Aug 8, 2015 Books
This article first appeared in the July/August 2015 issue of Metro. Review by Pip Adam.
Starlight Peninsula is the latest incarnation of the world and characters of Charlotte Grimshaw’s earlier novels The Night Book and Soon. I’ve been trying to put my finger on the exact feeling I get from reading these books and I think it’s “thrill”. They happen in a place and time very close to here and now. Events and people are reproduced as unmistakable simulacra of their “real” counterparts.
Starlight Peninsula’s Kurt Hartmann made his money from a file-sharing service brought down by the Government Communications Security Bureau. He owns a “giant statue of a grazing giraffe” and wears black. Politicians are rich and charismatic and want power more than anything else. A kind and smart journalist is still on TV.
It’s thrilling for me to see the things that seem so wrong in this country coolly reflected in these books. The lack of outrage is also refreshing: any political agenda feels like it belongs to the characters, not the author. The books act like a mirror, perhaps the most powerful tool at this political moment of shouting and polling. The mirror won’t argue, can’t argue, just shows.
The other thrill of these books, and Starlight Peninsula in particular, is the craft of their storytelling.
Starlight Peninsula departs from the vantage point of the two previous books. Eloise Hay works on a current affairs show with the already-mentioned smart journalist, who “doesn’t smile, he beams”. The book still operates in the room of privilege but its characters are involved in the media, and one of its concerns is to ask, who is watching and what can they see?
Eloise is, in some ways, outside the circles of the previous books. We are limited to her experience, which is tangled in but obscured from key past events. A reader of the other two books often knows more than she does.
Watching events unfold in Starlight Peninsula from both inside and outside her understanding is an extremely exciting experience. Her real-time reflections of Simon Lampton as they discuss the death of Eloise’s ex-partner provided me with some of the most thrilling and nail-biting reading I’ve done.
There’s a storytelling pay-off to reading the books in the order in which they were published. But there’s an even greater pay-off in reading them as close as you can to the current events they reflect. If you haven’t read the others, I’d say start with Starlight Peninsula now.