There is one thing that you should know before I begin and it’s something that anyone who has been reading my blog for any longer than 5 seconds would already know: I’m a massive Jaclyn Moriarty fan. Now that we’ve got that out of the way and you’re aware of my extreme bias, I think we can begin.
First of all, I loved the campaign that surrounded the release of this book! Macmillan released a number of copies out into the wild and put them in Street Libraries across Australia. I thought the chances of finding one would be pretty slim but what do you know, we found one! I thought it was a great way to get people out there looking for their local Street Library if they didn’t know where it was already and a great way to get the book into hands of people who really wanted it as well as the hands of people who may never have picked up Jaclyn Moriarty otherwise.
In the lead up to its release, I hadn’t heard much about it. A friend of mine told me it was coming out and I was incredulous that I hadn’t heard about it! That, combined with the fact that it was Moriarty’s second adult novel, rather than the fantastic YA stories of hers that I had grown up with and still loved dearly, meant that I was a little quietly hesitant. Even the size of it (I don’t often venture beyond 400 pages for a book, my attention wanes very easily) had me a little cautious.
All this quiet worrying was for nothing – I absolutely LOVED this book. It had everything I love about the Moriarty YA that I grew up with, just in a ‘grown-up’ book.
- The Sydney setting: I’ll be the first to admit that I am not the biggest fan of my home city but whenever Jaclyn Moriarty writes anything that is set in Sydney, I get the same feeling that I get when I walk across the Sydney Harbour Bridge: I feel in love with this city and lucky that I get to know it. As a Shire girl I probably shouldn’t love the North Shore narrator as much as I do! I loved the musings about the different Sydney neighbourhoods and I just love all the references to real cafes – as someone who always wanted to find ‘The Blue Danish’ from the Ashbury-Brookfield books, it pleases me to no end that I can go to Maisy’s or Thelma & Louise if I wanted to!
- The absolutely bizarre becoming normal. I won’t spoil the truth of The Guidebook for you if you’re not there, but it’s just a little bit insane. The acceptance of it and the way that the group all agree to go along with it just seems to make complete sense. Jaclyn Moriarty has a knack for making completely insane things make sense and I really love it.
- The observational writing. I don’t think I’ve ever read another author who is quite so observant of the extra people in the story. Snippets of conversation, a small hand movement, tiny facial expressions of a passer-by – they’re all there in this story, as with all her others. She’s so good at it and I know that her writing is different from others because it makes me more observant.
- The stream of consciousness narration. I love the way Moriarty completely lets us into the protagonist’s brain. The good, the bad, the ugly; we get it all. I know that it can be off-putting for some people (years of forcing her books on my friends have shown me that not everyone likes her style) but I love how honest it is and how real it is. The snap first judgments that never quite go away and the terrible thoughts that we’re all capable of having are there along with the wonder at the world.
I absolutely loved the short chapters mixed within the longer ones. The variety meant that I kept turning those pages until it was far, far too late at night. If I had the uninterrupted time, I would have easily devoured this in one sitting.
The amount of ground this story covers is seriously impressive and it amazes me how effortless her writing is, everything comes around and is explained – nothing is ever mentioned for the hell of it. I did think that perhaps the ending was a little rushed but not so much that I found it unsatisfying or frustrating. Questions were answered, loose ends were tied.
Like I said, I’m brazenly biased and you cannot trust me to be impartial for this book. A full 5 stars from me!