After reading Alison Wonderland recently, I exchanged a couple of emails with the author and mentioned how much I missed Alison and the other characters after finishing the book. She said that there was another that she had written, and promptly sent me a copy.
Being Light begins with a wonderfully visual and surreal scene – Roy Travers and his friend realise that they haven’t done a particularly good job of securing a bouncy castle when Roy is swept away on it by a freak gust of wind. As he drifts higher and further away, he comes to the realisation that he is going to die…just before he plummets back to earth.
His wife Sheila refuses to believe that he is dead, but can’t understand why he can’t find his way home to her. Eventually she concludes that he must have been abducted by aliens, and enlists the help of both a detective agency (the one that Alison works for) and tin foil caps on her ears, just in case the aliens try to communicate with her.
This is an extremely character-led book. Everyone has their flaws and eccentricities, and surreal as they may seem at times they also manage to be totally believable and lifelike.
Being Light definitely has the same, quirky style as Alison Wonderland – Helen Smith has a wonderfully whimsical style of writing that I absolutely love, but this story has far more depth and underlying sadness with less of the madcap romping in Alison.
It’s not completely without it’s madness though – although the psychic postman has been sacked, and Jeff has moved far away from Alison’s basement, he has been replaced by Harvey who works in advertising and feels the need to give everything definite labels in order to categorise life. There is also an ex circus performer, an animal trainer, a lad who wants to stop the traffic, a stolen elephant and a vision for men in the future. Alison and Taron, although still in the book, and caught up in the many story threads, aren’t the lead characters in the book — but then noone seems to be. Everyone is interwoven, often in unexpected ways.
Helen Smith has so many ideas, and they are crammed into the story – I was folding the page over every time I saw an idea that I liked, just so that I could find it again. My book is now completely dog-eared because there was so much that I read and thought “That is so clever” or just as likely “That is so beautifully written, and completely true!”
There were a couple of points where I suddenly wondered when it was written, and was rather shocked when I saw that it was first published in 2000. WHY has it taken me so long to know of the existence of this book, and Helen herself?
Absolutely loved it!