Tuesday 30 January 2024

The Unfinished Business of Eadie Brown by Freya North #TheUnfinishedBusinessofEadieBrown @freya_north @welbeckpublish @ed_pr #BookReview


When your present meets your past, what do you take with you – and what do you leave behind?

Eadie Browne is an odd child with unusual parents, living in a strange house neighbouring the local cemetery. Bullied at school – but protected by her two best friends Celeste and Josh, and her many imaginary friends lying six feet under next door – Eadie muddles her way through.

Arriving in Manchester as a student in the late 1980s, Eadie confronts a busy, gritty Victorian metropolis a far cry from the small Garden City she's left behind. Soon enough she experiences a novel freedom she never imagined and it's seductive. She can be who she wants to be, do as she pleases, and no one back home needs to know. As Manchester embraces the dizzying, colourful euphoria of Rave counterculture, Eadie is swept along, blithely ignoring danger and reality. Until, one night, her past comes hurtling at her with ramifications which will continue into her adult life.

Now, as the new Millennium beckons, Eadie is turning 30 with a marriage in tatters. She must travel back to where she once lived for a funeral she can't quite comprehend. As she journeys from the North to the South, from the present to the past, Eadie contemplates all that was then – and all that is now – in this moving love letter to youth.

The Unfinished Business of Eadie Brown by Freya North is published on 1 February 2024 by Welbeck. My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review. 

Prepare yourselves, for I am going to GUSH about this book. I read a lot of books, and rarely do I feel so attached to the fictional characters in the stories that I read as I have in this one. This book is populated by the most wonderfully created and realistic characters, not only human, living characters, there are also destinations, and houses and nightclubs and a graveyard. Every single one of those things become a pulsating character of their own, utterly central to the story and perfectly imagined. 

We are introduced to Eadie Brown via the prologue, it's 1976, she is age six and she's having a terrible time at school. There's one particular boy who makes it his daily mission to torment her, to tease her, to say awful things about her clothes, and her parents. There's also one particular boy who stands up for Eadie, who shows her true friendship and kindness. 

This is a dual time story, the reader accompanies Eadie throughout her school years, on to university and beyond.  The more recent part of the novel is set on June 15 1999, as Eadie and her husband travel in a van up the motorway, to attend a funeral. 

Eadie is a wondrous character. Perfectly formed, quirky and kind and totally in charge of her own feelings. Her home life is a little unusual, although her parents love her, they are distracted by their own pursuits. Eadie's solace comes in the grounds of the grave yard next door to her home, there she finds her friends, not living, but always there to listen. There's also Michael the pipe-smoking gardener and Ross, the bag-pipe player. Two men who have an enormous impact on her life. 

This is a beautifully written coming of age story. As Eadie progresses through primary school, accompanied always by her two great friends Josh and Celeste, she encounters many bumps along the way. The absolute beauty of this childhood friendship is so skilfully crafted, their ups and downs, their discovery of music and fashion and the way their thoughts about their home town change as they grow older. It's not only Eadie, Josh and Celeste though. Each of them have their own family members who become such a large part of the story - people that become real and important to the reader, almost as much as they are important to Eadie. 

This is story of discovery, of a life journey, of break ups and break downs. It features the frenzy of the early days of the Hacienda club. The closeness of a bunch of students living together in a house that is draughty, with holes in the floor, but is also a place of retreat - with hot buttered toast and tears and support and listening ears. 

The 1999 part of the story is smaller, just short chapters interwoven into Eadies earlier life, yet those chapters are so poignant and warm. We see Eadie as a thirty year old, we learn more of her current life, we meet her husband, we accompany them to the funeral of someone who had such an impact on Eadie's early life, and it is testament to Eadie's character and upbringing when he discover who the deceased person is. 

I really have lost my words, I just want to encourage everyone out there to read this and to love Eadie as much as I do. It's powerful, sometimes heart breaking, often very funny and always entrancing. It is like a love letter to one's younger self, detailing the life journey in every little detail, learning from what has been done, and what wasn't done. It is utterly and totally beautiful and I have no doubt that it will appear on my top books of the year list. Highly recommended. 

Freya North is the author of many bestselling novels which have been translated into numerous languages. 
She was born in London but lives in rural Hertfordshire, where she writes from a stable in her back garden. 
A passionate reader since childhood, Freya was originally inspired by Mary Wesley, Rose Tremain and Barbara Trapido: fiction with strong and original characters. 

To hear about events, competitions and what she’s writing, join her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and her website.

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