Tuesday, 23 January 2018

Book Review: Guest by SJ Bradley

By SJ Bradley
Published by Dead Ink Books
Available in paperback & ebook

SJ Bradley's novel, Guest, follows Samhain, just as he is breaking into a hotel with his friend, to squat there to escape the horrendous squat they were previously living. This is what Samhain is good at - running away, escaping the truth, turning his back. This is the story of Samhain realising that only he can improve his life and also find out about his past.

Living in an abandoned hotel in the north of England with his bandmate, Samhain is young, angry and bewildered with life. Bradley has created a character and world where the details are authentic as she delves into the conditions that the characters live with dead mice in towels, nosey neighbours, the paranoia of being found by the authorities.

Samhain is free from responsibilities, living off grid and on the outskirts of society. Most days his only contact with the real world is his trip to the library to check his emails, and update his band's Myspace page and arrange the European tour. He is detached from his emotions, from his mother, moving on regularly, discarding or forgetting possessions. This is a character who is selfish, and stuck in his own bubble but Bradley has a way of keeping the reader intriguing in this character and the way he stumbles through life. The reader hopes that sooner rather than later he will see that he is the one who can change his life.

Finding out his father - left before Samhain could remember, abandoning him and his mother in a camp - was an undercover policeman who had infiltrated the Green Movement of the 80s. This secret if revealed would make him an outcast - noone wants to be associated with the cops.

Bradley explores the push and pull on our beliefs - Samhain wants to be free from social norms and have his voice heard against society but when he finds out he is also a father then his life is turned upside down. Trying to escape responsibilities, he runs off with his band to Europe but the guilt follows him and consumes his trip. This character seeks redemption, and does not want to become an absent father and let history repeat itself. The echoes of the past finally push a character into becoming active in his own life.

Guest is a intriguing story of disillusionment with society and with ourselves. You can buy Guest from your favourite bookshop.

I was kindly sent a copy from the author.

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