The Drowning of Arthur Braxton – Caroline Smailes
The Friday Project Limited
The only predictable thing about Caroline Smailes’ writing is that it’s unpredictable. She has such a wonderful wealth of imagination and this is evidenced by the diversity of her novels. I have already read and enjoyed Black Boxes and Like Bees to Honey (reviewed here ) but I think Arthur Braxton might be the one which brings her to a much wider audience.
Why? Well, the story of Arthur B can be read on so many different levels. On the surface it’s an urban fairytale – young teenager, alienated by his peers, falls for a mythical creature only he doesn’t see any problem in their living happily after after. Dive a little deeper…and you’ll see all the complexities of human relationships, the tragedy of everyday life alongside the joy of feeling loved and wanted. A little deeper and you appreciate the splashes of Greek mythology which infuse this boy meets girl story – the stories of Daphne, Medea, Castor and Pollux amongst others.
Even though the characters seem very out of the ordinary and not of this world, they come across as real-life, flesh and blood people and the reader is invested in their fate. Young Laurel was the character who captivated me the most – forever child-like, spelling out words with her Smartie lids, deserving of a much brighter future. Then there are the ageless twins, Kester and Pollock, heckling from the viewing gallery of the pool, reminding me a lot of those curmudgeonly old hecklers from the Muppet Show, Statler and Waldorf….I told you it was different from your usual comfort read!
Whereas some of Caroline Smailes’ other novels have “challenged” readers with their unconventional formats, here she retains the variety of text without overwhelming the reader and it all seems more controlled and lets you settle into the novel with less distractions. It’s one of those books you will want to stay up into the wee small hours reading and yet it will seem time as passed as quickly as an episode of Waterloo Road….read the book and you’ll understand.
I have a strong feeling this novel will bring Caroline Smailes much success and mark her out as one of our most promising writers…ahem, Granta…