I may have mentioned the other day that Rebecca Alexander, the other runner-up for the Mslexia prize, and I swapped novels recently. Well, this morning, I finished reading “Borrowed Time”, and when I supposed that it must be an awfully good book, I supposed right, because it turned out to be very entertaining indeed.
I’m a bit of a fan of mythology and of history, and I like a bit of a thriller. I love the English tradition of horror stories... OK, I know that Polidori was mostly Italian, and Stoker was very definitely Irish, but it is the quintessential Englishness of this story and of John Dee, and of the attitudes of the modern protagonists, in particular the women, that drew me into the novel and held my attention. The fact is that the better read a writer is, particularly when she is engaged, interested, passionate about her subject, the better her novel is destined to be, and Rebecca is certainly engaged with her material.
This is a clever writer, who assumes that her reader can keep up, and that’s a good thing. She gives us everything we need, but never condescends, never talks down, never simplifies, because she assumes that her readership is smart. She does however, contextualise, and this gives her prose a richness and depth that is enchanting.
Rebecca could have written an historical novel, or a modern thriller, but she cleverly weaves the two strands of her tale together, entwining them in such a way as to render them inseparable, making the whole greater than the sum of the parts.
There is no doubt in my mind that this novel is commercial, and that it should have a broad readership. I’d buy it for my mother-in-law and my nephew, at either ends of the reading spectrum, and for several of my friends in between, and I feel confident that they would all enjoy it.
Brava, Rebecca! I can’t wait to see this on the shelves in all our High Street book shops... And, for that matter, to be invited to the inevitably busy launch party in central London in the not-too-distant-future.
In the meantime, another of Rebecca’s novels is doing rather well in another writing competition, and I can’t wait to read that one, too.
Bring it on!