Sunday, 12 June 2016

Book review - Awakening - Stuart Keane

I was given an ARC of Stuart Keane's new book - Awakening; The prequel to his previous book, Charlotte. Charlotte was the tale of Amy Brunswick, a quiet nine year old girl who develops what her parents believe to be an imaginary friend. The reality is something quite more sinister and downright terrifying.

For Awakening, we move back a few years in time to Lake Whisper, where we join the story of Doris and her husband Jim, a young couple who fell head over heels in love on a retreat for oversize people. During one fateful car journey, twelve months later, Doris is suffering stomach cramps from a burger that she had eaten, subsequently leading to Jim fussing, crashing the car and killing him instantly. Upon arrival at the hospital, Doris is informed by a doctor that she is pregnant.

Upon the birth of her daughter - Charlotte, Doris soon learns that her life will never be the same again. A single parent, alone in the world to bring up her daughter, a daunting enough prospect in itself. That's even before factoring in that Doris blames the baby for the death of her husband and resents the fact that the child was ever born, seeing the girl as nothing but a hindrance.

As the story continues to unfold, what should be a heart warming tale of a mother's love as she continues to cherish and nurture her child takes a dark twist, as Doris raises Charlotte on neglect and violent abuse. In my opinion, this was a risky book for Keane as the subject matter is so sensitive that one foot put wrong could potentially result in disastrous consequences.The subject is dealt with in a dramatic, graphic, portrayal which can be very often difficult to stomach in places. Luckily, Keane's strong writing successfully manages to carry the tale in a confident and intelligent manner.

There are two scenes in particular that I won't go into but I can almost guarantee will leave readers with their mouth's agape and quite possibly a tear running down their cheek. Charlotte is portrayed as an intelligent, pleasant young girl with all of the possibilities in the world ahead of her. Her story in places was almost reminiscent of Roald Dahl's - Matilda. Doris on the other hand, is one of the most vile, wretched characters that I think I've ever had the misfortune to come across in a book. That's how powerful this is, as a reader you find yourself brimming with hatred for this vile, loathsome creature.

I'm not going to go into the content of the book because I don't want to give away any spoilers, but the first two thirds of this book is drama; heart-breaking, gut wrenching drama that may leave you feeling sad, it may leave you feeling sick. The final section of the book starts to take a turn into supernatural horror as Keane lines up the story for the transition into the original book.

It's hard to really sum this one up, because as much as it's a fantastic, gripping storyline, there is also the fact to contend with, that the same storyline is so harrowing that it will really get under your skin. In my opinion, many who may have taken on this challenge could have failed, Keane manages to pull it off in a book that will stay with you for a very, very long time after completion. I guarantee that it will be a roller coaster of emotion, as you truly feel for the young girl who is let down at every eventuality, then cheer in reprisal as the story reaches its impressive conclusion.

As I said, I think there may be some people out there who may object to the content of the story, however when remembered that its all befitting to the plot and necessary for the development of the character of Charlotte in the first book, it really works. What makes this book so terrifying is the fact that the horror is realistic, and potentially played out repeatedly, day after day behind closed doors. 

My rating 5/5 - go read. Another great book from Stuart Keane.


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