Arthur Braxton runs away from school. He hides out in an abandoned building, an Edwardian public baths. He finds a naked woman swimming in the pool.From this point on, nothing will ever be the same.The Drowning of Arthur Braxton is an unflinching account of the pain and trauma of adolescence, of how first love can transform the most unhappy of lives into something miraculous. It is a dark and brooding modern fairy tale from one of our most gifted writers.
Arthur Braxton is a teenage boy who is lonely. His Mother walked out years ago, his Dad has lost the plot completely and spends his day eating crisps and smells of pee. Arthur is bullied constantly by a gang of yobs and the final straw comes when a photo of his cock is posted on Facebook accompanied by 'you are a gay' taunts.
Arthur takes refuge in the uninhabited building that once was The Oracle and there he meets the mysterious Delphina, and falls in love. Arthur soon becomes obsessed with Delphina's magical world of water-healers and strange old men and spends more and more time in their world.
This is a complex story that interweaves the harsh reality and grittiness of Arthur's modern-day life with the magical, mystical world of The Oracle. Where bullying, twagging school and parental neglect slot in perfectly with water healing, 'other' worlds, fairy-like nymphs and the peculiar history of The Oracle.
My head was spinning when I finished this story, at times I felt a little bit lost, but at others I felt as though I was there, in The Oracle, alongside Arthur, Laurel and Delphina. I realise now that Caroline Smailes has used some classical Greek myths as her basis for this novel but I'm really not familiar with those, so I really can't comment on the comparison.
Caroline Smailes has an amazing imagination, and paints a stunning picture with her words. The setting of the derelict public baths is amazingly real and her characters are so well-drawn that I could see every inch of them in my mind.
I have absolutely no doubt that The Drowning of Arthur Braxton is going to stay in my mind for a very long time, in fact I may re-read it at a later date, and that is something that I rarely do.
Huge thanks to all at The Friday Project for sending my copy for review.
About Caroline Smailes (from her website www.carolinesmailes.co.uk) :
Caroline Smailes appears to make life changing decisions based on passing comments made by Richard and Judy.
Back in 2005, two weeks before she was due to start a PhD in Linguistics, Caroline watched an interview on Richard & Judy where they referred to someone as a ‘nearly woman’. Caroline identified with that label and faced her ‘now or never’ moment. She didn’t want to be someone who talked of ‘nearly’ having done something, she wanted to see if she could write novels and tell stories.
Within that same week, Caroline gave up her funding and her PhD place, enrolled on an MA in Creative Writing and over the next year she wrote In Search of Adam.
Now, six publications later, Caroline lives with her husband and three children in the North West of England.
In brief: Caroline was born in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, she is not represented by a literary agent, she likes cake, roller-skates and vinyl.
You can follow Caroline on Twitter here