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Highlights in the Charts

Invisible Girl Lisa Jewell

Review by Emma Ferguson

Saffyre experiences a sexual assault at ten years old which she is unable to share with anyone, burying it deep within herself, she is trapped with this internalised trauma that influences every aspect of her life as she grows up through her teens. Despite seeing Roan, a child therapist, she can never bring herself to reveal what happened to her. But, when Roan discharges Saffyre, she feels let down that he has not managed to get to the root of her suffering. She lives a secret double life, following Roan obsessively, uncovering his own secrets. Saffyre also meets Owen, Roan’s neighbour, who is a loner struggling to make connections with people and who becomes fascinated by an online community of incels (involuntary celibates). When a string of sexual assaults occur on their street, followed by the disappearance of Saffyre, Owen quickly becomes the prime suspect. But, as with any Lisa Jewell novel, the truth is never obvious.

Once again Jewell finds herself in the charts with this domestic mystery Invisible Girl. She never fails to write realistic and believable personalities that are engaging for a reader, evoking empathy for some and disgust for others, as the true nature of their characters are revealed. This book is an easy read that intertwines different narrative perspectives well, leaving you desperate for justice for those characters that wrongfully suffer. Just as the narrative seems to have come to a neatly wrapped up conclusion, the final chapter brings about uncertainty once more, keeping everyone guessing who the real bad guy is.

Together by Luke Adam Hawker

Review by Natalie Joyce

“Hard times can help us find the best that we can be.”

Together is a beautifully illustrated tale about a man and his dog as they support each other through challenging times, a reflection on the unprecedented year of 2020, which affected everyone in ways we could never have imagined.

2020 was a year of turbulence, full of uncertainty as we were thrust into unknown territory and had our lives turned upside down. Together is a moving book with an important message that we must persist and navigate through tough times, even though it is arduous, for the storm will pass and brighter days will emerge.

The personal inspiration behind the story is what makes it special. Based on the Hawker’s grandad, creating the book helped him heal and we can do this too, both individually and as a society. The dog highlights how animals have been a great support to many in these isolating times, allowing us to laugh and cry without the fear of being judged and never abandoning us. The love for an animal is eternal.

Hawker’s meticulously detailed pen drawings, accompanied by his poetic words, make this a compelling book and one that shows we are stronger when we face challenges together.

This would make a great gift for anyone as it is a powerful read. It gives us the opportunity to reconnect with those who we’ve been apart from and provides a moment to learn about empathy, sacrifice and love.

The Mermaid of Black Conch by Monique Roffey

Review by Cassie Waters

When I picked up The Mermaid of Black Conch, I was feeling a bit out of love with my reading pile. Then along came Aycayia and David and I was unable to wrench myself away from their salty sea tale. Roffey’s latest novel and 2020 Costa Award winner, breathes new life into Caribbean myths and evokes a small island still haunted by old curses.

Centuries ago, before the Taino were killed by Europeans, Aycayia was a beautiful young woman cursed by jealous women to swim the ocean forever as a mermaid. In 1976, fisherman David catches sight of her whilst playing the guitar on his boat and wonders if he’s smoked one too many spliffs. The two form an uneasy friendship until one day the sound of his boat attracts her and she gets brutally caught by two white Americans, a father and son taking part in the island’s fishing competition. Colonialism is at the dark heart of the novel and David’s wonders “what else was out there in the goddam sea for men to catch.” However, their dreams of fortune and fame are short-lived as David saves her and takes her to his house.

Aycayia isn’t like any mermaid you’ve read about before. She stinks of the ocean, her tail is enormous and covered in barnacles and crabs and molluscs crawl out from her nose. This mermaid is centuries old and has been dragged, thrashing and screaming into the modern world. When Aycayia’s tail begins to rot and fall off, magical realism takes over as she learns to walk in David’s Adidas shoes and begins listening to reggae music.

Aycayia’s story is a tale of womanhood, “a dangerous business” that she is always on the wrong side of. Aycayia is no fairytale mermaid and her story cannot have a fairytale ending.


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