08/08/13 - 'The Drowning of Arthur Braxton' by Caroline Smailes

Since I've been back at work, with proper sit-down tea and lunch breaks and a two hour train journey there and back, I've been reading a lot more than I have done for...probably three years.  As a very recent graduate with an English degree, that is a terrible confession to make.  But since I've been home, I've been whipping through books like a mental person.  Most of them have been enjoyable and interesting, but largely passed me by.  The Drowning of Arthur Braxton by Caroline Smailes is the first book in a while which has really excited me.

Arthur Braxton is a normal - and by that, I obviously mean 'a messed up' - teenage boy living with his depressed father since his mum left them.  His world is bleak, plagued by incessant rain and constant Facebook notifications which never bring anything positive.  The adolescent voice is spot-on, drawing the reader in immediately with its chatty and informal style.  Arthur is an entirely realistic and somehow still entirely likable character, struggling with horrendous high school bullies and finding sanctuary within the curious Oracle, an abandoned swimming pool with allegedly magic water.  His tale is interspersed with those of the other unusual characters - the young and damaged Laurel whose voice starts the book and sets the scene beautifully, and the elusive Delphina as well as a host of quirky others.

Underneath the influences of fairytales and Greek mythology, the different narrative voices and the disjointed structure which somehow remains entirely cohesive, is a plain and simple love story.  The pain of growing up, the heartache of adolescent romance and the utter desperation that we all feel as we realise that the world is maybe not all it seems to be are perfectly encapsulated here.  It'll get inside your head and really make you think, and the characters stay with you long after you've closed the book. 

My favourite thing about Caroline Smailes' books is that every one I've read (and I have now read them all) is totally brilliant and totally different from all the others.  She has a wonderful ability to weave the mundane facts of ordinary modern life with something a little bit special without losing any of the story's honesty.  Her use of language is evocative, compelling and frankly stunning.  Since I finished reading this, I've recommended it to basically everyone I know and the feedback I've had so far has all been positive...as I knew it would be.

Follow Caroline on Twitter or check out her website - an incredible talent who I believe more people should be reading.

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