I’m trying out a new format for reviews – just to see if it will help me find the time to actually write them! I’m still reading loads, but not finding the time to put my thoughts down in words. Hopefully this will work!
Title The Closer I Get
Author Paul Burston (Twitter: @PaulBurston)
Publisher Orenda Books
Publication Date 11thJuly 2019
Buy it on Bert’s Books bertsbooks.co.uk/the-closer-i-get
Tom is a successful author, but he’s struggling to finish his novel. His main distraction is an online admirer, Evie, who simply won’t leave him alone.
Evie is smart, well read and unstable; she lives with her father and her social-media friendships are not only her escape, but everything she has. When she’s hit with a restraining order, her world is turned upside down, and Tom is free to live his life again, to concentrate on writing
But things aren’t really adding up. For Tom is distracted but also addicted to his online relationships, and when they take a darker, more menacing turn, he feels powerless to change things. Because maybe he needs Evie more than he’s letting on
Does it deliver?
The first two paragraphs of the blurb are a neat summary of Part One, the first sixty pages or so, where we flit between Evie’s POV and Tom’s POV during the time of the trial.
Tom’s parts are told in third person, reflecting on the events that led them to the trial, while Evie’s sections are in first person and told through the course of the trial.
Part Two picks up after Evie is given her restraining order and this is where the blurb doesn’t quite match up. I didn’t feel that Tom was particularly addicted to his online relationships. He does neglect a real-life friendship with Emma when he’s cruising – but that’s in real-life, not online.
The characters are sparse, we are tightly focused on Tom and Evie and their relationship, and as you might guess from the blurb, it’s only really through Tom that we meet anyone else. His best friend Emma, a hook-up called Luke, and his next-door neighbour whom he starts to form a bond with.
And though we don’t focus on them very much, it’s only really Luke who doesn’t quite feel real to me (only because his presence in parts is a little coincidental). Tom and Evie feel real, both of them flawed, and as a result we’re never quite sure if they’re both telling the truth or if neither of them are.
Tom, particularly, is well-drawn, both as the victim, and as someone who needs the victim-hood. He seeks out Evie, wanting to know where she is, wanting to keep an eye on her, and while it might be a case of wanting to keep your enemies close, it dances the line between self-protection and self-harm.
Set between London and Hastings, this is very much set in the real world, more so than many other books I’ve read. Burston’s characters think and speak in the way we all do. They don’t sensor themselves to stop them inadvertently advertising a brand.
When they walk past a bookshop, they walk past Foyles, not a bookshop. When Tom talks about being picked for a book club, he talks about Richard and Judy, not a ‘TV Book Club’. They’re small things, but it helps the whole world much more real.
Perhaps the only thing against it is the world doesn’t feel hugely populated, perhaps because of the limited use of characters. This works really well in Hastings, but the London scenes felt a bit 28 Days Later to me.
Verdict – 9/10
Of course I liked it. I don’t review books if I don’t like them, but I more than liked this book, I loved it.
It was a gripping read, one I kept wanting to pick back up whenever I wasn’t reading it, and so I devoured it.
It’s a new kind of fiction, not just because it explores the effects that social media has on our lives – the stalker can find out everything she needs with just a click of a mouse, but also, the victim can stalk right back – but because it’s that rare thing where a gay man is front and centre, but the plot doesn’t revolve around his sexuality.
Of course, it’s referenced, and it does play into the plot, because it’s part of who Tom is, but it doesn’t define the plot. A lot of what happened to him, could have happened to a straight man.
Thrillers where the lead character happens to be gay are rare, and that’s what makes this refreshing. The fact it’s so well written is what makes it excellent.
You can buy The Closer I Getfrom my own online book shop Bert’s Books. If you use the code RAMBLING at the check-out, you’ll get 10% off.