Thursday 18 April 2019

Call Me Star Girl by Louise Beech @LouiseWriter BLOG TOUR @OrendaBooks #CallMeStarGirl

Stirring up secrets can be deadly … especially if they’re yours…
Pregnant Victoria Valbon was brutally murdered in an alley three weeks ago – and her killer hasn’t been caught.
Tonight is Stella McKeever’s final radio show. The theme is secrets. You tell her yours, and she’ll share some of hers.
Stella might tell you about Tom, a boyfriend who likes to play games, about the mother who abandoned her, now back after fourteen years. She might tell you about the perfume bottle with the star-shaped stopper, or about her father …
What Stella really wants to know is more about the mysterious man calling the station … who says he knows who killed Victoria, and has proof.
Tonight is the night for secrets, and Stella wants to know everything…
With echoes of the Play Misty for MeCall Me Star Girl is a taut, emotive and all-consuming psychological thriller that plays on our deepest fears, providing a stark reminder that stirring up dark secrets from the past can be deadly…

Call Me Star Girl by Louise Beech was published by Orenda Books in paperback today; Thursday 18 April 2019. My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review as part of the Blog Tour.

They fuck you up, your mum and dad.   
    They may not mean to, but they do.   
They fill you with the faults they had
    And add some extra, just for you.

- This Be The Verse by Philip Larkin

My favourite poem, my favourite poet. These words from Philip Larkin's This Be The Verse sprang into my head as I was reading Call Me Star Girl. Larkin's darkly humorous observations on life,  is not the only thing that he has in common with Louise Beech. He spent the last thirty years of his life in Hull, and will forever be associated with the city; a city that forms the backdrop for this enigmatic and dark story from one of the most gifted authors currently being published.

I've read all of Louise Beech's previous novels and was excited to hear that she'd taken yet another direction in her writing and that Call Me Star Girl is a psychological thriller. It most surely is. However, it's not a fast-paced, action filled story at all. It's a dark and sensuous story that slowly unfolds during one long and lonely night-shift in a radio studio in Hull.

Stella McKeever has presented the late-night radio show to the city for years, but tonight is her final show. Stella asks her listeners to share their secrets, and tells a few of her own too. The reader learns about her relationship with her boyfriend Tom, in which Stella appears to be needy and ready to do anything to keep her man. Stella describes some of their sexual adventures, which to be honest, made me feel a little grubby and voyeuristic at times. However, the beauty of this author's incredible writing and her ability to weave together threads from what at first appear to be totally unrelated more than make up for a fleeting dirty feeling!

The local community have been rocked by the vicious murder of a young pregnant woman. Victoria Valbon was found dead in a dingy alleyway in the city. Stella is haunted, quite literally, by Victoria and as the news about the murder enquiry is re-told, every hour, during her radio show, the links between Stella and the dead woman become more defined. It's an intricately balanced unstitching of layers of story that when finally sewn back together become something that was never expected.

Probably Stella's most important and defining relationship is the one that she has with her mother Elizabeth. Beech alternates the point of view of this story, allowing narrative from both Stella and Elizabeth to be heard. Stella is a damaged and I think, a damaging individual. Her childhood experiences have left dark and deep scars on her psychologically and the reappearance of her mother into her life has raised so many questions.

I have to admit that I really struggled to write this review. I could talk about the murder case that is pivotal to the whole story, I can expand on Stella's relationships, I could discuss the incredibly crafted supporting characters and the evocative and compelling sense of place. I can admit that I did wonder, during the first few chapters, if the author had made a mistake when switching genre; really did take a while to settle into the story. However, I was soon under the spell of this hugely talented and gifted author and I'm absolutely in awe of her ability to always, no matter what the genre, produce a story that is full of compassion and heart-felt words. The reader is compelled to believe in every single paragraph, and to just want more and more.

The darkest of darkness, the most taut and riveting words and characters who are fine-tuned and so believable. Louise Beech is a superb storyteller whose writing is just so emotionally lyrical. Call Me Star Girl is gripping, atmospheric and deeply satisfying.

Louise's short stories have won the Glass Woman Prize, the Eric Hoffer Award for Prose, and the Aesthetica Creative Works competition, as well as shortlisting twice for the Bridport Prize and being published in a variety of UK magazines. Her first play, Afloat, was performed at Hull Truck Theatre in 2012. She also wrote a ten-year newspaper column for the Hull Daily Mail. 

Her debut novel, How to be Brave, was a Guardian Readers' pick in 2015. The Sunday Mirror called Maria in the Moon quirky, darkly comic, original and heartfelt, and The Lion Tamer Who Lost was described as 'engrossing and captivating' by the Daily Express.

Link to her website -
Twitter @LouiseWriter

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