Friday 5 February 2021

The Source by Sarah Sultoon @SultoonSarah #TheSource @OrendaBooks #BookReview


1996. Essex. Thirteen-year-old schoolgirl Carly lives in a disenfranchised town dominated by a military base, struggling to care for her baby sister while her mum sleeps off another binge. When her squaddie brother brings food and treats, and offers an exclusive invitation to army parties, things start to look a little less bleak...

2006. London. Junior TV newsroom journalist Marie has spent six months exposing a gang of sex traffickers, but everything is derailed when New Scotland Yard announces the re-opening of Operation Andromeda, the notorious investigation into allegations of sex abuse at an army base a decade earlier...

As the lives of these two characters intertwine around a single, defining event, a series of utterly chilling experiences is revealed, sparking a nail-biting race to find the truth ... and justice.

A riveting, searing and devastatingly dark thriller, The Source is also a story about survival, about hopes and dreams, about power, abuse and resilience ... an immense, tense and thought-provoking debut that you will never, ever forget.

The Source by Sarah Sultoon is published by Orenda Books.  EBook - 15 February 2021 and paperback 15 April 2021. My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review.

The Source is a story of our time. It's dark and vividly described, dealing with issues that are often brushed aside in fiction.  Mirroring many events of recent times, with themes that are relevant to the #MeToo movement, this is a stunning debut from a very talented author. 

Set over two time periods, the reader follows thirteen-year-old Carly in 1996 Essex, and adult Marie in 2006 London. 
Carly lives in a small town that depends upon the local Army base for trade. Most of the inhabitants are attached to the military, and the houses are Army stock. Carly's home is dirty and squalid and there is no love or care given to her. Her mother lives her life through an alcoholic haze after being let down by the men in her life. Carly does her best to care for her baby sister Kayleigh, who is often hungry and dirty when Carly returns from school. Older brother Jason lives in the nearby Army barracks and occasionally comes home with food for the family. 
Carly's only real friend is Rach; a couple of years older than her, she's the older sister that she always wished she had. When Jason offers the girls a way to make life easier for them, it seems like the only way that Carly can ensure that Kayleigh gets everything that she needs to thrive.

Instead, these two young girls find themselves in the centre of something that they couldn't have imagined. It's both traumatic and heartbreaking, but once they are in, it's impossible to get out. 

In London, in 2006, Marie is a young television reporter working with a news team who are about to break a sex trafficking ring. They've faced danger to get their story and at last, they are about to expose the ringmasters of this sickening trade. However, when the Met announce that they are about to re-open a historic case of sex-abuse, involving some of the highest powered people in the country, their news story is sent to the cutting-room floor.  

As the story unfolds, the two timelines become intricately merged together. The author carefully and meticulously weaves together Carly and Marie's stories, uncovering some shocking and chilling events that have been hidden away for many years. 

The author was a journalist for fifteen years, and her incredible and detailed insight into the inner workings of a news room is excellent. There's a real sense of pride and honour amongst these reporters, it is clear that they are not just there for the headlines, they really do want to get justice for the victims of these horrific crimes. The panic of getting their story together, the frustrations at how difficult it can be to infiltrate those in the know and the utter satisfaction of achieving their goals is perfectly captured.

Marie and Carly are impeccably created. Marie has a lot of baggage, and life is not easy for her, and never has been. Her emotions are captured so well; from rage and frustration, to terror and incredible sadness; she's a character who can be difficult to understand, but she struggles to understand herself too. 

There's some cracking dialogue within this story, the narrative flows so well and moves with a pace that exudes tension. Sultoon is an extremely accomplished author, and has written a novel that is thought-provoking and also thrilling. The reader is forced to consider the corruption of power and the abuse that has been hidden for far too long, and the long-term effects on the victims of these crimes. 

Gripping, emotional, eye-opening and so brilliantly written. Highly recommended by me.

Sarah Sultoon is a journalist and writer whose work as an international newsexecutive at CNN has
taken her all over the world, from the seats of power in 
both Westminster and Washington to the frontlines of Iraq and Afghanistan. 
She has extensive experience in conflict zones, winning three Peabody awards for her work on the war in Syria, an Emmy for her contribution to the coverage of Europe’s migrant crisis in 2015, and a number of Royal Television Society gongs.
As passionate about fiction as nonfiction, she recently completed a Masters of Studies in Creative Writing at the University of Cambridge, adding to an undergraduate language degree in French and Spanish, and Masters of Philosophy in History, Film and Television. 
When not reading or writing she can usually be found somewhere outside, either running, swimming or throwing a ball for her three children and dog while she imagines what might happen if…

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