This is my first officially requested First Chapter Review. As readers can see by the list of pages under my banner, I've opened the blog up to authors who would like to submit their first chapters for review. Details can be found here.
Less a state-of-the-nation polemic, Some Place South of Perfect is more a wry depiction of interacting lives in contemporary London and how thin the margins between safety and danger, success and failure, happiness and misery really are. What motivates people to do the things they do and what does this tell us about modern-day life? We find out in a fast-moving, yet reflective, novel through the eyes of an engaging roster of people; a narcissistic, philandering sportsman; a lovelorn journalist; defensive, taciturn bankers; dreamy academics; a couple attempting to reignite their marriage; musicians; youths from the wrong side of the tracks; shady men from the margins of paramilitary organisations and a host of others.
Spiked through with humorous and acerbic observation, Some Place South of Perfect presents a new slant on age-old dilemmas in a contemporary setting.
COVER: It's a nice picture, but this story is about people. The blurb focuses on people. Why is there an empty rocky shore in the picture? It might make sense later on, but right now I can't figure it out. I'm not a huge fan of the white text box bordered in black either. It makes it seem like the picture was pasted into a photo editing program and a text box laid over it. Self-publishing is fine, but the cover is the first impression a reader has of your book. Make it count.
FIRST CHAPTER: We meet Philip Anderson on a cold day in front of a courthouse, where he is impatiently waiting outside with the other jurors. He spots his neighbor, Elizabeth Harris, stepping out of a taxi. He's unnerved that she makes a point to avoid him. Elizabeth, on the other hand, is upset that her husband, Geoff, couldn't be bothered to come and support her today.
KEEP READING: Perhaps. I'm intrigued enough by the opening chapter and enjoyed the eloquent narration. Byrne paints an excellent picture for the reader with his descriptions. With this first chapter, he introduces what the reader can assume will be three key players in the novel: Philip Anderson, Elizabeth Harris, and her husband, Geoff. We don't know a lot about Philip, but we do get the sense that Elizabeth is not happily married. Her meeting Philip at the courthouse may lead to changes in her life. It's too early to tell.
There is a great deal of narration in this first chapter, and the point of view changes six times. Granted, it goes back and forth primarily between Philip and Elizabeth, but that doesn't give the reader much chance to get comfortable inside a character's head before switching to a new person. In addition, Geoff's POV is tossed in at the end, and one can't help but think, "Where did that come from?" My other challenge is that the last three point of view shifts involve all three people waking up and sharing their internal thoughts with the reader in rambling, run on sentences punctuated mostly by commas. These sentences are hundreds of words long. What person when he first wakes up--especially in some of the circumstances these characters found themselves in--are going to go on like that? It's also tough to read and feel like you understood it all.
Despite the multiple POV changes and rambling thoughts, I would most likely take in the next chapter or two before making a final decision. I like the author's voice and style works well for this novel and where it is set.