House of Ashes by Monique Roffey
|House of Ashes by Monique Roffey|
|Category: General Fiction|
|Reviewer: Sue Magee|
|Summary: A compelling read about a coup-de-etat on a fictional Caribbean island from the point of view of the rebels and a government minister. Recommended.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 368||Date: July 2014|
|Publisher: Simon & Schuster|
SHORTLISTED FOR THE COSTA NOVEL AWARD 2014
There had been unrest in the Caribbean City of Silk in Sans Amen for some time with people growing increasingly belligerent about the perceived corruption of the government. Then the day came when The Leader called the Brothers together and told them that they were going to make history: they would take over the House of Power and the television studios and reclaim what was rightfully theirs. Part of this 'revolution' is Ashes, a quiet, bookish young man who seems to feel most guilty about the lie he told his wife - that he'd be back home for dinner - when he left the house. He'd been swayed by The Leader's rhetoric and finds himself a part of the rag-tag band of ill-trained but probably over-armed young men and teens who invade the House of Power. It would not go as they expected.
We see the invasion from another point of view too. Aspasia Garland is a minister, wife and mother of two boys. Her interest is conservation, particularly of the leatherback turtles who lay their eggs on the beaches of Sans Amen. She's a proud and honest woman who is initially shocked when the young boys who hold her captive don't understand the value of the work she is doing and of what she has achieved - they are interested in their living standards, their way of life rather than a turtle who simply visits once every twenty years or so. Slowly Aspasia begins to recognise the similarities between these boys and her own sons.
It's easy to dismiss book prizes as all being much of a muchness - and certainly when you see the same books appearing on different shortlists it's tempting to wonder why there are quite so many - but just occasionally a gem pops up, which you would otherwise have missed and this is what happened with the Costa Awards in 2014. I found a biography to keep me awake for most of the night and this book by Monique Roffey, which didn't quite keep me up all night, but certainly had me reading into the early hours of the morning. I didn't entirely buy in to the character of Ashes - I couldn't understand why he was taken in by The Leader and why he would want to be involved in the coup d'etat, but Aspasia Garland pulled me in completely, with her open mindedness and the dawning realisation that some of her colleagues might have been aware of what was going to happen.
But over and above the characters it was the plot which hooked me. Roffey ramps up the tension slowly - which is quite something when you have an attempted coup d'etat within the first few pages. The hostages might be being held, but those holding them are in no better position as the army surrounds the building: the hostage takers are hostages themselves. There's no unnecessary gore, but the young men are trigger happy and there are a number of deaths as the House of Power is invaded and no way of moving the bodies. Toilet facilities are limited too and there's no food and little water - squalor begins early on and gets worse. Tempers fray. There came a point when I wanted to get out of there.
It's a neatly constructed story, which was rewarding reading - and Monique Roffey is certainly an author to watch.
If this book appeals then you might also enjoy Snug by Matthew Tree.
You can read more book reviews or buy House of Ashes by Monique Roffey at Amazon.co.uk Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
You can read more book reviews or buy House of Ashes by Monique Roffey at Amazon.com.
House of Ashes by Monique Roffey is in the Costa Book Awards 2014.
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