Monday, November 28, 2011

♥♥♥♥♥♥: Alison Wonderland by Helen Smith

Release Date: August 16th, 2011
Publisher: AmazonEncore
Page Count: 189
Source: Complimentary ARC provided by Little Bird Publicity in exchange for an honest and unbiased review (thank you!)

"I need some information. Can you help me get it?"

"OK." I'm opening my post but I have a pen and pad ready.

"I need some statistics about which part of the country babies are abandoned most often, what time of year, and where to find them—outside hospitals or police stations or under hedges or in phone boxes."

"Oh, OK. Yes, of course." I move the phone receiver into my left hand and hold it against my left ear so that I can make some notes. Mad cow, I write.

After Alison Temple discovers that her husband is cheating on her, she does what any jilted woman would do: She spray-paints a nasty message for him on her wedding dress and takes a job with the detective firm that found him out. Being a researcher at the all-female Fitzgerald's Bureau of Investigation in London is certainly a change of pace from her previous life, especially considering the characters Alison meets in the line of duty. There's her boss, the estimable Mrs. Fitzgerald; Taron, Alison's eccentric best friend, who claims her mother is a witch; Jeff, her love-struck, poetry-writing neighbor; and—last but not least!—her psychic postman. Together, their idiosyncrasies and their demands on Alison threaten to drive her mad... if she didn't need and love them all so much. Clever, quirky, and infused with just a hint of magic, Alison Wonderland is a literary novel about a memorable heroine coping with the everyday complexities of modern life.
What Stephanie Thinks: I will say that Helen Smith, like all British literary novelists do, has a certain restless charm in her writing. For once though, I didn't totally fall in love with the story behind it.

Alison Wonderland's premise doesn't even sound terribly exciting; from the blurb, I hardly gain an understanding of what exactly, the plot and main point of the book are. After reading it, I still haven't gained a sense of them. Such a shame, because it's a completely readable novel. The prose is paradoxically both smooth in tone and choppy in structure. It sounds weird, but it fits well. Alison's insights are attentive, and her friends lively and distinguished. But the storyline is so erratic: random crimes occur and fantastical creatures appear, which I cannot relate to the book at all—and it overall makes for a confusing and tiresome read.

To sum this book up, I would say it's a bit of Sherlock Holmes meets Bridget Jones (obviously with a dash of Lewis Carroll as well!)... except a little less hilarious and a lot less sexy. However, in my opinion, the cleverness and conscience Smith discloses through her writing parallel with those of Doyle and Fielding, so it isn't all that bad of a read.

Stephanie Loves: "I stare out at the sea, trying to make out the horizon. I cannot see where the sea ends and the sky begins. The stars are very bright, a shower of electric lights. When I look back at the sea I can see the stars reflected in the water. I didn't notice them before; I only saw the blackness. I can't see where the sky ends and the sea begins."

Radical Rating: 6 hearts: Satisfying for a first read, but I'm not going back. ♥♥♥♥♥♥