Book Reviews

‘The best moments in reading are when you come across something - a thought, a feeling, a way of looking at things - which you had thought special and particular to you. And now, here it is, set down by someone else, a person you have never met, someone even who is long dead. And it is as if a hand has come out, and taken yours.’ Alan Bennett

“Many a book is like a key to unknown chambers within the castle of one’s own self.” ― Franz Kafka

Sunday 26 August 2012

A is for Angelica - Iain Broome

'I stay at home, hide behind curtains and make notes. I wait for something to happen.'

Gordon Kingdom watches the happenings on Cressington Vale, a street in a northern town, where he lives with his wife Georgina and dog Kipling. He keeps files of notes and his observations about the lives of those on the opposite side of the street. His wife has suffered two strokes, the first of which happened eighteen months ago, and he patiently cares for her at home, trying to cope, to continue some sort of existence, so lonely and so sad. No longer working outside the home, and with no children, Gordon records what he sees outside from his concealed viewpoint upstairs, in the house they've shared throughout their married life. There are several characters we meet, all seen through Gordon's eyes; there's Benny, who paints at night with his eyes closed, there's Gordon's best friend Don, and the new lady who moves into the street, Angelica. Gordon recalls how he started observing the little world in miniature around him:

'I found myself sitting by the window for hours on end, surveying the street. Letting the world drift past. Taking my mind off things. I watched my neighbours and got to know them better than I ever had before. Their changes in behaviour. Their simplest of movements. Their finest of details.'

He rarely encounters some of the people he keeps his files on in fact, until the arrival of Angelica, when things start to change. Gordon rarely sees his parents now. As he sits and thinks, Gordon also recalls times from his past, times shared with Georgina, and their parents. These events are sometimes happy, often rather tinged with sadness though. One of my favourite sections was the chapter entitled 'Umbrage', in which Gordon recalls a memory from just under a couple of years ago, when it was Georgina's birthday and they went to the coast. It's a lovely, happy recollection amidst the more troubled and unhappy thoughts that often dominate the moments he looks back on.

This is Iain Broome's debut novel, and it's a well written, emotional and thoughtful book with a story that flows well throughout. The novel is composed of short chapters, each with a relevant title that takes us through the alphabet, from Angelica, then Benny, to Birthdays and then Cressington Vale, and so on. This makes for a fairly quick read, though this is an emotional rather than eventful plot, and it's all delivered through Gordon as the first person narrator throughout, so we are intensely involved with his life. The author depicts the intense sadness and at times despondency present in Gordon's current way of life as a carer for Georgina, yet he manages at times to inject an element of humour into some of Gordon's encounters that I felt was very real, I could imagine someone like Gordon saying some of things he says, and doing some of the things he does. One example is when Georgina suffers her first stroke, during a neighbourhood watch meeting arranged by Gordon. The attendees are discussing the spate of milk thefts, and allocating shifts for keeping a look out. Even after what happens next, Gordon still remembers to remind Don about his shift. This sort of mundanity in the face of tragedy appears both surprising and yet likely too; trying to keep a hold of the small things.

The reader observes Gordon and is made to think about him and his unconventional behaviour, just as he watches those around him. At times it felt painful for me to be present with Gordon and party to his thoughts, and it is difficult when he can't admit the truth about his situation to himself, never mind to anyone else. He is determined to persist with his way of thinking; the alternative seems too painful, too much to contemplate. I found this a moving read that made me think. It captures the quiet sadness and loneliness that envelopes many lives, the spark of interest that someone new can inject. Sometimes Gordon's behaviour angered me and I questioned his choices, with him leaving me feeling both sympathetic towards him and at other times disbelieving; hence the story makes you think - what would you do?

A is for Angelica is about love, fear, the small things that make up a life, and the huge things that can suddenly change a life forever. It is made up of poignant observations, reminiscences, memories of the past and thorough scrutiny of the present. Contained in these pages there is sadness, grief and loss, the mundane and everyday occurences in a random life, not without some dark humour, and certainly offering us some truths. I look forward to seeing what this writer does next.

Published by Legend Press in print on 1st September 2012, and available now as an ebook.

Thank you very much to the publisher for the opportunity to read and review this novel. 

Legend Press is an independent book publisher - visit their website to find out more.

You can find out more about the author and the book on his website here and also follow him on twitter @iainbroome 

Here's a link to the author's video about the book, worth a watch to give you an idea of the weird and wonderful things it contains! 

The very fitting cover is beautifully designed by Jonathan Wilkinson.


  1. Great post! I hadn't heard of this book so thanks for introducing it to me - it sounds very interesting and I'll have to check it out. Thanks for sharing!

    Steph @

    1. Thanks very much for your comment Steph. It's a new release from an independent press, and this is the author's debut novel. Definitely worth investigating! Thanks :)

  2. This sounds really sad, in a sensitive kind of way. I don't think I've ever read a book about the difficulties involved in being a carer. I'll definitely keep this in mind.


    1. Thanks a lot for commenting Marie. It's an interesting look at this man's existence.

  3. Hello and thank you for the kind words. Thank you for the interest in the comments too. Do get in touch if you'd like more information or to run an interview, something like that.

    Best wishes, Iain

    1. Hi Iain, thanks so much for visiting and commenting. That would be great, I will get in touch.


Thank you so much for taking the time to visit and leave a comment. It's great reading your comments and I really appreciate them :)