Monday 10 February 2020

I Am Dust by Louise Beech @LouiseWriter #IAmDust @OrendaBooks #BookReview #Hull

The Dean Wilson Theatre is believed to be haunted by a long-dead actress, singing her last song, waiting for her final cue, looking for her killer…

Now Dust, the iconic musical, is returning after twenty years. But who will be brave enough to take on the role of ghostly goddess Esme Black, last played by Morgan Miller, who was murdered in her dressing room?

Theatre usher Chloe Dee is caught up in the spectacle. As the new actors arrive, including an unexpected face from her past, everything changes. Are the eerie sounds and sightings backstage real or just her imagination? Is someone playing games?

Is the role of Esme Black cursed? Could witchcraft be at the heart of the tragedy? And are dark deeds from Chloe’s past about to catch up with her?
Not all the drama takes place onstage. Sometimes murder, magic, obsession and the biggest of betrayals are real life. When you’re in the theatre shadows, you see everything.
And Chloe has been watching…

I Am Dust by Louise Beech is published as an ebook by Orenda Books on 16 February 2020, the paperback is released on 16 April.  My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review.

'I'm still here; I am dust,
I'm those fragments in the air,
the gold light dancing there,
that breeze from nowhere.'

I read I Am Dust over two days, cocooned on the sofa, under a fleecy throw, as Storm Ciara did its worst outside. This story is the perfect storm companion. I became so consumed by the characters and the haunting lyrical writing; I was transported to the shabby back rooms of a theatre that once knew glitter and glamour and now only knows dust. 

Dust was the biggest musical of its time. Twenty years ago the Dean Wilson Theatre premiered the most exciting new production of the time. Lauded by critics and sold out every night, Dust has become something of a cult.
However, it's best known for the tragedy that happened during its run. Lead actress Morgan Miller was murdered in her dressing room during the interval.  Dust was closed down. The writer became a recluse and it's rumoured that Morgan haunts the theatre.

Chloe Dee has been an usher at the Dean Wilson for six years. As a teenager, she dreamt of becoming an actress. She was part of the Youth Theatre, and she and her friend Jess were obsessed with the lyrics and legend of Dust.
Chloe hasn't heard from Jess, or their other friend Ryan for years. She barely remembers them. She's changed, she has the scars to prove it. She's a troubled woman who cycles to the theatre, picks up the glitter and then goes home.

It's twenty years since Morgan Miller died and Dust is returning. The theatre seems to take on a new life when it's announced that the show will return. The whole town is buzzing with anticipation. Who will take on Morgan's iconic role as Esme Black?

Louise Beech tells her story over two timelines. The present day, as the theatre starts to transform in anticipation of new customers, and back to 2005 when Chloe, Jess and Ryan create dust of their own. The gentle and clever interweaving of both stories is beautifully done, allowing the reader to find out more about the past and how it impacts the present.

It's hard to put I Am Dust into a specific genre. The mystery of Morgan's murder is begging to be solved, yet this is not just a crime thriller. This is also a ghost story, combined with a magical theme that sits perfectly in the drab, worn out setting of this once glorious theatre. 
There are hints of Du Maurier and slivers of Susan Hill throughout this story; it's a contemporary story, littered with modern-day issues including broken families, mistrust, betrayal and thwarted love, yet the setting transports the reader back to the heyday of theatre; the greasepaint, the glamour, the splendour.

I Am Dust is such an apt title for this spine-chilling, yet emotionally charged story. The dust caused by  repressed memories, hidden away in the corner of the mind; the dust from broken relationships; the dust created by broken promises and betrayal. There's also the dust that shines brightly when the stage lights are upon it; and none of the characters shine quite so brightly as Chloe. She's perfectly created; with flaws and difficulties that have been caused by the dust left by her past.

There's a tenderness to this author's writing that brings a lump to the throat, and the final scenes are heart-stopping in their beauty.

Louise Beech, I really don't think you will be picking up the glitter for much longer. This is perfect.

Louise Beech is an exceptional literary talent, whose debut novel How To Be Brave was  Guardian Readers’ Choice for 2015. 
The follow-up, The Mountain in My Shoe was shortlisted for Not the Booker Prize. 
Both of her previous books Maria in the Moon and The Lion Tamer Who Lost were widely reviewed, critically acclaimed and number-one bestsellers on Kindle. 
The Lion Tamer Who Lost was shortlisted for the RNA Most Popular Romantic Novel Award in 2019. 
Her short fiction has won the Glass Woman Prize, the Eric Hoffer Award for Prose, and the Aesthetica Creative Works competition, as well as shortlisting for the Bridport Prize twice. 

Louise lives with her husband on the outskirts of Hull, and loves her job as a Front of House Usher at Hull Truck Theatre, where her first play was performed in 2012.

Twitter @LouiseWriter
Instagram @louisebeech13

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