Bet you thought I’d be off for another 6 months. But no! I’m trying to be fairly disciplined, especially now I’ve got some new followers (shout out to the newbies) and, honour of honours, real live authors asking me to take a look at their new books. So today is the first in what I hope will be a long run of New Book Tuesdays. And maybe I’ll make Thursdays #tbt to some classic fiction….but lets not get ahead of ourselves. Which neatly brings us to the plot of my first piece of new fiction: Madam Tulip, by David Ahern.
DISCLAIMER: It’s only fair to say that although David kindly sent me a copy, and I’m full of latent admiration for anyone who can write over a page of anything, never mind a whole book, my opinions are my own and I’ll give an honest review. So, if I think it’s terrible, I’m not going to spare David’s, or any other authors, feelings too much.
Happily for all (because let’s be honest here, people, I’m British, and the idea of not sparing someone’s feelings is the equivalent of a grenade’s worth of awkwardness from which I’m not happy to pull the pin), I don’t think it’s terrible . Madam Tulip is pretty good.
Madam Tulip is about an underemployed actress in Ireland who, in order to make a wee bit of extra cash, goes into the celebrity fortune telling business. She has one big factor in her favour: she really does have ‘the sight’. However, stroppy supermodels, loopy relations, shady horse traders and South American nee’r do wells soon pull her in over her head and before she knows it she’s in the middle of a situation that is far more dangerous and unpredictable than her tarot cards could have foreseen.
I read this in about two nights. The second night I kept reading until the end, ignoring the sensible part of my brain which screamed ‘GO TO BED CAITLIN YOU’RE WORKING TOMORROW’! Take it from me, Madam Tulip is eminently readable. The plot, to quote Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman, corners like it’s on rails, and I was hooked from the minute it kicked into gear. Having said that though, it does take a wee while to set the scene, so hang on for the first 50 pages or so, and there will definitely be a pay off.
I like most of the modern Irish fiction I’ve read – I’ve never managed to get my head around Ulysses mind you – .but my pet peeve is there is almost always a stereotypically wacky Irish character, who’s a little bit dodgy, a wee bit unreliable, and mostly on the lam, but lovable nonetheless. Madam Tulip has one of these, and it did make me cringe a teeny bit when I bumped into him reeling out of a make believe pub somewhere in Dublin. I also tend to think that Colombians are served poorly when it comes to fictional portrayals and the example here is no different. I may go and read some South American fiction to iron the cliches out a little. These are my only peeves though. I thought all the characters were likable and felt like they filled out the spaces they inhabited well. Despite this being a straight up and down adventure thriller, there were still some sharp yet sympathetic stabs of dialogue which took a new look at what it must be like to be one of the beautiful people us mortals read about in Hello!. Not that I EVER read Hello!…… (lies. -ed.)
I also should say that, unlike many dark and twisty thrillers, this one doesn’t disappoint at the end with an overcooked surprise twist. It’s been well planned out and as a result the story feels balanced and satisfying despite, as I’ve said, a slightly overly long set up.
The ‘woo’ sections where Derry shows off her particular manifestation of ‘the sight’ (thank you mumsnet for my favorite description of paranormal occurrences ever) are spooky enough to give a bit of a bite without ever tipping over into pure horror. Think ‘The Craft’ rather than ‘The Blair Witch Project’, 90’s teen film fans. I also liked the fact that the author tries, and succeeds, in making something quite fantastical down to earth and rooted in Derry’s day to day experience.
I’m not going to pretend that this book changed my world. It’s not deep, it’s not meaningful, and it does involve high speed motor boat chases, which I think you’ll agree can’t be sniffed at. I will say that it gave me a wee holiday from reality which was very much welcome. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it and I would recommend it for a beach near you come the summer holidays.
Because I’m fairly new at this whole blogging game, I completely forgot to ask about the publishing date or where Madam Tulip will be available. So here’s a link to David Ahern’s website – check in there for more details of where you can get a copy in time for the summer holidays or annoying delays at the train station. www.davidahern.info
Next New Book Tuesday I’ll be taking a look at the first of The Firebird Chronicles. The author signed the book, sent a bookmark…AND… a postcard of one of the illustrations. It’s lucky I’m not a shallow person otherwise my head would have been quite turned.
PS Newbie G – I think you’d like this one! I’ll pass it on when I see you x