Today I’m passing back the helm to Mandie who is sharing her thoughts on the beautiful Attend by West Camel. This was a surprise release from Orenda a couple of years ago – a surprise to Karen Sullivan too in the beginning as West slipped it into her reading pile under a pseudonym. I, for one, am very glad that he did, and that Karen loved it, as we’d all have been missing out if this has passed Orenda by. You can read my thoughts on the book here, but read on to find out what Mandie thought and to learn more about the book.
About the Book
A beautifully written, darkly funny, mesmerisingly emotive and deliciously told debut novel with echoes of Armistead Maupin…
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.
Attend is the story of three quite different people that are linked together. As a reader you can see the links, but they are only revealed to the characters quite late on. Anne is a recovering drug addict who has just returned to her home town to try to mend fences with her mother and daughter, Sam has recently moved into the area not sure what he wants to do with his life and Deborah, the person who links them together, well I am not actually sure how to describer her. She is someone who has lived a very long and interesting life and seems to move around Deptford unseen by most people with the exception of Sam and Anne.
Attend is such a different book from most that I have been reading this year and that is what makes it both exciting and enjoyable. With it being told from the viewpoints of the three main characters you get to learn so much about their lives with the chapters dedicated to Deborah telling us so much about her past. It is her stories that capture your attention the most as you wonder which parts are real and which are the confused memories of an elderly person. Out of the three of them it is Deborah that I took to the most and actually looked forward to her stories no matter if they were real or imagined. The friendships that develops between Sam and Deborah and Anne and Deborah are truly heart-warming and you can see that they all benefit from these unlikely pairings in different ways.
There is definitely an element to this book that has you wondering if everything is real… after all why do only Sam and Anne see Deborah, is there something mystical about her or is it just a reflection of the times, where some people truly are invisible to us, the ones we never see purely because we are so focused on our own lives.
No matter what the truth is this book is just brilliant and had me reading well into the night as I just wanted to read to the end of the next chapter (I even had to start using the dark mode on my kindle so that I could cram in the extra pages unnoticed). Once again Orenda has given its readers a book that will have them wondering for quite some time after they turn the final page and West Camel is certainly an author I look forward to reading more from
About the Author
Born and bred in south London – and not the Somerset village with which he shares a name – West Camel worked as an editor in higher education and business before turning his attention to the arts and publishing. He has worked as a book and arts journalist, and was editor at Dalkey Archive Press, where he edited the Best European Fiction 2015 anthology, before moving to new press Orenda Books just after its launch. He currently combines his
work as editor at Orenda Books with writing and editing a wide range of material for various arts organisations, including ghost- writing a New-Adult novel and editing The Riveter magazine for the European Literature Network. He has also written several short scripts, which have been produced in London’s fringe theatres, and was long listed for the Old Vic’s 12 playwrights project. Attend is his first novel.
Books by West Camel