22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
A pacey thriller - but with lots of evocative detail too,
This review is from: Flowertown (Paperback)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)The novel opens with Ellie, the central character. She has just come back from an encounter with Guy, who is not contaminated from the experimental pesticide accident that has poisoned Flowertown's residents. Instead he is one of the army detail sent to keep order and ensure all the rules are adhered to in Flowertown, which these days is more of a ghetto than a town. Guy and Ellie are breaking several of those rules by having a relationship. Redling introduces us to Flowertown through Ellie. Ellie isn't local to the area, so has no family in the town (or even friends from before the accident). She has lost her fiance, her successful job in advertising, and her health. Now she has been blue-tagged, which means her liver is failing from the contamination and her days are numbered. Even her appearance and her pride in herself are clearly not worth very much to her these days.
It's refreshing to read a novel where the story is told so clearly through the lives of the characters - we learn more about what Flowertown is like as place to live through this initial introduction to Ellie's life than reams of description could tell us. The novel starts slowly, setting the scene and building up a picture of Ellie's life and her limited society - the medical centre where all residents go for their constant medication, the corner supermarket, the office where she works, and her shared bedsit. Gradually there are hints that things in Flowertown are changing - there are increasingly less supplies in the shops, the army and Feno security (Feno is the company responsible for the contamination) are more heavy handed, and dangerous incidents start to occur. From the beginning, Ellie is at the centre of events, despite being an outsider in the town. There is a Kafka-esque sense of events occurring to a pattern that is pre-programmed, but she doesn't know the pattern or have any control over it, despite being treated by the authorities as though she is somehow central to the trouble. As things get worse, Ellie stops living her life in a haze from smoking weed, and decides to try and figure out what's going on. Gradually she becomes part of the events for real, rather than being blamed for things she hasn't done.
The novel builds the tension beautifully - you just have time to absorb the strangeness of life in Flowertown before it begins to change, and just as watching Ellie getting overtaken by events starts to pall, she begins to try and take control of her life. The later part of the novel becomes a race against time to work out how events are being manipulated before it becomes too late. By then, the reader is totally drawn into the little world Redling has created, and the unbelievable has become totally believeable.
This novel works well on many levels - the pace starts slowly and keeps accelerating right up the final chapters. The characters are unique and interesting, and we only know what Ellie knows, so the story is very much a personal experience. The setting is original, and detailed, yet not too heavy on description. Redling paints a very clear picture in only a few words. Finally, in Ellie we have a heroine who starts the story having lost everything, including most of her self respect, but learns to fight again to get her own life back. The first few pages of this book hint at the quality of Redling's writing, and once you've read the first few pages, you won't be able to put this book down. I would agree with other reviewers who have said it would make a good film - it will need to be a good film too if it is to live up to the standard of the book.