Thursday, 7 April 2016

Review : The Truth About Julia by Anna Schaffner

Had Julia been seduced and corrupted by someone?
Was she simply evil?  Had her character been spoiled
and damaged by bad parenting?  Or was there a cold,
perhaps even sociopathic streak in her personality?

Published by : Allen & Unwin (Atlantic Books)
7 April 2016
Copy : Paperback - Received from Publisher
The Blurb

In June 2014, Julia White - a beautiful and intelligent young woman - blows up a coffee shop in central London, killing twenty-four people before turning herself in to the police. Apart from publishing a potentially ironic manifesto, she refuses to explain the reasons for her actions.

Clare Hardenberg, an investigative journalist, has been commissioned to write a biography of Julia but at the start of the novel she is on her way to prison herself. What has brought her to this point?

The Very Pink Notebook Review
This is a stunning debut novel by author Anna Schaffner.  I received an early copy of this book, along with a press release from the publisher.  After reading just the PR I could not wait to get started and I was not to be disappointed.
Throughout this book, we are taken on a journey with investigative journalist, Clare Hardenberg.  In actual fact we are taken on two, her own personal one and that which the title suggests, her search for The Truth About Julia, the young women who has committed a devastating act of terror.
Clare narrates the story by way of manuscript to her colleague (and ex-lover) George.  We discover she is writing it, at first, from a hospital mental ward, where she has been admitted prior to her transfer to prison.  Two huge plots then merge, gracefully into one tell-all story.  
It works brilliantly well.  The point of Clare writing the manuscript is to try and order everything in her own mind.  It lays the plot out, fully and simply, so George, her sister Amanda and niece Laura, can try to understand what brought her to the point in her life that made her commit a crime that has lead to her incarceration - she wants to provide the evidence so they can at least come up with their own version of the truth, because, as Clare eloquently points out : there are only ever versions of the truth.  And this is just one of the many things about the book the author does so well.  
From the outset I loved the way this novel was written, it is highbrow, intellectual (because the characters are all from such backgrounds) but not in a way that was hard work.  Anna Schaffner uses a myriad of rich language but not once did I find it overbearing or superfluous to the plot, never once did I find long words for the sake of long words, or the political / ethical / moral issues debated within the dialogue boring.  It moves along at a great pace and with such fluidity I found myself half way through the book in the first sitting.
Anna Schaffner has created characters who seem very real, I strangely felt like I knew each one better than I did - I got the feeling the author had spent a lot of time with them, thinking about each individual life, their history, their unique and personal viewpoint and Schaffner certainly managed to get that across, however small their part.  There are a lot of complex, sensitive issues and topics the plot covers and they were all done so with confidence and ownership.
I thought book on the whole was really quite unique and I thoroughly enjoyed what could have been an uncomfortable and gruelling read, but instead what insightful and thought-provoking.
I look forward to more from Anna Schaffner in the future.
I highly recommend this book and as such give it :
 I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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