As the threads of their lives unravel … they find magic under their feet…
When Sam falls in love with South London thug Derek, and Anne’s best friend Kathleen takes her own life, they discover they are linked not just by a world of drugs and revenge; they also share the friendship of the uncanny and enigmatic Deborah.
Seamstress, sailor, story-teller and self-proclaimed centenarian immortal, Deborah slowly reveals to Anne and Sam her improbable, fantastical life, the mysterious world that lies beneath their feet and, ultimately, the solution to their crises.
With echoes of Armistead Maupin and a hint of magic realism, Attend is a beautifully written, darkly funny, mesmerisingly emotive and deliciously told debut novel, rich in finely wrought characters that you will never forget.
Hi and welcome to my review of Attend!
Attend was Orenda Books editor West Camel’s debut with Orenda Books last year, which he submitted under a pseudonym because he didn’t want anyone to know it was his manuscript. Naturally, it got accepted, and people have been raving about it ever since. I finally got around to reading it, all the while kicking myself for waiting so long (especially considering the fact that I bought it shortly after its publication date), but hey that’s what #Orentober is for!
The cover of Attend is another masterpiece by kid-ethic: West has woven an intricate, magical tapestry, starting with three threads, Anne, Sam, Deborah. At first, I felt like I was standing in front of the tapestry, too close to it to really see and appreciate it. I saw the separate threads and I could look up, down, left and right and I knew there was a lot more to it but I couldn’t see it properly. And then a funny thing happened: the more I read, the further I stepped away from the tapestry and I could see more and more of it, but at the same time, I also got closer, drawn into it, like a teeny tiny thread was me and I was woven into the tableau…
Forty-five year-old Anne used to be a scaghead, a heroin addict. She’s been away from Deptford, getting her bearings, getting herself back on track. And now she’s back, hoping she’ll be able to mend things with her mum and her daughter, hoping for a chance to be a grandmother to her daughter’s baby boy. However, drugs have ruined not only her relationships but also her self-esteem and being back is not all she’d hoped it would be.
Sam is some twenty years younger than Anne, and not an ex-addict, but just as lost. He’s not been in Deptford for long when he meets Derek and falls head over heels for him. This could easily have descended into insta-love, but somehow doesn’t. Instead, we are treated to a multi-layered and somewhat troubled relationship between two possibly star-crossed lovers.
Deborah is very, VERY old and convinced she can’t die. She befriends both Anne and Sam, separately, and she tells them, and us, about her life, and the motif and needlework that have determined the course of her life so unexpectedly.
When I was reviewing The Lying Room the other day, I told you how there were just so many scenes that felt like too much of a coincidence and I was constantly rolling my eyes, thinking things like: oh sure, naturally. There are a few of those coincidences in Attend. But instead of rolling my eyes and sighing, I was thrilled! I lit up, thinking things like “oh yes that’s right, he could, ‘cos he knows how to *spoiler deleted here*!!” and I was genuinely happy! This is what happens when you truly care about the people you’re reading about, when you want them to be well and happy, and you want things to work out for them. I dare you to read Attend and not fall in love with Anne, Sam, Derek, and especially Deborah.
Attend is a somewhat bleak story, yet imbued with magic and hope. I thoroughly enjoyed this frankly impressive debut and I’m very happy to report that West is working on his next novel!
Want more? Click on West for an extract from Attend or on the trailer below!