The Girls from Corona Del Mar by Rufi Thorpe

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The Girls from Corona Del Mar by Rufi Thorpe

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Category: General Fiction
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Rachel Holmes
Reviewed by Rachel Holmes
Summary: A rather depressing but brilliantly handled novel, portraying the lives and friendships of two girls growing up and growing apart, and dealing with issues such as death, drugs, abortion, parenthood and loss.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 304 Date: August 2014
Publisher: Hutchinson
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-0091954192

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Exploring the friendship of Mia and Lorrie Ann, two girls who grew up together in 1980's Corona Del Mar, this novel is unexpectedly tragic; definitely not just another trashy, girly work of fiction. Written from the point of view of Mia, it tells the journeys of the two friends and the events which have led them to where they are now. The Girls from Corona Del Mar explores not only the subjects of friendship, growing apart and growing up, but also those of death, war, drugs, abortion and coping with a disabled child. And, in my opinion, Rufi Thorpe does this brilliantly; sometimes with subtlety and elegance but often through the frank, brutal honesty of the character's narration.

Lorrie Ann's journey is particularly tragic but it is Mia who seems to struggle with the choices her friend makes along the way and how they, in turn, affect her life and how she thinks of others. The young Mia appears very judgmental and opinionated, though also insecure and unsure of how and what she is supposed to be in life. Lorrie Ann, however, is the grounded, seemingly secure and very beautiful one who, on the outside has everything going for her. It is through this young friendship that Thorpe explores issues such as jealousy, families and decision-making. It is only in later years when Lorrie Ann is struck by a series of tragic events which lead Mia to question not only the fate of her friend but that of life itself. Although Lorrie Ann is at the forefront of the tragedies, we, as a reader, experience it all with Mia and discover her innermost thoughts and feelings through Thorpe's honest and frank portrayal. Personally, I have not felt as though I have known a character in a novel in this much depth in a long time, if ever. I was also struck by how controversial some of Mia's thoughts and judgements were, but this added to the depth of character and enabled the reader to understand her actions and perspective.

Whilst not a particularly happy read, I found I could not put the book down. Quite often, I was unsure who should have my empathy, Mia or Lorrie Ann, but this to-ing and fro-ing became part of their journey, as friends who consistently grew apart then were thrown back together again. There were occasions, however, when I wished Mia would just let go and accept she and Lorrie Ann would never be the friends they once were at school. I also found it rather frustrating that Mia often placed herself at the centre of situations that were happening to her friend to fulfil her need for attention.

Thorpe's more minor characters in this novel are treated with detail and depth, particularly that of the slightly eccentric and troubled Arman and Dana, Lorrie Ann's mother. In fact, each one of her characters has their own important journey, as seen from the perspective of Mia. It is only towards the end when Mia realises the way she sees situations may not be how others perceive them, a pivotal point in the novel and something that will resonate with us all.

I did enjoy the historical references of Sumer and the goddess Inanna, subjects in which Mia held a great deal of interest and which led to her getting a job translating ancient texts. There were obvious parallels between Mia's obsession with Inanna and that of Lorrie Ann, especially as she often compared the two, seemingly in awe of both her friend and this historical beauty. The detail in which Thorpe treated these historical references made it obvious that this was a personal interest of the author, something which was confirmed at the end of the novel when she states her love for the volume of work whereby Inanna has actually been translated. For me, this gave the novel an extra dimension and showed how much the author cared about her work and characters.

Overall, this is primarily a fairly sombre novel about how events and growing up can re-shape friendships you once thought were indestructible. However, Thorpe clearly has the courage to deal with sensitive issues and opinions surrounding them, which some other authors perhaps would not dare write of in such an honest manner. Personally, this is where The Girls from Corona Del Mar stands out.

Thank you to the publisher for sending a copy to The Bookbag.

For an equally tragic read exploring parenthood and relationships try The Choice by Susan Lewis

Buy The Girls from Corona Del Mar by Rufi Thorpe at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Girls from Corona Del Mar by Rufi Thorpe at Amazon.co.uk


Buy The Girls from Corona Del Mar by Rufi Thorpe at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Girls from Corona Del Mar by Rufi Thorpe at Amazon.com.

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