The New Neighbours by Diney Costeloe
|The New Neighbours by Diney Costeloe|
|Category: General Fiction|
|Reviewer: Ani Johnson|
|Summary: The cosy façade of a suburban street is disrupted in this character packed, surprise fest. A bit soap-like but not without surprises and more depth than we first think.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 496||Date: March 2017|
|Publisher: Head of Zeus|
|External links: Author's website|
Dartmouth Circle has always been the epitome of British middle class propriety. Manicured lawns, well-kept house facades… All is where it should be and life is ordered, with the disrupting influence of the town's university students out of sight and out of mind. Imagine, then, the horror when the good citizens of the Circle hear that one of their houses… THEIR houses… has been bought as student accommodation. Will it be the harbinger of doom they expect?
British author Diney Costeloe varies her book's subject matter between contemporary and historical fiction themes. Although a fan of it all, for me, Diney's historical fiction has been the stronger of the two genres. This novel (originally published as Dartmouth Circle) is contemporary and has picked up one or two adverse comments on the way but I found it strangely addictive.
Let's get the mumbles out the way first. To begin with we seem to be under an avalanche of character introductions but there's a reason for this. It's so that we can eventually be introduced to a wide variety of social ills and issues. Teen pregnancy, young lads going off the rails, vicious divorces, semi-amicable divorces, the plight of the elderly, petty crime, not so petty crime, drugs… the list goes on, causing some to give this novel a soap label. To begin with this does seem justified but then as the Circle's occupants are shaped in our imaginations we become fully involved. (And I speak as one who doesn't like soaps.)
Diney uses the advent of the students, led by Mad (to her friends), cleverly. Their presence results in one or two predictable moments but, more deeply than that, they become catalysts. Suddenly pasts and problems that have been hidden behind net curtains hurtle into view, demanding solution or else providing quite a climax.
The clichés may well be there (e.g. the high achieving girl whose future becomes impaired, the bored housewife etc). However the interesting part of each of their stories is their interaction and ripple effect. There's also a surprise or two!
Take Sheila, the Circle's resident busybody with (being charitable) prejudicial leanings. Her revelation is one of the most unexpected and poignant, making me want to hug her. That was a total 180 degree turn from what I wanted to do to her at the beginning of the novel!
This isn't an academic sociological study and we Diney fans wouldn't expect or want that anyway. I found that not shutting off before the cast becomes distinguishable brings rewards: it's a good read as well as an offering that demonstrates life is full of surprises and people aren't always who we assume them to be.
(A hearty thank you to the good people at Head of Zeus for providing us with a copy for review.)
Further Reading: If you'd like more Diney, we definitely recommend the excellent The Sisters of St Croix. If you'd prefer to follow on the neighbours theme, try the very different as well as excellent A is for Angelica by Iain Broome.
You can read more book reviews or buy The New Neighbours by Diney Costeloe at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy The New Neighbours by Diney Costeloe at Amazon.com.
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