A Year of Orenda – I Am Dust by Louise Beech

Ah … This book. I really really wanted to read this book and I really, really wanted to like it … A huge thank you to Orenda Books for gifting a very early copy of the book for me to devour. And devour I did as I read it in just one evening. This book is one of the reasons that Mandie and I are so committed to the Year of Orenda – they just bring the magic. Here’s what it’s all about:

Source: Advance Reader Copy

About the Book

When iconic musical Dust is revived twenty years after the leading actress was murdered in her dressing room, a series of eerie events haunts the new cast, in a bewitching, beguiling and terrifyingly dark psychological thriller…

The Dean Wilson Theatre is believed to be haunted by a long-dead actress, singing her last song, waiting for her final cue, looking for her killer…

Now Dust, the iconic musical, is returning after twenty years. But who will be brave enough to take on the role of ghostly goddess Esme Black, last played by Morgan Miller, who was murdered in her dressing room?

Theatre usher Chloe Dee is caught up in the spectacle. As the new actors arrive, including an unexpected face from her past, everything changes. Are the eerie sounds and sightings backstage real or just her imagination? Is someone playing games?

Is the role of Esme Black cursed? Could witchcraft be at the heart of the tragedy? And are dark deeds from Chloe’s past about to catch up with her?

Not all the drama takes place onstage. Sometimes murder, magic, obsession and the biggest of betrayals are real life. When you’re in the theatre shadows, you see everything.

And Chloe has been watching…

Available from: Amazon | Kobo | Waterstones | Googleplay | Apple Books

My Thoughts

Wow. What the heck was that? I don’t really know what I was expecting when I picked up I Am Dust, but it was not that. I’m one of those weird people who rarely reads blurbs for books, especially if they are by an author whose work I trust, and so I really was going into reading blind. I knew it was set around a theatre and that was about it. I certainly didn’t expect to be so caught up in the book that I read for six straight hours. It was the first book I have read in a long while where, no matter how tired I thought I was, the need to sleep was held entirely at bay until I had turned the last virtual page on my kindle. It was just one of those kinds of reads and now I am worried that I cannot find the words to do it justice.

This is the story of Chloe who works as an Usher in the Dean Wilson theatre, the theatre that was made famous by the extraordinarily ill-fated run of the new musical, Dust. The show never made it past its fourth performance when the show’s star was found dead in her dressing room. When it is announced that the musical will have a brand new run, starting at the theatre on the twentieth anniversary of its premiere, everyone is excited. Apart from Chloe. Although this was the very show that gave her the love of the theatre, there is something about the idea that worries her, a kind of premonition or sense of a bad omen surrounding the show. And boy is there ever.

Now I really don’t want to say too much more about the book as I think you really need to read it, to experience it, for yourself, but believe me when I say that for all the beauty and imagery that we know Louise Beech can bring to her novels, she has created something really special here. Something very different to the kinds of stories you are used to reading, but equally as emotional, impactful and absolutely absorbing as anything I have read by her.

I loved the setting of the theatre and, with her own experiences to hand, she has recreated that whole vibe of the backstage life perfectly. Most people are used to the glitz and glamour they see up on the stage, but having grown up in and around theatre myself, working in all manner of roles from appearing onstage, to working backstage helping dress the cast, and being up in the lighting box helping with spotlights and lighting cues, there was so much I recognised about the kinds of things that Louise Beech was describing. It made it feel so real. And the whole idea of a cursed or haunted theatre, whilst not entirely new as most old theatres have a legend or two attached to them about some tragic thesp or two, is given a whole new lease of life here, so to speak, with a story that will chill and excite in equal measure.

Louise Beech captures that whole ethereal vibe in the theatre perfectly. There is always an underlying tension in the story, a sense of something otherworldly, even when nothing much seems to be happening. And Chloe’s connection to it all is quite intense but it was exactly that which kept me glued to the page. And then you have the other side of the story, of Chloe’s past and her last summer with two friends at a summer Youth Theatre group. They are putting on a production of ‘The Scottish Play’, quite apt in the circumstances, but Chloe, along with Jess and Ryan, do far more than just tread the boards that summer and it is exactly what comes to inform the rest of the book in truly dramatic and skin crawling style. The intensity that the author packs into those pages, the eerie tension in every scene, as well as the fraught and strained relationship between the friends, is just sublime.

You do need to suspend disbelief I suppose in as much as this is a kind of ghost story. But it is a ghost story with a twist. It is a heady mixture without a doubt – part young adult story, part love story, part gothic ghostly styled murder mystery, and I loved it. This is the story of ambition, greed, unrequited love, jealousy and forgiveness and as much as parts of the story may set you on edge, the ending will bring tears to your eyes, beautifully simple and emotional in that quiet and understated way that Ms Beech excels at. A floating, lyrical, almost mystical read that is simply stunning.

And yes … it is getting one of these – my red hot reads badge. In fact it has to be strong contender for my book of the year.

About the Author

Louise Beech is an exceptional literary talent, whose debut novel How To Be Brave was a Guardian Readers’ Choice for 2015. The follow-up, The Mountain in My Shoe was shortlisted for Not the Booker Prize. Both of her previous books Maria in the Moon and The Lion Tamer Who Lost were widely reviewed, critically acclaimed and number-one bestsellers on Kindle. The Lion Tamer Who Lost was shortlisted for the RNA Most Popular Romantic Novel Award in 2019. Her short fiction has won the Glass Woman Prize, the Eric Hoffer Award for Prose, and the Aesthetica Creative Works competition, as well as shortlisting for the Bridport Prize twice. Louise lives with her husband on the outskirts of Hull, and loves her job as a Front of House Usher at Hull Truck Theatre, where her first play was performed in 2012.

Author Links: Twitter | Website

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Books By Louise Beech

7 thoughts on “A Year of Orenda – I Am Dust by Louise Beech

  1. Sadly, they’d run out of copies of this by the time I went to buy it when we were in Southwell. I did pick up Call Me Star Girl instead, and had a long chat with Louise – so that made up for it. But I have heard great things about this one, so I’ll have to add it to my Kindle. Great review, BTW!

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    1. Thank you. It’s a great book, just pulled me right in and that is a rare tome to do that these days. Definitely one of my favourites and I absolutely loved Lion Tamer

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