The Artificial Anatomy of Parks by Kat Gordon
One morning in 2002, twenty-one year old Tallulah Park is woken in her depressing bedsit by the phonecall announcing her father's heart attack. From this bleak beginning springs Kat Gordon's gripping debut novel of a dysfunctional upper middle class family with a history of papering over the cracks and ignoring the uncomfortable and unfitting. Tallulah has been doing her fair share of powering on and pretending things don't exist, but it seems like this might turn out to be the time to stop running away. With the reluctant help of two aunts, an old family friend and her own imperfect recollections, and with a vivid imagining of her late grandmother as the voice of conscience, Tallulah sets out to answer some long-standing questions about her family and her own past.
|The Artificial Anatomy of Parks by Kat Gordon
|Category: General Fiction
|Reviewer: JY Saville
|Summary: This is an impressive debut novel about family secrets, love, loyalty, betrayal, hurt, and working out what really matters. The young protagonist is an engaging narrator and once immersed in her world you won't want to put the book down until everything has worked itself out.
|Date: July 2015
|Publisher: Legend Press Ltd
|External links: Author's website
When I began to read this novel I was worried it was going to be one of those stories about a spoilt little rich girl slumming it, working in a dead-end job and living in cheap unsavoury accommodation, pretending she's independent and precarious when she's got one hell of a safety net. Thankfully, however, I warmed to Tallulah very quickly, and it gradually became clear that her current situation had arisen naturally from circumstances and her (perfectly in character) reactions to them. While some of her cousins might be a little spoilt, Tallulah certainly was not.
The book was written in a consistent conversational voice with hints of anger and bitterness frequently creeping in. Although there were some dark moments, they were balanced by wry humour and some genuinely uplifting parts. I was hooked after the first dozen pages or so and rattled through it, desperate to finish whatever I was doing so I could sit down and read again (more so than usual, that is). I came to care for most of the characters in Tallulah's life, even the unpromising ones, and I wanted to know what happened to them all and how they got to be where they were. Some of the answers I guessed or half-guessed long before the revelation, but others I didn't see coming at all and they hit with full force when Tallulah uncovered them.
The novel is set in 2002, with flashbacks to Tallulah's childhood in the late 1980s and 1990s but the use of present tense for the present-day narrative with past tense for all the flashbacks and backstory kept the narratives nice and separate, and made it easy to switch tracks in my head as the chapter jumped back and forth along Tallulah's timeline. My only slight niggle was that in places it felt like Kat Gordon was deliberately trying to place the narrative in real time, by mentioning a song playing as Tallulah passed by a radio, or mentioning the cover features of a magazine. However, I found that sometimes jarred a bit as I came out of the story to wonder if it had any significance – the person or band rang a vague bell but I knew nothing about them and couldn't remember what year they were likely to belong to.
All in all I thought this was an excellent novel and I will look out for more from Kat Gordon.
The unravelling of family mysteries put me in mind of Kate Atkinson, albeit a younger, pricklier version, so readers may want to try her debut novel Behind the Scenes at the Museum.
The Artificial Anatomy of Parks by Kat Gordon is in the Top Ten General Fiction Books for 2015.
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You can read more book reviews or buy The Artificial Anatomy of Parks by Kat Gordon at Amazon.com.
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