This novel took me over the Severn Bridge to Clifton in Bristol – my favourite area of the city. The characters and setting were so real that I am convinced that I have met them in Clifton. I am sure that I have seen Polly Park.
On one occasion, there was a striking woman wearing a ‘fifties inspired dress’ and ‘a cute cardigan decorated with teapots’. She was muttering to herself as she walked along the riverside in Bristol. She was heading towards her charming houses that ‘sat on a man-made island flanked by the River Avon … floating harbour behind.’ Another time, I spied a flamboyant character in one of the vintage frock shops. She smiled at me as I checked out the beautiful dresses. This time she was wearing ‘Joe Brown embroidered cropped jeans and a Desigual gypsy top, and up-do and red bandana.’
We have often lingered in a Bristol restaurant located on the harbourside and wondered who lives in the quirky, colourful houses that seem to stand proud in their protest against a grey sky. Now I believe that the barges docked in Bristol were sheltering Spike and Polly until they came out to admire ‘the surprising spring weather having cleared to bestow an evening warm with promise.’ Reading this book, I had experienced an overwhelming sense of déjà vu because Dun’s style of writing places the reader into the heart and soul of the characters: it feels so real as if you have been there before. It was often difficult to leave the characters and I found any excuse to return to my book with a cup of tea and a stack of Polly’s Jammie Dodgers.
Polly is an endearing character full of humour, vulnerability, strength and determination. She is stranded on an emotional island, unable to commit, as her character has been shaped by her Bohemian mother turned celebrity chef. Polly delights in Bristol and is aware of how its maritime and smuggling past lurks in every corner. It is a delight to meet the pseudo pirate who hijacks Polly’s heart and keeps their love hidden inside a treasure chest. The reader waits for the love to be retrieved from the treasure chest. Dun tugs your heart, pulls at your emotions and tickles you with humour as you yearn for a happy ending. But the experienced reader is all too aware of ‘The Trouble With Love’ and is uncertain if Polly will find her happy ending.
The novel is skilfully written and there is a depth to the characters. One is made to deconstruct the characters’ psyche and fully understand what drives them. Dun steers a course through the scenes that are beautifully constructed and filmic in style. The close-ups on Polly’s thoughts ensure that there us empathy with her doubts and dreams. Who could resist her humorous perspective throughout? How cool to have the insight into the mind of Polly – the performance poet who can see humour in all situations. Polly’s honest, humorous internal dialogue sparkles throughout the novel.
The narrative resonates with the beats and rhythms of the colourful language but forget the scansion of traditional poetry: let the ebb and flow of life and love run its course. The story is packed full of delicious moments like one of Polly’s Jammie Dodgers. And if one steps back then there are also some contemporary issues. Read the story and find out how partners impact on friendships. Observe how a child impacts on the life of a free spirit. Explore the dynamics of a close female relationship when the friend is in a same sex partnership. Meet Polly’s adorable little girl who is the beating heart of the novel.
There is so much to discover about all of the characters in this lovely book so I will leave it to you to get absorbed in the scenes. You will have to explore the tangle of emotions and confusion of love. Pull up a chair, light the fire and watch as it ‘settles into a sociable glow’. Listen to Polly, her friends, family and lovers as they chat about their desires.
Enjoy the brilliantly paced narrative and the witty, perfectly drawn characters.