Friday, 3 June 2016

Book Review - "When I Was Invisible" by Dorothy Koomson.

I received a review copy of this title via

Best friends since the moment they met, Nika and Rony are two young girls with dreams of becoming prima ballerinas and remaining close for the rest of their lives.  But circumstances change and the girls end up estranged and living completely opposite lives.  Can their past links be re-connected or has the division become to wide?  How did one girl become homeless while the other found God? Their invisible lives are the result of their past but can either of them hope to return to  normality in their future?

Dorothy Koomson begins this novel in the late 1980s, bringing the music and fashion of the time to life, as she introduces Veronika and Veronica.  Like many young girls, they find friendship through their mutual love of ballet, where they dream of Swan Lake, The Nutcracker and standing ovations.  While their feet suffer from the strenuous training and the competition to find a principle ballerina begins, their classes begin to lose their appeal and the girls struggle to end their relationship with ballet.  Secrets begin to unravel and their closeness becomes toxic.  They head down different paths and lose contact.  The novel has different time frames, slotted in no particular order, and the reader is taken on a disjointed journey with the two protagonists.  The reason for the girls fractured friendship becomes apparent towards the end of the book, and the overall story becomes clearer.  London  and Brighton are the two main locations used and are described with great clarity.  The musical references are plenty and add another dimension to some of the chapters.  

Dorothy Koomson is the author of eleven novels and has gained a massive following since her debut, The Cupid Effect.  I have every one of her titles on my own bookshelves and always look forward to her latest releases.  When I Was Invisible is another fine novel, but I struggled with a few small issues.  Firstly the girls names (Veronika and Veronica are shortened to Nika and Roni). I kept confusing them when the chapters split into separate narratives and had to keep reading back to see which girl I was reading about.  I also felt the book was a little too long.  The first two thirds were slow-going and while I understand the need to explain how the characters ended up in their current situations, I think Nika's story justified the extended background while Roni's just dragged on too much. The disjointed time frames also caused some confusion.  In saying that, I enjoyed the book.  As always, the author's writing is fluid and gentle, while her talent for writing about friendship is still going strong.  There are some serious issues addressed in this novel; homelessness and addiction being the most obvious, but the strength in Dorothy Koomson's writing is her ability to delve into the complexities between female friends.  Her fans will not be disappointed.

When I Was Invisible is published by Century and  is available in HB and ebook format.

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