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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Gripping Story of Maternal Love, Loss and Grief, 11 Feb. 2013
Susie B - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Gospel According to Cane (Paperback)
Beverley Cottrell once had a husband, a rewarding teaching job, a lovely house and a beautiful baby boy named Malakay; now, twenty years later, she lives alone in a small flat on a council estate, is divorced, and does voluntary work teaching creative writing to difficult teenagers. However, the major difference in Beverley's present life is that she is now childless, and has been for twenty years since her eight-month-old son was stolen from her husband's car and was never found. Beverley, understandably, has had an immensely difficult time trying to cope with her grief and her anger but, after regular counselling sessions, she is now trying to move on; she enjoys her work with the disadvantaged young adults whom she calls "her kids", and she has a lover, Seth, one of the policemen originally assigned to investigate Beverley's son's abduction. However, no sooner does Beverley begin to feel that she might be beginning to piece her life back together, when she finds herself being stalked by a young man - but this is not any young man because when he turns up one dark night outside her flat and calls through her letterbox, he tells her that he is Malakay, her son. But could he really be Beverley's long lost son? Or does this streetwise young man, now named Will, have another agenda altogether? (No spoilers - we learn all of this early on in the book).

When questioned by one of her students about why people write, Beverley answers: "Because they've seen something they can't comprehend and they're trying to work it out through the act of writing. They write because they want to make sense of their pain." And so, Beverley starts to write her journal, and it is this journal that forms the narrative of the book, as we read about Beverley's pain as she struggles to cope with what has happened in the past, and of the difficult dilemma she is now facing, where she has to decide whether to let her guard down and allow this unknown young man into her life. And Beverley's decision is made all the more difficult by her sister Jackie's reaction of disbelief and suspicion, and not only does Beverley have to cope with her sister, but there is also the negative response from Beverley's students when they see her with Will, but won't explain who he is. After spending a huge amount of time gaining her students' trust and respect, Beverley now finds herself in danger of losing all that she has worked for.

Although I was expecting a thriller from the description on the cover and, indeed, this was very gripping at times, I felt 'The Gospel According to Cane' was more of a character study examining maternal love, loss and grief. I should perhaps say that I found certain parts of the story distressing and the ending, for me, was not entirely convincing - but that said, Courttia Newland's novel is a gripping, forceful and complex read, and a vivid portrait of a damaged woman who is no longer prepared to be defined by her tragic loss.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brave and ambitious, 10 Feb. 2013
This review is from: The Gospel According to Cane (Paperback)
Courttia Newland's novel, The Gospel According to Cane, revolves around the story of a successful married woman- Beverly Cottrell- whose son is snatched at the age of 8 months. Her marriage, career and emotional health are thrown into turmoil and we find her twenty years later still struggling with her loss. She is now working with marginalised young people at an After School club. At this point a young man enters her life who claims to be her son, Malakay. The novel is beautifully crafted and has a hugely ambitious emotional scope. Entwined in the sometimes difficult and bleak storyline are stunning dream scenes and lyrical prose. The novel explores issues of race, identity, love and loss without offering any easy answers. It is a brave and important work which is sometimes unsettling but which has an integrity and power which will stay in the reader's mind for a long time.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Can it be?, 11 Mar. 2013
This review is from: The Gospel According to Cane (Paperback)
Do you know pain? Have you seen or felt it first hand or through the heart and eyes of another? What is your level of pain?
Beverley Cottrell`s says that "there is some pain that has the capacity to hurt anyone." I like that because it speaks to tolerance and whether you can anesthetize pain or not. It really speaks to the power of pain.
This novel is written like Beverley Cotrell `s journal, she writes of her life today and yesterday, while also describing this pain in poetic style.

She first noticed him at Portobello Market, he follows her to her flat and after some conversation he tells her he's Malakay. She allows him to move in and those closest to her warn her of his potential motives. They worry, how could she know the last time she saw him he was eight months old. After twenty years can it be him or has hope clouded her judgment?

