Who doesn’t love a secret?
In DJ Kirkby’s book, Without Alice, Stephen has a secret. “One so important that it feels as if it will tear you in two.”
Without Alice opens with a tantalizing prologue of three couples in three southern cities/towns in July 1977. All of them are in the process of pregnancy, labour or early motherhood. There's a strong sense of the fatalistic about the prologue: that the conception and birth of these offspring to these couples will set in motion the chain of events that would make Without Alice.
Part One begins with Jennie, one of the offspring from the prologue who is in the throes of her own labour. DJ’s birth scenes are graphic but they paint a realistic picture (in my experience) of the range of emotions that come with having a first baby. We are dropped right into the minutiae of Jennie's thoughts: the fearfulness mixed with the joy. A birth - even when it's happened - is a great way to put characters under stress and show how they each deal with the tensions it brings. As readers we see the dynamics and the underlying issues between Stephen and Jennie where the characters themselves can’t or won’t see. DJ weaves the present, full of tension and anxiety, with flashbacks to allow us to experience the whole story.
But what, I wanted to know, about Alice?
She’s Stephen’s secret so you have to be patient. Part two begins to explain…
My favourite scene in Without Alice is the picnic scene. I felt I was there at the picnic in the local park with these mums and our children. I’ve said here before that I like realism in a novel and just as I thought things couldn’t be resolved, out of nowhere DJ moves the story on another leap. I can’t tell you anything else about the picnic scene for fear of spoilers but you know what? You’ll just have to read it.
Without Alice is DJ’s debut novel and it’s being published this October but you can obtain a book already via her publishers, Punked Books. DJ’s website is here. There’s a fascinating interview here on Casdok’s blog with DJ Kirkby. And if you like a laugh you have to visit DJ’s blog for the Wordless Wednesday photographs: they are priceless.