Tuesday 25 August 2015

Winell Road: Beneath the Surface

Winell Road: Beneath the Surface by Kate Foster (Jet Black Publishing)  PB RRP $32  ISBN:  9780994318725 

Reviewed by Elaine Harris

Although it is not the norm to introduce the reviewer before the book, in this instance I hope you will permit an exception.

I accepted the challenge to review Kate Foster’s debut novel simply because it was a challenge. Excepting Terry Pratchett and some early Jackie French, I have read little or no sci-fi – and they might be better described as fantasy and cross-over respectively, although labels can be misleading. In other words, apart from the UFO mentioned in the blurb, I had absolutely no idea what to expect.

Winell Road: Beneath the Surface is great fun, well-paced – you need those few thinking spaces provided – and full of the unexpected. There is a complex mystery to solve as well as a quest to fulfill. Not only that, but the action begins in the opening paragraph.

My first reaction was: is the language in this book clichéd? No. It might be considered so if it were a straightforward narrative; However, in spite of being written largely in the third person, what the author is doing here is telling the story through the thoughts, words and actions of the protagonist, Jack Mills. You hear his voice, think his thoughts and share his doubts and concerns. Many authors aspire to this technique, not all succeed.

Despite the “Encounter” on page one, Jack is bored, bored, bored! His parents are boring; ditto the neighbours, as is his little dead-end street. All of this changes when Roxy moves in next door and the Freogans (pronounced free-o-gans) come to call.
As the story unfolds, you discover that Mum is a fanatical gardener as well as a cook rivalled only by Letitia Cropley in “The Vicar of Dibley”, while Dad is a mad inventor whose weird contraptions never sell. Or are they? You also learn to trust no-one and that nothing is what it seems.

This book will work wonderfully read aloud in class. There are enough cliff-hanger chapter endings to keep them begging for more. It will also promote discussion about making snap judgments while providing plenty of scope for related art projects.
Then there is the wordplay. The vocabulary is rich and varied without being off-putting. Winell Road is an anagram and there are other word puzzles scattered throughout the book. The author’s love of philology and etymology shines through without being intrusive; you can follow up as much or as little of it as you choose.

Kate Foster plans two or three sequels to the novel. I wish her the very best of luck.

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