London 2014. Holly Smith has never fitted in. Adopted when just a few months old, she's always felt she was someone with no history, the girl who just appeared. All she has is the address of where she was born - 32B Gambier Terrace, Liverpool. By a bizarre twist of fate Holly discovers that the flat is available to rent. She travels north and moves in. When she finds a biscuit tin full of yellowing papers under the floorboards, she wonders if this might hold the secret to her past.Liverpool 1981. Fifteen-year-old Darren negotiates life with his errant mother and the younger brother he is bringing up. When the Toxteth Riots explode around him Darren finds himself with a moral dilemma that will have consequences for the rest of his life.Flitting between the present and the past, we discover how Darren and Holly's lives become intertwined. Will Holly uncover the secrets of her past? Or will she always feel like the girl who just appeared?
The Girl Who Just Appeared by Jonathan Harvey was published on 17 July 2014 by Pan MacMillan, and is the author's third novel.
Holly Smith doesn't really like her life. She feels as though it's been a non-event, she can't even decide who would play her in a film of her life. Holly was adopted, her parents were older than all the others at the school gates, she didn't have much of a relationship with them.
She doesn't have much of a relationship with her boyfriend Jude either, and her boss is an absolute nightmare. When her adoptive mother dies, Holly does something unexpected. She's kept that scrap of paper with her birth mother's name and address for many years .... she's finally going to do something about it, she's going to discover who she really is.
Boyfriend dumped. Boss slapped, house-share terminated. Holly takes the train to Gambier Terrace, Liverpool, determined that she will, at last, find out who she really is.
When Holly discovers an old tin, full of yellowing papers, the story really starts to begin, and the reader is taken back to 1981 when Liverpool is in the grip of the Toxteth riots.
I really enjoy dual time narrative, as long as they are done well, and Jonathan Harvey has pulled this technique off so well in The Girl Who Just Appeared. The story unfolds and flits between the present day and 1981 seamlessly, engaging the reader in both aspects.
Jonathan Harvey writes with a sharp wit, sometimes smutty humour and great warmth. His affection for his home city of Liverpool shines though, and although I'm not familiar with the streets of that city, he really does manage to bring the place alive.
There are some serious subjects, and some poignant moments in this story, and it would be easy to trivialise these with humour, but instead, Jonathan Harvey manages to avoid this with characters and dialogue that really work so well.
Very different to my usual read, but nonetheless, very enjoyable. Well written, warm and funny.
My thanks to Camilla from Pan Macmillan, who sent my copy for review.
Jonathan Harvey comes from Liverpool and is the multi award winning writer of the play and film Beautiful Thing, the Bafta nominated sitcom Gimme Gimme Gimme and Beautiful People (Best Comedy: Banff TV Festival). He is currently on the writing teams for both Coronation Street and Shameless. His other TV work includes Rev (Bafta, Best Sitcom), At Home With The Braithwaites, Lilies, The Catherine Tate Show and Murder Most Horrid. He has written 20 stage plays including Corrie!, Canary, Hushabye Mountain, Babies, Boom Bang A Bang and Rupert Street Lonely Hearts Club. He also wrote the 2001 stage musical Closer To Heaven with the Pet Shop Boys. His theatre work has won him an Evening Standard Award, two Manchester Evening News Awards, the George Devine Award and the John Whiting Award. But perhaps most telling of all he also won the Spacehopper Championships at Butlins Pwhelli in 1976.
Follow him on Twitter @JOJEHARVEY