20/03/2016

Dear Dad (by Giselle Green)

I’ve enjoyed all the books I’ve read by Giselle Green, so was delighted when she asked me if I would like to read a pre-publication review copy of her latest novel. I received the an edition that worked on my Kindle, and have been reading it avidly over the past week or so.

There are three main characters. Nate is the one we meet first; he’s a journalist who has worked as a war correspondent and is about to be given a special award for bravery. Unfortunately he can’t get to the award ceremony because he’s unable to leave the house: he’s developed a form of agoraphobia that leads to terrible panic attacks whenever he tries to go out.

Jenna is a young woman who’s trained as a teacher, but whose passion is tattoo art. We meet her as she arrives in the UK after the breakup of a relationship abroad. She lands on the doorstep of an old friend, but realises she has to find a place of her own. And to sign a rental agreement, she has to have a job… so, reluctantly, she takes on some supply teaching.

Adam is a nine-year-old boy in Year Four at the school where Jenna goes to work. She meets him in the hands of some bullies and realises he’s intelligent and likeable but also rather neglected. His connection with Nate is more unusual: Adam, a motherless boy who lives with his elderly grandmother,, is convinced that Nate is his father.

The story is told alternately by Jenna and Nate, and this works well in the early part of the story as we see their different perspectives, and eventual meeting. It was a little confusing at times later in the book when the point of view switches from one to the other when they’re together, but their names head the sections concerned so it was only a minor problem when I wasn’t concentrating.

The three storylines weave together gently; both Jenna and Nate want to help Adam, but he’s a catalyst for what happens to them, both separately and together. There’s an overriding theme about running away: Adam from the school bullies; Jenna from previous relationships, and from stresses in her past; Nate from fear of being out of control. Neither Nate nor Jenna know what they really want out of life. Adam’s desires are much more straightforward: he wants someone to listen to him, to look out for him, to watch him at Sports Day.

Adam got under my skin almost immediately, with his mixture of determination and vulnerability. He’s had to grow up fast as he takes on more and more care for his beloved Nan, but he has nobody to help him deal with the bullies. His school isn’t a bad one; the Head is trying to make a success of it, and sees his sports teams as most important, but the staff are busy, and quiet, neglected children such as Adam tend to get lost in the system. I hope the story will be eye-opening to those who are involved in schools, as this kind of thing may easily happen.

The writing is good, the pace just right for my tastes, although those who prefer fast action stories might find it a bit slow. There’s not a huge amount of plot, and the time-line is only a few weeks from start to finish. But from the point of view of the three main characters, major decisions are made, healing begins to happen in different ways, and new relationships are forged.

Perhaps there’s a tad more introspection than I’m comfortable with, and a few more speech tags than are needed - but these things really didn’t matter. The characters are believable, the situations moving, and there’s a dramatic climax which left me unable to put the book down for several minutes until I knew what was happening.

Highly recommended to anyone who likes thoughtful character-based women’s fiction.

Only available in Kindle form, as far as I know; official release date 31st March 2016.

Review by copyright 2016 Sue's Book Reviews

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