My Side of the Diamond by Sally Gardner
|My Side of the Diamond by Sally Gardner|
|Reviewer: John Lloyd|
|Summary: A peculiar read turns out to be something quite fabulous by the end of this intelligently genre-inflected drama.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 240||Date: October 2017|
|Publisher: Hot Key Books|
|External links: Author's website|
You have to accept that if two people jump from the dome of St Paul's they would be bound to land. They'd be dead but they would land. Except, in this most unusual book, they didn't. Two people were seen leaving the outside of the London Cathedral's dome, but were never found at the foot of it – and someone has been in prison ever since for pushing them off. It's a most peculiar scenario, and our narrator Jaz is struggling to tell her mysterious interrogator, Mr Jones, all about it – and all about her relationship with her best friend. Now Becky, the friend, was a child prodigy sci-fi author, until something happened – she realised she wanted something else from life. Rushing around to investigate the case of the fallers, she seems to have found that, in the shape of a hot-blooded romance. But what is Jaz doing starting her testimony with talk of inquests, evidence and hatred?
I had mixed feelings while reading this book. I loved the beginning – the girl who regretted her fame for her cobbled-together sci-fi story she never wanted anyone to see, let alone become a huge-selling writer because of it. There was a great mystery of what had happened to her, and what she was letting herself in for. But by the middle third things were becoming a little less satisfactory – a step down from a very high standard, mind. The problem seemed to be the structure of the book – for one thing, which has a bearing throughout, you may struggle to keep track of the timeline, and it's not perfectly clear when we are when we hear the testimony and exactly when what we learn about was happening. For another, the Mr Jones character pops in on several people for their verdicts, and you end up seeing quite a few characters from quite a few points of view before you've got a firm grip on things. Becky's family life is, if not outright soapy, confusing to say the least.
That said, this is very much a teen read that doesn't patronise – and is, of course, all the better for it. It never dumbs down, it does have sci-fi trappings quite regularly but won't really belong on genre shelves, and it goes about its business most methodically, very intelligently, and ultimately exceedingly heartwarmingly. It's the kind of book you need to know as little about as possible, and I can see this becoming a book that is highly spoken of, especially from an author of such renown as we have here, which is why I suggest a certain haste in picking it up.
It's a read that made me think – perhaps, as I implied, a touch too much, it gave me the heebie-jeebies more than once, and it really did ultimately make me inspired to declare this a highly commendable book. For all the furrowed brow you may have seen on my face at a few points, there's now a most satisfied grin.
I must thank the publishers for my review copy.
If the sci-fi here isn't strong enough for you, and you crave a strong teenaged girl in a London setting, I am Traitor by Sif Sigmarsdottir can provide.
You can read more book reviews or buy My Side of the Diamond by Sally Gardner at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy My Side of the Diamond by Sally Gardner at Amazon.com.
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