The plot (in a spoiler-free nutshell): Finn Garvie is serious about his art but struggling for inspiration and thinks that his work is crap, as he thinks pretty much everything in his life is. Which annoys Finn because he is better than everyone who seem to have it easier than him. Then he meets the girl who becomes his muse, Kassia, and Carvaggio, his idol, the Carvaggio, who Finn believes can help him unlock his gifts to the world. A cast of characters whose paths cross cross into a tangled web seemingly conspire against Finn and his important work, in a wickedly funny story.
The author: Helen Taylor, debut novelist with a background in medicine – which shines through towards the end of the book with a squeamishly vivid hospital scene.
It’s a bit like…a dark Jonas Jonasson novel (if we forget about his third one for a moment)
You should read it if…you like seeing an author taking the piss out of someone who is up their own arse and can laugh without needing cues.
You shouldn’t read it if…you feel you have to love and admire, or even like, a protagonist in order to enjoy a novel.
The best bit: Tuesday and Kassia, who manage to out-sass each other throughout the novel and are so fleshed out that they could easily each have a novel of their own about them.
Book hangover severity: I want to read Helen Taylor’s next book yesterday.
Bonus points for…writing about drug addicts and prostitutes with compassion and minimum seediness, giving a rarely heard voice to people so often shit on by society.
Final thoughts: To quote Finn himself, this novel was ‘unbelievable, incredible and all those other words that meant the same thing, and at the same time, completely, utterly and exactly as it should be.’
The Backstreets of Purgatory was published on 12th July 2018 by Unbound. Thank you to Helen Taylor, Unbound and NetGalley for the ARC
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