, the imprint which has already produced excellent novels by L C Tyler and Brian McGilloway. The small hardback size and unusual covers make these books stand out and the cover in particular for LIGHT READING made me eager for a copy.
LIGHT READING is both an amateur detective story and a documenting of and a resolution to the personal crises in the lives of the two lead characters, with more of an emphasis on the latter than the former.
Pru and Lena are RAF wives, Pru is unhappy and overweight and Lena is lonely and thin with an eating disorder. Their lives have become a succession of tea and cake with the other wives, locked away from the real world in their guarded accommodation. The impetus for the adventure to follow is the suicide of one of their fellow wives when she finds out that her husband's been having an affair with Lena's husband whilst away in Iraq. Pru steals the suicide note and adds it to her collection of people's final words. She then shows Lena the mysterious suicide note of Crystal Tynee a short-lived, in both respects, tv star who committed suicide in a hotel in the seaside resort of Allcombe.
Crystal's note is just one nonsensical word and partly to avoid the funeral and Lena's husband, the pair set off to Allcombe to investigate the young woman's death. But Allcombe is a very odd place indeed with an unreal atmosphere and apparently hardly any residents. The streets are empty, the shops boarded up but nonetheless the duo do manage to stir up trouble and put their lives in danger. They are not very good detectives but by the end of the book, both Pru and Lena's lives have changed irrevocably.
LIGHT READING is an absorbing read, laced with black humour and full of twists, and the creepy feel of Allcombe and its malevolent teenagers lingers in the brain long after the book is finished. Told mostly from Pru's perspective the tale is interleaved with sections from Lena's diary. In spite of the humour, I was left with a feeling of sadness at the deterioration of the two women's relationship, despite their closeness, which just shows how real the characters became to me.
LIGHT READING is another winner from Macmillan New Writing.
Karen Meek, England
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