I’ll say, ‘Why don’t you just kill me?’
Show me a book with a modern take on Greek mythology and I’ll happily give it a whirl but add in an exceedingly good cover, an attention-grabbing blurb and a recommendation from one Miss Carrie Hope Fletcher and I’ll add it to the top of my TBR list! Chosen to kick-start my reads of 2017 is The Drowning of Arthur Braxton.
Life is hard for Arthur Braxton. His mum has just walked out on the family and his dad is now in the middle of an existential crisis. He keeps getting bullied at school and girls won’t give him the time of day. One day, playing truant, Arthur comes across the old Oracle – a disused and abandoned bathhouse. Upon entering, he comes to realise that not only can anything happen but that his life will never be the same again…
In The Drowning of Arthur Braxton Smailes takes the pain and uncertainty of adolescence and mixes it with the drama and violence of Greek mythology. In any other hands this book would have been a disaster but with Smailes ingenious writing and intriguing narrative, it is an utter triumph.
The story of Laurel, Arthur, Silver, Delphina, Maddie, Madam Pythia, Kester and Pollock is a unique and ethereal tale, grounded in the today. Juxtaposing reality with mythology, gritty urban landscapes with the otherworldly, The Drowning of Arthur Braxton is a multi-narrative story about first love and finding your place in the world.
The woven mythology in the narrative (particularly reworked stories of Apollo and Delphine, Castor and Pollux, Medea and Jason) is effortless and works wonderfully well within the world of Arthur Braxton. It’s a weird, strange and addictive story that will definitely divide readers but, if you are willing to be completely transported into the world of The Oracle, it will reward you with a unique tale and thought-provoking reading experience.
You can probably tell that I loved this book and raced through it, mainly because it surprised me. I wasn’t expecting to be gripped and enthralled by The Drowning of Arthur Braxton. It’s a book that lingers and stays with you long after the cover has been closed. It will be a firm fixture on my bookshelves for many a reread and was a fab first read of my new year!
(Also, writing under the name Caroline Wallace, Smailes’ next book The Finding of Martha Lost is out this March and it sounds just as fantastic – I can’t wait! Lucky for me, my birthday is around that time…)