It’s a real pleasure today to be adding my voice to the blog tour for Someone Close To Home by Alex Craigie, published in December 2016, available both in paperback and for kindle (also available via Kindle Unlimited). My thanks to Anne at Random Things Tours for the invitation to join the tour.
If you’re a regular reader, this book might just look familiar – I first read and reviewed it back in September of last year, just before attending the Narberth Book Fair, wanting to give some publicity to some of the authors I knew would be attending. I really never expected that I’d find the book so stunning. It made such an impression that I included it in my Books of the Year list for 2019, and it thoroughly deserved its place.
When I met Alex at the book fair – and made a treasured and supportive new friend – she told me she’d printed off my review and stuck it on her fridge. Well, her fridge really does deserve to be plastered with delighted reviews: it’s an absolute pleasure to repeat mine today, in the hope it encourages others to try her quite wonderful writing.
Talented pianist Megan Youngblood has it all – fame, fortune and Gideon.
But Gideon isn’t good enough for Megan’s ambitious, manipulative mother, whose meddling has devastating repercussions for Megan and for those close to her.
Now, trapped inside her own body, she is unable to communicate her needs or fears as she faces institutional neglect in an inadequate care home.
And she faces Annie. Sadistic Annie who has reason to hate her. Damaged Annie who shouldn’t work with vulnerable people.
Just how far will Annie go?
Someone Close To Home is a story of love, malice and deadly menace.
This book was a real surprise – quite beautifully written, telling a compelling and disturbing story, with the most stunning characterisation. The book opens with Megan watching the clock, dreading what is to come, taking in her surroundings, and remembering the damage her mother did to her life. And from there, the story gently alternates – Megan looking back on significant moments through her life, and the present day in a care home where threat and danger steadily escalates.
Megan’s history is fascinating, sometimes shocking, and has the vividness of a memoir – her manipulative and selfish mother, her refuge in childhood friendship with Gideon, her life as a concert pianist, her horrendous marriage, the support of friends – but the story always returns to the home in the present day, where she is desperately vulnerable, unable to move or speak following a stroke.
Life within the home is astonishingly real, and fortunately outside my experience – but the portrayal of the various “carers”, the good, the bad and the indifferent, is exceptional. And then there’s Annie, with whom she shares some history – cruel, sadistic, slightly unhinged, in a position of power and with a score to settle. Heavens, she’s terrifying – her return to the home is awaited through much of the book, and the reality is perhaps worse than the anticipation.
In many ways, this book defies categorisation. There’s powerful social comment with the theme of institutional neglect, inadequate supervision, underpaid carers doing the minimum possible and forgetting that those in their care are individuals, carelessness veering into appalling cruelty – and that scenario, based on inescapable reality, then acquires an edge of terror. It’s impossible not to have an extreme emotional response – but it’s never overplayed. It’s undoubtedly right to describe the book as literary fiction, but there’s romance there too, and domestic drama – and a mounting and inescapable tension worthy of the best psychological thriller.
There were times I had to put the book down, when everything became too much to bear – and that only testifies to the tremendous strength of the writing. The author has the ability to make you feel, and feel deeply – both the rare moments of joy and pleasure (yes, there are a few) and a despair and impotence about every casual act of cruelty. Her descriptive powers are exceptional, a strong sense of place with the most powerful imagery, involving all the senses – and there’s a strong contrast between Megan’s former lifestyle of the rich and famous and the detailed descriptions of The Yews, her life confined within a down-at-heel room with broken furniture and within the constraints of her own body.
The ending, when it came, really took me by considerable surprise: the pace suddenly increases, and it made my heart beat considerably faster. Is it ultimately uplifting? I’m not really sure, when so much has gone before. But I do know that this was a remarkable book that everyone should add to their reading list – I’d recommend it without reservation.
I’m delighted to report that Alex has recently published a new book – Acts of Convenience – also available in both paperback and for kindle and via Kindle Unlimited. Frustratingly, I just haven’t had the opportunity to read it yet – but I’m very much looking forward to doing so within the next couple of months. Here’s some more detail:
Imagine a near future where old age and chronic problems are swept away with expedient legislation.
I know; it’s an unlikely scenario.
However, it’s a scenario in which Cassie Lincoln finds herself.
It’s a scenario that compels her to take action.
It’s a scenario that leads to despair and danger.
About the author
Alex Craigie was ten when her first play was performed at school. It was in rhyming couplets and all she can remember about it is that:
- it was written in pencil in a book with weights and measures on the back
- the two heroes were Prince Rupert and his brother (whose name was changed to Sam to facilitate the rhyming process.)
- as writer, producer and director she ‘bagged’ the part of female lead.
When her children were young, she wrote short stories for magazines and since then has fulfilled her ambition to write a novel.
Someone Close to Home has won two ‘Chill with a Book’ awards – The Reader’s Award and the Book of the Month Award.
Alex lives in a small village in Pembrokeshire, Wales, and knows that she and her husband are lucky to have their children and grandchildren living nearby. It’s often chaotic and noisy but these are her most treasured moments and she savours them – even if she’s reduced to an immovable heap after they’ve gone.
As an independent author, without a big publishing machine behind her, she is very grateful to all the people who have found and bought her first book – and a huge thank you to those who’ve gone out of their way to write a review on Amazon or Goodreads. These reviews make a massive difference to ‘Indies’ and the positive ones encourage other readers to risk buying a copy.
What else can she say? Nothing, really. Writing this personal promotion has been very, very hard and she needs to go away now and lie down in a darkened room, preferably with a big bar of chocolate…
She looks forward to any contact from fellow lovers of books and any honest feedback is very welcome. You can reach her by email: firstname.lastname@example.org.