I’m delighted today to be joining the blog tour for Fruit Woman by Kate Rigby: my thanks to Anne Cater at Random Things for inviting me, and for providing my reading e-copy. I doubt I would ever have discovered this book had it not been for Anne’s invitation – and had I stumbled across it, I doubt it would have made it to the top of my reading list. But that’s one of the joys of participating in blog tours for me – discovering something different, and pushing my reading boundaries.
Fruit Woman is narrated by Helen Scutt, a quirky and naïve twenty-seven-year-old. The image of the Fruit Woman has appeared to Helen at important times in her life, particularly in relation to her own sexual and spiritual awakening. But only now, while on holiday with her extended family, does she get her first warning message from the Fruit Woman.
Set in the l980s, Helen returns with her extended family, after a twelve year break, to spend a fortnight at their favourite holiday destination in Devon: Myrtle Cottages. Due to join them for the second week of the holiday are: Helen’s old friend, Bella, Bella’s brother, Dominic, and Helen’s cousin, Les. But shortly after the family have arrived on holiday, Helen’s mother announces that she has also invited along someone from church for the second week of their holiday: Christine Wigg, a friend of the family, and victim of a rape several years before.
In the context of the family holiday, where games of cards, scatological worries, and deep discussions abound, the story centres on Helen’s anxieties over the second week’s ‘guest list’. She’s not seen Bella for years, she’s attracted to Dominic in spite of his religious beliefs, and she thinks it a bad idea for her mother to have invited Les, who was originally accused of Christine’s rape by her in-laws. Helen’s concerns trigger off all sorts of childhood and adolescent memories, but as her anxieties mount, can she make sense at last of what happened years before?
There were, if I’m honest, elements of this book that did pass me by a little – notably the fruit woman motif, and some of the religious references. You could be forgiven at times for thinking that the story was set in a time rather earlier than the 80s – contemporary references apart, life between its pages has a naïvety and simplicity that makes you think 1950s. And talking about naïvety, I was on entirely the wrong track about Helen at the beginning – for a while, I thought her a slightly unworldly teen, and was surprised to find out about her time at university and that her actual age was twenty-seven.
But any minor niggles were far outweighed by the elements I enjoyed once I immersed myself in the story. While “quirky” can sometimes have me running for the hills, there’s no better word to convey the overall feel of this book. As a portrait of a family at close quarters, it’s just perfect – a series of vividly drawn set pieces, every character richly detailed. I particularly loved the grandmother – and all the little touches of detail that brought her to life, with all those wonderful phrases and declarations that all grans are known for. The constipation issues that dog the first part of the book – actual, not emotional – were so real, and extremely funny.
Although it could be said that not a lot happens, the story gets its narrative drive from the anticipation of the arrival of the final two guests, rising steadily in pitch as the moment approaches. The climax is in no way a disappointment – I certainly didn’t see it coming – but my major enjoyment was more from the observation of the character interplay and domestic detail that led to that point.
The writing is excellent – comfortable within the day-to-day but at times richly descriptive, filled with unusual metaphors, and with phrases and expressions that sometimes surprised, often delighted. At 170 pages, this was a short novel – and in part, I think that’s another reason it worked so well. Every word needed to be carefully chosen, every scene count. I might have had my few small reservations, but overall I really enjoyed this one.
About the author
I am a hybrid writer, which means I have been published in a variety of different ways; traditionally, by small press and now independently, or self-published.
I’ve been writing novels for over thirty years. Some of my book are available in paperback and all are available as e-books.
Social networking sites and writing sites have opened up a whole new world to me and introduced me to some great new writers and books I wouldn’t otherwise have discovered.
I love cats, singing, photography, music and LFC. I’m also an avid keyboard warrior, campaigning against social injustice.
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