Wednesday, 6 March 2013
This opening is a delicious teaser for the reader, casting a shadow throughout the story as you try and guess who will end up the boy whose "coffin's the same size as a man's would be". Iris will soon be in mourning, but is it for her wayward brother Sam, or her first love, Trick? Readers expectations are set and, in this exciting debut, C.J. Flood quickly guides us into the summer that changed Iris' life forever.
Iris is a country girl, her mother having recently left to find herself in Tunisia. Since she left their house is chaotic (wonderfully symbolised by the choice of Fiasco for the name of their dog); their family is struggling to adjust. It is at this time a group of gypsies move into their paddock. Her father is enraged, predicting trouble and planning to evict them from his land. However, Iris is intrigued by their lifestyle, which parallels with the one her mother has left them for. In particular, she is intrigued by their son Trick, and the two form a close friendship. Iris falls for him, the only person who seems to listen to her apart from her distant mother on the end of a phone line.
Against the backdrop of a beautiful summer, Iris struggles to maintain order as her father fails to retain control of his family. As a result of his guard dropping, Sam goes off with the wrong crowd and becomes increasingly troubled while Iris spends time with Trick. The siblings' separate rebellions come to a crashing and gripping conclusion; although I knew this was coming, I was absorbed and shocked in equal measure.
I really enjoyed Iris' voice as narrator. On the cusp of adulthood, she is struggling to find who she really is (as seen in her realistically tumultuous relationship with shallow best friend Matty). She still views the world with a childlike innocence that allows her to step away from the prejudices of her father and brother. Her naivety prevents the story from becoming a debate about the rights and wrongs of the Traveller lifestyle, nor a caricature. It is a simple, moral tale of the destruction wrought when hatred pervades. Iris and Trick have much in common, but as the worlds into which they are born and the suspicion their families have for each other align, their fate can only lead in one direction.
This is a story where nobody is blameless. Funeral scene aside, it's not overly sentimental; the strength of C.J. Flood's writing is in it's subtlety and simplicity. No comment is needed, no thread is left loose. You sympathise with every character, despite their wrongs. The themes in the tale are as old as time, but Flood's echoes of Montague and Capulet and the end of innocence provide a fantastic read. A powerful, punchy and thought-provoking book, I'd definitely recommend popping this in your handbag to see you through the rush hour.
(Available in hardback, paperback, audio and Kindle edition from Amazon)