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Sweet, Soft, Plenty Rhythm by Laura Warrell

As far as debut novels go, it will be hard to think of many better ones. The beauty of the language is sublime. Melding together the magic of jazz and the subtle nuances of the whole world in which these arts work. And it truly is an art form. The whole novel: from start to finish, is a celebration of art in its finest and purest form.

The man at the centre of the story is Circus. And it really is Circus by name and a circus by nature. This man is a tortured artist whose story is told as if it is some kind of a practice room jam session where others narrate his story for him. A man who is at the end of his heyday of recognition and glory and hangs on to all that remains - some lost love affairs and a crumbling family.

This trumpeter is broken. He skirts danger and runs from responsibility, and yet is the most sensuous on stage and provides many a broken heart to those who get too close to him.

The cast is many and varied, from Maggie, who has become pregnant to Circus and is looking for a way to find some way out of the mess that she has created for herself, to Pia, Circus’s ex-wife, still hanging on to the dream of what Circus once was, the sad reality is that he won’t even begin to get back to where he was. Then there is Koko, the daughter of the elusive musician. She’s got her own struggles with teenagedom and the storms and dramas that come along with that. She wants to know her father, but she never seems to be able to pin him down, emotionally or physically!

Despite the main foibles that he has in his character, he is endearing to the reader. One finds themselves trying to keep up with his adventures and clawing at life escapades in an attempt to regain some semblance of his former self. The women in this novel are presented a little too commodified, and it would have been good to see a little more strength in the presentation of these women, but it does draw on the point that sometimes, in this patriarchal society, there is the belief that this is all there is. That sadness is poignantly brought out in the perspectives of these individuals, all of whom are given the spotlight in their own chapters throughout.

Without a doubt, it is Koko who steals the show. This young independent figure shines bright in an otherwise murky existence.

Overall, this draws the reader with the charm and grace of quality prose—a highly innovative and exciting read.

Reviewer: Chris Reed



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