Newland really delves into this expertly written story of family and motherhood that the reader can absolutely identify with.

A complimentary copy of this book was providied by the author for the puirpose of this review

Readers Paradise
4 book marks
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4.0 out of 5 stars Suspenseful and absorbing, 28 July 2013
This review is from: The Gospel According to Cane (Paperback)
Beverley Cottrell is a middle aged woman who has suffered a major trauma. When her baby boy was eight months old, he was taken from outside a shop while Bev's husband Patrick was busy inside. Bev was absent, away at a meeting. The guilt of that loss and her estrangement from Patrick have dominated her life ever since.

Bev comes from a wealthy family with origins in Barbados. Her parents are now dead but her sister Jackie and brother-in-law Frank keep in touch. The relationship between Bev and Jackie is not always smooth and in recurring dreams set during the colonial era in Barbados, Bev sees a different sister even though her parents are the same as in real life.

Bev is preoccupied by pain - her own and that of others - and believes that psychological pain is as severe or even worse than physical pain. She cannot imagine any pain that surpasses that of losing her child and her waking days and dream-filled nights often revolve around thoughts of pain and the hold it has over her. It is a web from which it seems she cannot escape.

After the abduction of her baby, Bev gave up her promising teaching career and Patrick finally divorced her. He has a new family in the United States and Bev tries to build bridges to them, though her past actions make this impossible. She works at an after school centre teaching disadvantaged teenagers, but you sense that this might be a way of assuaging her guilt about her own privilege and loss of family more than her love of teaching. She is also obsessive about making lists and writing notes to herself, a technique for improving her self-esteem taught to her by her therapist, Sue. Though no longer in need of therapy, Bev continues to see Sue and counts her as a friend.

Bev's other friends include Ida, a neighbour who was her only solace when Bev was severely depressed, and Seth, a policeman who took part in the investigation of the disappearance of Bev's baby. Bev also has a close relationship with some of the pupils in her class, often thinking of them as her family.

Early in the novel, Bev becomes aware of a young man following her and he eventually starts knocking on the letterbox of her flat. Wills, the young man, claims to be Bev's abducted son. Bev wants to believe him but is also wary. Eventually she lets him move in and their relationship begins to deepen.

All those around Bev - Ida, Sue, Seth, Jackie and Bev's pupils - warn her to be careful and distrust the young man's claim to be Bev's son. Bev ignores all their warnings, as well as advice from Sue and Seth that she should have a DNA test done. Bev fails to report events to the police and lies to Ida and her pupils when asked about Wills and what he is doing in her apartment. The more insistent those around her become, the more Bev pushes people away. Does she fear the truth, or is she just worried that any sign of distrust on her part will push Wills away forever?

When Bev goes to investigate Wills's story, she makes a shocking discovery, the implications of which create further turmoil in her life. As Wills feels under increasing pressure, he snaps and does something he will regret. Bev's sister and pupils finally take matters into their own hands, putting them on a collision course with both Bev and Wills. The outcome brings tragedy but also a new path for hope.

Courttia Newland has written a suspenseful and absorbing story. Bev is a deeply flawed character but we can only feel empathy for her pain and the lost years of her life. Wills is enigmatic but clearly he fills a need in Bev's life, and in the end perhaps Bev's happiness counts for more than anything else. The crisis generated towards the end of the novel shows Bev where true friendship lies and opens up the possibility of absolution for the mistakes of her past.

I found the climax and resolution of the story wanting in terms of plausibility, but that was largely because of the absence of detail. It is as if Newland found the ending too messy and had to avert his eyes until things were tidied up. Ironically, it is the sort of behaviour you would expect from Bev.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic!, 24 July 2013
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After reading a review in Stylist I had to read it! Beautifully written book I absolutley loved it! I read it within 2 days seriously could not put it down!
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The Gospel According to Cane
The Gospel According to Cane by Courttia Newland (Paperback - 5 Feb. 2013)
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