Attend By West Camel – A Review

Publisher: Orenda

Publication Date: 13th December 2018

I am very happy to be part of the blog tour for Attend by West Camel. In the run up to me actually reading this book I had read some stonking reviews and seen some very positive tweets so I was already primed to enjoy this book.

And I did.

Very much.

Attend tells the stories of 3 main characters, 2 of which are intrinsically linked by the 3rd person.

Firstly we have Anne, a recovering drug addict who has just moved back to her hometown of Deptford. Divorced and detached from her grown up daughter and her grandson, Anne struggles to find her place again within the family unit. Her own mother appears to enjoy the company of her ex-husband Mel more than Anne’s company. She is lonely and disparate and is coming to terms with what drugs have done to her life whilst trying to desperately not to go back down the same path.

Then we have Sam, new to the area and coming to terms with his sexuality.  Sam meets Derek by chance one night and the pair embark on a love affair which isn’t plain sailing.

Then we have the lynch pin to the story, Deborah.  An old woman who claims to be over 100 years old, who seems to float unseen around Deptford, making friends with both Anne and Sam seperately. A seamstress who carries a bag of material scraps and threads around with her.  Odd in her demeanour but intriguing to both Anne and Sam in different ways.

Ultimately the threads of the separate friendships weave together and Anne and Sam are introduced to each others lives via the conduit that is Deborah.  She has stories to tell them both of her childhood, the struggles she endured in a childrens ‘hospital’, the secrets of the tunnels running underneath and where they have taken her in her life since.

West Camels prose is beautiful. He has amalgamated genres perfectly. There is a strong historical fiction thread by way of Deborah’s tales of her childhood and early adulthood. It’s not just a dual timeline narrative in its simplest form, it goes beyond that into something much deeper and richer. We also have a very contemporary feel, a good dose of gritty, raw, real life to keep the story moving along at a pace. There is also an over arching magical realism which I think can be the trickiest thread to weave but in this case (and in my opinion) is the most compelling thread of all.

The magical realism is perfectly pitched. Not too ‘out there’ but more a light sprinkling of wonder. I thought it was just perfect.

It’s hard to compare this story to anything else I’ve read. It really is a very unique piece of writing that stands alone as something incomparable.

With themes of love, loss, finding your place in the world and making peace with your demons, Attend is the kind of book that leaves you a little breathless and you find yourself musing over it for a good while to come.

Thank you as always to Anne Cater and Karen at Orenda Books for the advanced review copy of this stunning book. It was a privilege to be able to read it.

See you soon.

Bookish Chat xx

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