Tuesday 21 February 2012

Blood Red Road by Moira Young: Review by Lynda Waterhouse

I was predisposed to like this book and its author, Moira Young, even before I had bought my copy.

Here are my reasons:

In her acknowledgements Moira Young thanks Elizabeth Hawkins ‘who showed the way.’ Moira had attended one of Elizabeth’s Writing for Children classes at City Lit. I attended one of Elizabeth’s classes and it was from this experience that Islington Writers for Children sprang and the group still follows Elizabeth’s structure for hearing work in progress and giving constructive feedback. This can be a gruelling process but it teaches you to be analytical and to persevere. Moira describes eloquently her struggle to find the right voice and rhythm for this story. Finding a rhythm and tuning in to the beat of a story is one of the most satisfying experiences for both the reader and the writer in me.

I was also drawn to the book because Moira was not an apple-cheeked recent graduate from the creative writing course of life but a ‘woman of a certain age’ who had been an actress, worked the alternative comedy circuit in the 1980s, and enjoyed a spell as a tap dancing chorus girl and an opera singer. She then finds herself the subject of a bidding war with one publisher resorting to hiring tame crows to win her favour and Ridley Scott snapping up the film rights. Add one inevitable churlish book review from a quality newspaper and this woman of a certain age was set fair to like this novel.

The story tells of Saba’s quest to find her twin brother Lugh who was snatched by four horsemen. On her journey through the dusty dystopian landscape with her kid sister Emmi and her tame crow Nero she encounters an array of nasty and violent situations and surreal characters. She finds herself forced to become a cagefighter called The Angel of Death and she fights hellworms and her own growing attraction and love for Jack. The story races along at a cracking pace and Saba speaks in her own distinctive voice. The rhythm and the imagery of the story are redolent of the cowboy movie genre with a bit of Mad Max thrown in for good measure. I did get a bit exhausted with the pace and sketchiness of some of the scenes towards the end which felt more like a film treatment than a novel but overall this is an exciting read and a sparkling debut.

Blood Red Road will lead a new generation to discover the classic cowboy films of John Ford and the post apocalyptic novel Riddley Walker by Russell Hoban.


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