This is the debut novel from author Leslie Parry. It’s set in New York, 1895 and follows three narrators: Sylvan, Odile and Alphie. At first their stories feel like they couldn’t be further from each other. Sylvan, a night soiler (yeah, he scoops out poo from privies), Alphie, an undertakers wife committed to the insane asylum and Odile, the slightly deformed twin of the mysterious Belle who leaves her home on Coney Island in search of her estranged sister.
I’m going to be honest here and say that at first the story didn’t grip me. I picked it up and put it down a few times and felt really lost. It seemed to jump around a lot and the language seemed so flowery as if the author just wanted to prove how many words she knew. It was enjoyable, but not gripping. The story slowly meanders along for some time, delving further into the back stories of the characters and then all of a sudden it feels like you’re pulled out of your seat and are holding on for dear life.
Leslie Parry has crafted something really special here. Every back story, every meandering passage is all so that when the action of the story happens, you have a better understanding and those “Aha!” moments come with greater meaning. And oh boy, there are so many of them. You need to already be aware of everything because the story picks up so suddenly that there’s no time for description or reflection. Only what is happening right then and there.
There’s a really unexpected twist that I couldn’t see coming until it was right on me, as well. It’s definitely guaranteed this book a place on my shelf as something to re-read because I’m sure that the answer was there all along, carefully hidden.
So all in all? This book is a rewarding read. If you put the time and effort in to get over that first hurdle, you will discover something really enjoyable and memorable.
I give it 4/5.
Author: Leslie Parry
Publisher: Hachette NZ
Release Date: May 2015 (Available now)
Thank you to Hachette NZ who kindly provided me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.