Attend by West Camel
Published by Orenda Books
I’m really delighted to be part of the Random Things Blog Tours for Attend. Thanks to Anne Carter for inviting me along, and to Orenda books for the review copy.
What the blurb says : When Sam falls in love with South London thug Derek, and Anne’s best friend Kathleen takes her own life, they discover they are linked not just by a world of drugs and revenge; they also share the friendship of the uncanny and enigmatic Deborah. Seamstress, sailor, story-teller and self-proclaimed centenarian immortal, Deborah slowly reveals to Anne and Sam her improbable, fantastical life, the mysterious world that lies beneath their feet and, ultimately, the solution to their crises.With echoes of Armistead Maupin and a hint of magic realism, Attend is a beautifully written, darkly funny, mesmerisingly emotive and deliciously told debut novel, rich in finely wrought characters that you will never forget.
My thoughts :
Suspend your disbelief, and prepare yourself for a book which blends the grit and underbelly of East End life with the hope and beauty of magical realism.
Attend is set in Deptford and weaves together the modern day lives of Anne, Sam and Deborah. Anne is a recovering drug addict who has returned to Deptford to live a clean life; no mean feat when every corner of the area contains memories and ghosts of her past. Sam has just moved to the area and is nervously yet recklessly exploring his sexuality with lusty snatched moments with strange men. Ethereal and hypnotic Deborah is a seamstress who has lived in the area all of her life. These three contrasting characters have something in common – they feel alone and isolated, and living on the edges of society, either dismissed, or barely noticed by others.
Anne and Sam (seperately) come across Deborah at vulnerable times in their lives. Over the course of their meetings, she reveals the tale of her mesmerising life story, providing comfort and companionship to both Sam and Anne. As they each ‘attend’ to her fantastical life story, the strands of their own stories are woven together.
“Now that you’re both here, I don’t have time to tell this twice,” Deborah looked from her to Sam. She picked up the needle, which was still attached by a shortish length of thread to one end of the sheet, and pointed at each of them with it, not saying anything, rather drawing something from them.
Anne sat back from her plate, held the warm mug in her hand and waited, knowing the form by now: Deborah must tell her tale, and they must attend. And with laboured breaths and shaking hands, she began.”
I loved Anne, Sam and Deborah, but as well as that, I fell in love with Deptford! West describes its light and shade so well, it became like a fourth character in the novel. I would love to see the dwelling Deborah’s house was based on, and to explore the ghostly foreboding tunnels which snake underneath the streets. It was great to read the guest blog post on Short Book and Scribe’s site by West Camel about Deptford, and his reasons for basing the novel there. If you missed it, you can read it here.
Attend is a beautiful gem, which doesn’t fall easily into a category; an exquisite tapestry of a novel, weaving together the stories of Anne, Sam and Deborah against the backdrop of Deptford. Wouldn’t this be great as a film?
Check out what the other bloggers on the tour say about Attend:
About West Camel
Born and bred in south London – and not the Somerset village with which he shares a name – West Camel worked as an editor in higher education and business before turning his attention to the arts and publishing. He has worked as a book and arts journalist, and was editor at Dalkey Archive Press, where he edited the Best European Fiction 2015 anthology, before moving to new press Orenda Books just after its launch. He currently combines his work as editor at Orenda with writing and editing a wide range of material for various arts organisations, including ghost-writing a New-Adult novel and editing The Riveter magazine for the European Literature Network. He has also written several short scripts, which have been produced in London’s fringe theatres, and was longlisted for the Old Vic’s 12 playwrights project. Attend is his first novel.