This post is part of a blog tour organised by Random Things Blog Tours. I received a free copy of the book in return for an honest review.
‘After the death of his grandfather, Noah’s life is thrown into chaos as he faces a repressed past which threatens everything he believes to be true.
‘In the course of trying to come to terms with his loss, Noah must also navigate a difficult relationship with his sister, Kelly, as they reflect on their turbulent childhood – when they were taken from London to live in the Kent countryside following the breakdown of their parents’ marriage.
‘Set between the 1970s and the more recent past, Adventures About To Begin chronicles a collapsing marriage as experienced by its children and reflects on how memory shapes our decisions at crucial junctures during our lives.’
Adventures About To Begin, by Allen Therisa, is mostly set in 1976 and 1977, when 11-year-old Noah and his siblings Kelly (10) and Daniel (5) are uprooted by their parents’ separation.
Along with their mother Stephanie, they spend a few weeks of the notoriously hot summer living with their Granddad Patrick in Plumstead.
After that, the four of them move in with Stephanie’s mother (and Patrick’s ex-wife) Marjorie in Sittingbourne, Kent, for several months.
Marjorie is a hard, domineering character, and Stephanie is often out working or socialising. Accompanied by their cousin Beverley and Marjorie’s three African foster children, the family must therefore struggle along with little adult guidance or comfort, or knowledge of what’s coming next.
By turns amusing and moving, Adventures About To Begin is largely driven by its interesting characters and their often entertaining conversations – yet, like the young Noah, Kelly, and Daniel, we’re left in the dark by things that are left unsaid, or only alluded to.
Is Noah’s behaviour the real reason behind the move to Sittingbourne? What happened to Kelly the previous time the family stayed with Marjorie? What goes wrong between Stephanie and her eventual new partner, Mark? Why aren’t Noah and Daniel speaking in 2005? This book certainly engaged me by leaving me with all these questions to ponder!
The primarily 1970s domestic setting and cultural references put me in mind of some of Jonathan Coe’s novels, which I very much enjoyed.
At the same time, Adventures About To Begin avoids being a nostalgia-fest by shining a light on less pleasant characteristics of the decade: widespread homophobia; racism (that experienced by Patrick’s Asian neighbours, and Marjorie’s treatment of eldest foster child Afia); and the way Noah and his siblings are shunted from pillar to post with little regard for their feelings.
I couldn’t help but feel sorry for them as they were reduced to eavesdropping and spying to find out about things that affected them, suppressed by the fearsome Marjorie, and disappointed by their absent father.
Noah and Kelly act like total brats sometimes, but you can’t really blame them considering their age and the circumstances. Their experiences and reactions to them feel very authentic.
I do think this book could have benefitted from another round or two of editing, as there are quite a few brackets and redundancies, especially early on, that mean it’s not as smooth a read as it could be.
I also felt some confusion over Kelly’s age in 1976 – on the first page, it’s revealed that she’s a year younger than Noah, so would have been ten, as he turns 40 in 2005. However, she goes to a secondary school in Sittingbourne and is referred to as a teenager on occasion. Additionally, she sometimes seems to adopt Stephanie’s over-the-top, affected speech pattern, which makes her sound older.
Adventures About To Begin is entertaining, engaging, and moving.