Review: ‘Beautiful Things’ by Eloise Kelly

Beautiful Things: Travel and tell no-one. Live Happily and tell no-one. People ruin beautiful things.

Genre: Literary fiction

Description: Part of the Amazon blurb for this book (the most interesting part) tells us: “Beautiful Things is a very practical fairytale, weaving folk myths with the hard cold modern reality of poverty, abuse, and the desperation of being trapped in “the system”. It is about trying to halt time, trap shadows and escape chains. It is also a more primal story of blood, fire, and sacrifice. Spend some time with broken people in the lonely Scottish landscape, and question what it is to be free.”

Kate is travelling around Scotland on her own, when she nearly runs over a young girl calling herself Grace. They begin to travel together on a ‘manyana’ sort of basis. Their tour is disturbed, on a number of levels, when they meet Alex, a local landscape photographer.

The blurb also tells us: “Grace soon finds herself drawn into Kate’s endearing but isolated existence, creating short-lived sculptures in lonely parts of the landscape. However, their relationship is extremely precarious. Whilst Grace becomes increasingly fond and trustful of her rescuer, she also reveals herself to be disturbingly delinquent and manipulative. Meanwhile Kate seems to be struggling physically and mentally somehow, and not just with the burden of looking after Grace.”

Author: I could find nothing out about the author at all.

Appraisal: I was blown away by this. I don’t expect to read a better story this year. It reminded me strongly of Ali Smith’s Autumn. I was entranced by the ephemeral art works Kate leaves scattered around the Scottish landscape, and in awe of her artistic and DIY skills. I was fascinated by the nuggets of apparently random information dropped into the book by the author through Kate (which are not random at all, one soon begins to realise). I was intrigued by the back stories (very gradually teased out) of Kate and Grace, which lead to their meeting. My heart ached for the life experiences of each of them. I feared for each of them in turn. It transpired that I feared for the wrong one. I am seldom misled in this way, so I even sort-of enjoyed that novel experience. The story is well-structured, well-plotted and the characters are first rate.

I’ve spent time in some of the parts of Scotland in which the book is set, researching a book of my own. So, of course, that enriched the story for me. I know something of Dunbeath (it has a castle, which is why I was there, and the statue of ‘Kenn and the Fish’ to which Kelly refers, famously commemorates local author Neil Gunn). And I know a little of Ullapool (at midsummer when for a couple of weeks it is never truly dark – they call it the ‘simmer dim’). It is wonderful up there. I recommend retracing this journey (possibly in less ramshackle transport) to anyone.

FYI: there are numerous typos and infelicities missed at editing. Normally I would deduct a star for this, but the story is SO GOOD it still gets 5*s from me. As the book is only available on Kindle it would be A Good Thing if author or publisher would please sort out the infelicities so that everyone can enjoy this good work even more …

NB: Review originally prepared for Big Al & Pals. Received a complementary review copy.

Published by Judi Moore

Hi there, I hope you find something to interest you here. In December 2017 I published my fourth book – ‘Wonders will never cease’. It’s a satirical campus novel set in the fictional Ariel University in 1985. If you enjoyed Tom Sharpe’s Porterhouse novels, Willy Russell’s ‘Educating Rita’, David Lodge’s campus novels or Malcolm Bradbury’s ‘The History Man’ back in the day, you may enjoy revisiting the ivory towers of 1980s’ academe thirty years on. See what you think. “It is December, 1985. The year is winding gently towards its close until Fergus Girvan, a Classicist at Ariel University, finds his research has been stolen by the man who is also seeking to steal his daughter. But which man is, actually, the more unscrupulous of the two? And is there hope for either of them?” In the autumn of 2015 I published a volume of short fiction: 'Ice Cold Passion and other stories'. I am also the author of novella 'Little Mouse', a shortish piece of historical fiction which I published in 2014 and, a sequel to it, 'Is death really necessary?', my eco thriller set in the near future and which, confusingly, I published in 2009. All the books are available from all good online bookshops and FeedARead on paper, and as e-books on Kindle. On a semi-regular basis, and about a month after the event, I post here reviews which I do for Big Al & Pals, the premier reviewer of indie books, based in the States. My interests tend to thrillers, SF, magic realism and other quirky stuff. On this blog are also posted the reviews I did for Leighton Buzzard Music Club over some five years up to the end of 2015. LBMC present annual seasons of eight monthly chamber music concerts at the Library Theatre in Leighton Buzzard, Bucks. They select young musicians just beginning to make their name - and the concerts are usually magnificent. I was very proud to be associated with them. I review other music, books, theatre and exhibitions which I've particularly enjoyed.

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