Monthly Archives: November 2013

Blood Donors

Steve Tasane

Walker Books

9781406344059

October 2013

paperback

Finished

I read the start of this book with some excitement. Marshall O’Connor, a character with anger issues, lives in a high-rise known as the Finger. His dad’s in prison.

I love what Tasane has done with the narrative voice in this novel, giving Marshall a truly convincing and highly effective street lingo. Here’s a paragraph from the first page:

I’m already sore at my boy Mustaph ‘cos he don’t ever do nothin’ but sleep, see? I think he sufferin’ from bein’ sad, ‘cos he spend half his life in bed, and it all wrong ‘ cos we be fifteen which is the primetime, yeah? We be hittin’ on girls and playin’ our beats and footie and crazy stuff on computer, but only if ol’ Mustaph can drag his dozy head out from under his duvet – that boy win Olympic Gold for sleepin’.

That’s good and Tasane carries it off throughout the length of the novel. It really is a strong voice and carries the novel in the way that Huck’s voice carries Huckleberry Finn. Marshall himself, his home circumstances and the whole ambience of The Finger are so much more interesting than the Giant Bug Attack horror story the book turns into. Yes, Tasane carries it off with gusto (as you would expect from a performance poet) and I am sure there are readers who will savour the scenes towards the end of the novel, but they left me regretting the way sensational fantasy had smothered the very real emotional, social and domestic drama established at the start of the book.

 

Sawbones

Catherine Johnson

Walker Books

9781406340570

October 2013

paperback

Finished

I reviewed (positively I seem to remember) a number of this author’s early young adult books when I was writing Teen/YA book reviews for The Scotsman. It had been a while since I had read something by her. I remembered those earlier books as being very contemporary, but Sawbones is a firmly historical novel set in the age of pioneering anatomy and surgery.

Johnson (who writes scripts for Holby City amongst other things) writes no less well about historical subject-matter than she does about contemporary issues. If I have two reservations about this novel they would be i) the narrative curve is a little too shallow in the early part of the book (I would have liked the shooting episode which energises the plot momentum to have happened twenty pages sooner) and ii) I didn’t quite see the dramatic point of Anna’s departure for Holland near the start of the novel unless it is to become a factor in a sequel, and even then I think it should have received some kind of return mention at the end of this novel.

Those two caveats aside, Sawbones can be enthusiastically recommended as a stirring yarn with vivid characters and equally vivid action. If only the BBC still produced a sequence of Sunday afternoon serials, this book would have been a perfect candidate for dramatisation.