Scrap Book by Carly Holmes

Review  Scrap Book

Scrap Book is a first novel by local writer Carly Holmes, known to many who attend the Cellar Bards where she sometimes reads her stories among the poetry. There are in fact moments in this very interesting book, when it seems to be about to break into poetry. The use of language, the structure of the sentences, the interesting pauses, and the one-liners create a rhythm and a timing that begs to be read aloud, and all of these qualities carry a reminder of poetry. Also, the plot can be seen in itself as rather reminiscent of  poetry in the sense that it is developed in a circular, outward spreading, non-linear way adding detail and experience, darting backwards and forwards in time, but equally staying in the same place, rather than in a plot driven novel in which the reader travels from A to B enabled by a series of events in between. Here in fact we stay with A where the examination of the relationship between three women, gran, mum and daughter, is carried out in the manner of the peeling of an onion. The character of Fern is the person we get close up to, she is the youngest of the three, and her experiences of love, not only as a lover herself, but also as something observed in others from a child’s perspective, make for fascinating insights. And of course there is already poetry in the book in the laying out of the spells, the graphic way of displaying that gran had magic on her side and may not always have been kind with her spells. When she creates a spell to send the married man away who has loved her daughter it seems she is successful, and though it is many years later that it is discovered, the response is, one feels, softened but  not altered by the time which has elapsed. It is as though the determined retention, and drawing into the present, the painful moments, in the three womens’ lives, means that they are on a permanent continuum to self-destruct, which cannot be broken and is sadly an observation that is relevant to many people. The spells throughout the book feel genuine, and whether they are, or whether they are designed for purpose does not matter, as they imbue the book with a sense of how magic, real or perceived, intended or unintended, changes things. Something of the island location also changes how one perceives things as they  happen and this is captured with a sure hand,  creating an atmosphere reminiscent of  Irish writer, Jennifer Johnston’s work, where the freedom from mainstream life carries its own paradox of claustrophobia. It is an engaging first novel exploring themes related to the eternal verities of life and how they are dealt with by the women; with lovely writing that has been captured and nailed to the page in case it takes flight into poetry.

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