Monday, 7 December 2015

The Drowning of Arthur Braxton by Caroline Smailes (4.5/5)

First published: 2013
Page count: 385
The back says: An urban fairy tale from the acclaimed author of 99 Reasons Why.

Arthur Braxton runs away from school.

He hides out in an abandoned building, an old Edwardian bathhouse.

He discovers a naked woman swimming in the pool.

From this point on, nothing will ever be the same.
The Drowning of Arthur Braxton is an unflinching account of the pain and trauma of adolescence and of how first love can transform the most unhappy of lives into something miraculous. It is a dark and brooding modern fairy tale from one of our most gifted writers.

I say: I cannot believe I waited this long to read this, especially since I love Smailes.

But there you go...

I’m not even sure what to say about this novel because it blends together so many different genres in such a perfect way it confuses me. It’s like taking the best elements of different types of candy you somewhat like and mixing them together into a delicious cake.

Yes, pretty much like that.

If it weren’t for that dreadful thing called work I would have finished this in one sitting, but alas, we must make money to pay for the books we love. There was a sense of foreboding from the moment Arthur entered The Oracle – the bathhouse - but not in the usual overbearing way, but languorous enough to give me time to ponder different explanations as to how Delphina, the naked girl, came to be there, and how the story would end. Arthur himself didn’t really interest me that much, and that is probably because he was a rather self-centred teenage boy, but I was still engrossed in his journey. Yes, he disappointed me – as teenagers always tend to do – but the attempt at redemption lessened my annoyance. 

However, a few years before we even get to Arthur and Delphina, we meet Laurel, a teenaged girl who gets a job working as a receptionist in The Oracle for three water healers. Hers is a sad story reminiscent of the protagonists in Smailes’ previous novels Black Boxes and In Search of Adam, and because I love tragic characters I found myself in love with her most of all.


The novel is described as modern fairy tale and I didn’t even like fairy tales when I was a kid, which is why it took me so long to read it, but like I said in the beginning; it’s the combination of several different genres that made me like this; a little fairy tale, a bit troubled youth novel, a portion Greek tragedy, and a dash of Tom Stoppard as Samuel Beckett with the two old men talking nonsense.

4.5/5 because although I loved the different styles in which it was written, Arthur was a bit too much for me. 

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