Here or There review with photos from the launch

This is an excellent debut novel from Rebecca Strong. When I first read that the book concerned eleven characters whose lives are mysteriously intertwined, I was expecting something as genteel and as bourgeois as Rachel Cusk’s Arlington Park, so I was very pleasantly surprised to read an account of a kidnapping in the first chapter – that certainly got the adrenaline going. There is also plenty of humour to be had from the book, as the perpetually late and immature Simon finds himself, much to his embarrassment, getting stuck in a London Transport ticket barrier, and that’s before he’s tripped up while running onto his departing train. Unknown to him, his work colleague Jason is having an affair with their boss, Constance (or ‘Cold-Stance’ as Simon nicknames her, as he has never knowingly been an object of her affection). Here or There also concerns the issue of mortality, as schoolboy Johnny Miller attempts to deal with the effects of his mother’s premature death, and his father’s descent into the abyss of alcoholism. There is also a pact to commit murder, for the most frighteningly banal of reasons, as a woman attempts to find out exactly where she is going…

Rebecca Strong’s prose is very good, although she does sometimes attempt to be a little too original in her construction of metaphors, such as on the penultimate page when she compares the emergence of love with the hatching of a turtle egg - something simpler would probably work much better in that particular instance. However, it’s always good to see a writer striving to be the above the ordinary, and this is something that Rebecca Strong does superlatively well when, for instance, she binds up the remaining strands at the end. Her writing style is also quite sublime. Rebecca Strong is a natural storyteller, with some great stories to tell – her plotting is superb. So is her characterisation - so much so that you cannot wait to find out what happens to each of the protagonists, even minor ones such as Eric. Initially, I thought the title was a little too vague, but there is good reason behind this, and it’s something that Rebecca Strong very successfully layers into her novel, because people can do the most extraordinary things on just the basis of a whim... Legend Press are to be congratulated for recognising and promoting the talent of such a great writer. One thing’s for sure – copies of Here or There were to be found neither here nor there at the end of the book launch because the great majority of them had been sold! It was also great to hear at the launch that Rebecca is thinking of writing her next novel, because she has the potential to have a very long and rewarding career as a novelist if the brilliant Here or There is anything to go by.

To order your copy, please visit Rebecca's publishers at http://www.legendpress.co.uk. You can get more details about the novel from Rebecca's MySpace page. You can also check out Gurdeep Mattu's exclusive interview with Rebecca, and read an extract here.

Kevin Mahoney