Friday, 19 June 2015

Diamond Star Halo by Tiffany Murray

review by Maryom

1977 was a big year for Halo Llewelyn of Rockfarm recording studios hidden in the Welsh countryside - a year in which the world changed; the Queen celebrated her Jubilee, Elvis died, Halo's brother Vincent discovered punk, but most importantly, it was the year Fred Connor entered her life. Even in Halo's world of visiting rock stars, Fred is special; the son of two members of American group Tequila, left behind as a new born baby when the band move on, he grows up alongside the Llewelyn children but is always more than a brother to Halo. Like a modern day Cathy and Heathcliff, Halo and Fred are entwined from childhood, irresistibly drawn together yet pulled apart by circumstances.

 For me this book is one of those wonderful serendipitous finds that come through book blogging. Late last year I read Tiffany Murray's Sugar Hall and loved its sheer creepiness - it's one of the few ghost stories that has truly sent shivers down my spine, and I wanted to read more by the author so when a copy of Diamond Star halo came my way I was delighted.
 At the novel's heart is the flawed love of Halo and Fred. Fred is a typical charismatic bad boy flawed hero; no one can resist his charms - and he knows it, and plays it for all he's worth. Halo meanwhile is hopelessly in love with him; although not related, they've been brought up so closely as brother and sister, that any other relationship seems wrong.
 But Diamond Star Halo is more than just their story; it belongs to all the Llewelyns of Rockfarm. Told in the first person, Halo's narrative roams backwards and forwards, through her life, her parents', and back to her Nana's brothers and the despised ancestral "English Bastards". It isn't a ghost story by any stretch of the imagination but it does still have that feeling of the layers of the past building up around a particular place; of a house which still holds echoes of those who lived there in previous generations; of past tragedies which still cast a shadow.
 Halo's whole world captivated me - a mix of rock star glamour and playing half-wild in the fields and woods around the farm - filled with characters like her slightly witchy-Nana with her 'capel' of bones and healing herbs and brews, or Halo's parents consumed by a passion which they thought could conquer everything.

A story of 'crazy love' that breaks the rules, an exploration of the ties of family and home, a coming of age novel, a family epic ranging over three generations; there's a bit of all these in Diamond Star Halo, and I loved each of them. 

 Maryom's review -  5 stars
Publisher - Portobello Books
Genre - adult,

Shortlisted for the Bollinger/Wodehouse Prize

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