I read 99 Reasons Why by Caroline Smailes over two years ago and the character of Kat still hurts my heart. After finishing that book I bought others by Smailes but just haven’t got to reading them all as yet – maybe because I was a little bruised after Kat’s story. Smailes spares no punches – her stories are gritty and real and you might need to look away.
Looking away… it’s why the concept for Smailes’s Disraeli Avenue is clever. It’s a collection of short stories – snippets, really – about what goes on behind the closed doors of each house on a single street, Disraeli Avenue. Like walking by an open window, you can’t help but glance in. What you see varies wildly – stories told through the eyes of a child, through number patterns, through piano practice notes, through memories. They’re told as gossip, as truth, as wishes, as speculation. The observant reader will appreciate the details that link each chapter, as sweet as a mother’s pride and as horrifying as the words in a suicide note.
“I might have another abortion instead and then come back and live with my mam and start seeing Joe and tell Les about killing his baby. My head is spinning with it all. I don’t know what to pick.”
Smailes makes for unflinching, tough reading. She deals with topics of sexual and physical abuse, drug use, incest, suicide, depression and poverty. Scattered amongst these suburban horrors are moments of laughter, care and innocence. And I finish reading her work and I feel wrung out but somehow better for it, because she writes with such exceptional style. And I want more of Smailes on my shelf.
Some of the characters in Disraeli Avenue are linked to those in Smailes’s debut, In Search of Adam, however this collection can be read as a stand-alone book. I received my copy of Disraeli Avenue, from the publisher, The Friday Project, via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review
3.5/5 Brace yourself.