Wednesday 7 November 2018

Attend by West Camel @west_camel @OrendaBooks #Attend

When Sam falls in love with Deptford thug Derek, and Anne’s best friend Kathleen takes her own life, they discover they are linked not just by a world of drugs and revenge; they also share the friendship of the uncanny and enigmatic Deborah.

Seamstress, sailor, story-teller and self-proclaimed centenarian immortal, Deborah slowly reveals to Anne and Sam her improbable, fantastical life, a history of hidden Deptford and ultimately the solution to their crises.

With echoes of Armistead Maupin, Attend is a beautifully written, darkly funny, mesmerisingly emotive and deliciously told debut novel, rich in finely wrought characters that you will never forget.

Attend by West Camel is published in paperback by Orenda Books on 13 December 2018 and is the author's debut novel.

There are books that leave the reader breathless, and dumbstruck. There are books that are realistic and gritty yet filled with such magic that it becomes difficult to say how you feel about the story. There are books that you just want to take, and to thrust into a person's hands and shout 'read it'.

Attend is one of of those books.  It has felt as though the author has cast a spell, has thrown out his words and characters and incredible story and left us readers to flounder. There is no description for how this story has affected me. Maybe it's because I read it whilst I was very ill, whilst I was feeling sorry for myself, and a little bit scared about what was happening to me.  Maybe.

Attend is a story of three very different parts, yet those three threads are cleverly woven together to make something that feels so much more than a whole. Yes, I played on the cover image; that theme of magical threads that run so smoothly through this story not only depict the plot, but the structure.

Two of our main characters are Sam and Anne. Sam is a young man who is just beginning to accept his sexuality and when he meets Derek he is swept off his feet. Derek is a thug; recently divorced, infertile, heavy handed and not afraid to use his fists. He mixes with the lowest of life in Deptford, and he and Sam meet through a particularly nasty act of violence.

Anne is a mother, an ex wife and a recovering heroin addict. She's recently returned to Deptford after years on drugs. Her daughter Julie has become a mother, her own mother prefers her ex husband Mel. She's trying her best to get her life together and when her oldest friend Kathleen begs her to help her to end her suffering, she can't do it.

Deborah is the lead character. Aged and wise, she seems to live her life in the shadows, being ignored by everyone around her, but she sees and hears everything. Deborah spends her days sewing. Surrounded by cloths of many textures and colours, with stories and memories for each and every one of them. Deborah cannot die.

It is Deborah who binds this story together. It is Deborah who enables both Sam and Anne to see more in life that what is on the surface. Whilst neither of them really can believe her wild tales, they have both seen with their own eyes, the evidence of what she tells them.

There are lines of prose within Attend that took away my breath;

"She continued her story as they strolled, her voice weaving in with the threads of drizzle."

".... its arches filled with garages and workshops - where people made livings and metallic banging sounds, and got themselves filthy dirty, so on special days they could dress up and go to christenings and be proud and knew that they had done the right thing."

This is magical writing of the highest quality that will transport any reader to the darkest corners of Deptford. These are real people; people that have had the hardest of knocks and the most troubled of lives, yet they can be transformed by the magic of an old woman's memories.

There's a huge sadness running through Attend. The sadness of lives that have been wasted, of regrets and hidden secrets. There's also a sense of joy; little sparks throughout the story that scream of hope and redemption and an ending that seems to release the characters from their mistakes.

Up to date, gritty and dark yet filled with a magic that is unique and uplifting. Attend is adventurous, charming and utterly compelling.

Born and bred in south London – and not the Somerset village with which he shares a name – West Camel worked as an editor in higher education and business before turning his attention to the arts and publishing. 
He has worked as a book and arts journalist, and was editor at Dalkey Archive Press, where he edited the Best European Fiction 2015 anthology, before moving to new press Orenda Books just after its launch. 
He currently combines his work as editor at Orenda with writing and editing a wide range of material for various arts organisations, including ghost-writing a New-Adult novel and editing The Riveter magazine for the European Literature Network.
He has also written several short scripts, which have been produced in London’s fringe theatres, and was longlisted for the Old Vic’s 12 playwrights project.
Attend is his first novel.

Twitter @west_camel


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