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Lily Poole Kindle Edition
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Jack creates a vivid snapshot of 1970’s Dalmuir, Clydebank and - well I don’t suppose they were called “schemes” in those days - the places where the working class used to live in that very period when they first began to become the demonised underclass. The novel switches focus between several main characters, chief of which is John. John is sixteen and has come out of the educational sausage factory with few qualifications and very little hope. The author creates a thoroughly believable figure who may, or may not, be “suffering mental issues” as we would say now. A “bam-pot” as his contemporaries do say in the novel. John tries to help Lily Poole, a young girl he encounters on her way to school. He falls in love and lust in an unlikely but beautifully realised location.
The book has just enough local dialect and typical laughter-in-the-dark wisecracking to evoke the sense of place and time without being unintelligible. It’s a much less impenetrable book than Trainspotting for example, although that particular book is set in a very different part of Scotland.
Lily Poole is by turns, funny, heartbreaking, infuriating and never boring. It is an indictment of successive governments’ abandonment of the working class, mental health care provision and simple compassion, yes, but it’s also a terrific book, with a dark secret at its core.
The book begins with our hero, John, coming across a young girl in the snow. He helps her across the treacherous icy surface to school – but it very quickly becomes apparent that he is the only person who can see her.
The plot then twists and turns, revealing, confusing and delighting as it unfolds. An extraordinary cast of characters come out of the pages. His constant references to smell bring out the inner beings. His description of the flats, houses and streets in which his characters live paint a picture in the mind that will stay with you for a long time.
This is a book about mental health, the power of self belief, the love of family and the cruelty of the both the crowd and the establishment. It is writing of the highest standard and a story that will inform, shock and intrigue you. I cannot commend this book more highly to you. That is not because I am the Editor of ABCtales, it is because it is an exceptional novel.
This is a dark, disturbing and pacy ghost story that showcases truly inspired writing. I don't usually enjoy anything too horrible in subject matter – and what can be more horrible than child abuse? – but the writing makes up for the feeling of horror and claustrophobia the subject matter brings up.
O'Donnell takes you right back to late 70s Glasgow where the only place you don't smoke is the church – just one small example of the sharply observed details which bring his setting and characters to life. While there is no real respite from the bleakness, you do want his protagonist to come to a good end.
The dialects are also a really wonderful element to the tale and add a richness and authenticity that would otherwise be lost. The story revolves around John, a young man who keeps seeing a small schoolgirl who clearly needs his help. The only trouble is that no-one else can see her and John is in danger of being labelled insane.
This debut shows O'Donnell's skill and mastery of dialogue and observation. I look forward to his future work.
Jack O'Donnell showcases his masterful writing talent in this debut novel. The reader travels in other worldly/mind spheres as well as the nitty gritty of working class ,exiting shipyard Clydebank, Scotland, early 1970's. The story deals with mental care but the horrific part is the reality of the experienced traumas . Child abuse being no.1. It's a small world in a much larger world where demons are cloaked as humans and you only wish for a happy ending. Jack's language captures the reader with its rich, poetic metaphors leaning on the bleak which sets the scene for the voyage of the young protagonist. Atmosphere is caught in every corner of the page. It is characteristic of Jack O'Donnell's writing that the reader breathes in the cigarette smoke and the damp mists , feels the senseless violence and abuse on her own body but also has heart strings tugged at.
I know Jack's writing from an online writing site but this story outdoes his writing up to now .
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