Tuesday 21 August 2018

See You In September by Charity Norman @CharityNorman1 @ngaiomarshaward #yeahnoir #2018Ngaios

Cassy smiled, blew them a kiss.
'See you in September,' she said.
It was a throwaway line. Just words uttered casually by a young woman in a hurry. And then she'd gone.

It was supposed to be a short trip - a break in New Zealand before her best friend's wedding. But when Cassy waved goodbye to her parents, they never dreamed that it would be years before they'd see her again.
Having broken up with her boyfriend, Cassy accepts an invitation to stay in an idyllic farming collective. Overcome by the peace and beauty of the valley and swept up in the charisma of Justin, the community's leader, Cassy becomes convinced that she has to stay.
As Cassy becomes more and more entrenched in the group's rituals and beliefs, her frantic parents fight to bring her home - before Justin's prophesied Last Day can come to pass.
A powerful story of family, faith and finding yourself, See You in September is an unputdownable new novel from this hugely compelling author.

I'm delighted to be part of the Blog Tour for the Ngaio Marsh Awards 2018 with my review of See You In September by Charity Norman, published in the UK by Allen & Unwin in May 2017.

The Ngaio Marsh Awards are New Zealand's book prizes for literary excellence in crime, mystery, thriller, and suspense writing. They were established in 2010, and are named after Dame Ngaio Marsh, a New Zealand author and theatre director who was one of the four Queens of Crime of the Golden Age of Detective Fiction. 
The winners of this year's awards will be announced at a special event at the WORD Christchurch Festival on 1 September, with visiting crime writers Denise Mina and AJ Finn presenting this year's prizes.

See You in September by Charity Norman - my review

I've been a fan of Charity Norman's writing for a long time. Her writing is powerful, she tackles difficult and often controversial subjects, but does it so very well. 

I've always had a fascination for cults, and really enjoy fiction that looks at how cults are formed, and how people become part of them. In See You In September, this extremely talented author has taken apart the whole process of how an ordinary young girl from London could wave goodbye to her family at Heathrow as she sets off on an exciting adventure holiday in New Zealand, intending to see them again in September, just a few months away, yet doesn't return for another four years. 

Cassy is an average twenty-one year old, she's studying law at University, has a boyfriend, an annoying younger sister and a stable family life. Her father can be annoying at times, he wants the best for her; he wants her to be a top lawyer, earning lots of money.
Cassy and her boyfriend Hamish are taking a trip to New Zealand, they'll be back in September to finish their degrees, but intend to have an exciting time away from the stresses of work.

However, things don't go according to plan and Cassy accepts a lift from a friendly group of people in a white van, leaving Hamish standing by the side of the road.

The group are from Gethsemane; a self-contained village in the wilds of the New Zealand countryside. When Cassy arrives, she finds it all a little bit hippyish and intends to stay for just a couple of nights and then continue her travels. Little does she know.

Charity Norman expertly details just how easy it can be for a determined cult leader, and his followers to persuade an intelligent, well-educated young woman to give up everything; including her money, her passport and her name and join their ranks.

Whilst the reader is aware that Gethsemane. whilst beautiful and serene, is the base of a cult, lead by Justin; a British guy who is revered by his followers. Cassy is unaware of this, but she falls in love with the place, and with the residents and with the whole feeling of belonging and love.

The author cleverly weaves the story of Cassy's family at home in with the story, and we as readers are aware of the total desperation felt by her parents and the anger of her sister. It can be a difficult read at times as Charity Norman wonderfully portrays the absolute heartbreak suffered by her mother especially.

I really liked the extracts from The Cult Leader's Manual - Eight Steps to Mind Control. This is a very clever addition to the story, allowing the reader to assimilate what is happening to Cassy with the tactics used by the leader of a cult.

See You In September is totally gripping, my paperback edition is over 400 pages long but I really couldn't put it aside and read it over one weekend. Charity Norman proves, once again, that's she's an incredibly talented, brave and adventurous author. I loved this and would recommend it highly.

Ngaio Marsh Awards 2018 

  • Marlborough Man by Alan Carter (Fremantle Press)
  • See You in September by Charity Norman (Allen & Unwin)
  • Tess by Kirsten McDougall (VUP)
  • The Sound of Her Voice by Nathan Blackwell (Mary Egan Publishing)
  • A Killer Harvest by Paul Cleave (Upstart Press)
  • The Hidden Room by Stella Duffy (Virago)

  • The Floating Basin by Carolyn Hawes
  • Broken Silence by Helen Vivienne Fletcher (HVF Publishing)
  • All Our Secrets by Jennifer Lane (Rosa Mira Books)
  • The Sound of Her Voice by Nathan Blackwell (Mary Egan Publishing)
  • Nothing Bad Happens Here by Nikki Crutchley (Oak House Press)

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