Attend by West Camel #BookReview #BlogTour

When Sam falls in love with Deptford thug Derek, and Anne’s best friend Kathleen takes her own life, they discover they are linked not just by a world of drugs and revenge; they also share the friendship of the uncanny and enigmatic Deborah. 
Seamstress, sailor, story-teller and self-proclaimed centenarian immortal, Deborah slowly reveals to Anne and Sam her improbable, fantastical life, a history of hidden Deptford and ultimately the solution to their crises. 
With echoes of Armistead Maupin, Attend is a beautifully written, darkly funny, mesmerisingly emotive and deliciously told debut novel, rich in finely wrought characters and set against the unmistakable backdrop of Deptford and South London.

It's such a pleasure to be hosting the blog tour for Attend by West Camel today. My grateful thanks to the author, Orenda Books and Anne Cater from Random Things Tours for inviting me and for my advance copy of the novel.

In Attend, West Camel has written one of those rare books which never shies away from the grimmer aspects of life but is still so beautiful and so lyrical that for a few hours I was transported into the pages of this intensely vivid and truly memorable tale. The three main characters are each given the room to become fully formed, richly imagined people and I felt each of their stories could have lent themselves to a fascinating novel in its own right but when combined their narratives become almost magical.
The chapters in the book switch between Anne and Sam's perspectives set in the current day and Deborah's incredible, almost mythic tales of her extraordinary life. Deborah is the catalyst to the story and for much of the book her interactions with Anne and Sam occur without the pair knowing of the existence of one another. Later in the novel, their lives do become enmeshed but it's not just a shared knowledge of the people who inhabit this world which links them; they also share the feeling that they exist of the periphery of life - the people whose stories are forgotten as time passes.
Anne begins the novel as a recovering addict who while not completely estranged from her family, still has a strained relationship with her mother and her now adult daughter. One of the many pleasures of Attend is seeing how Anne's self-esteem grows during the course of the book; from the shamed outcast who still fears the lure of the needle to the confident woman who is starting to realise she still matters and can make a difference to the lives of others. Sam's story is equally as heartwarming as he embarks on an unlikely relationship with local thug, Derek. Their courtship is not without pitfalls and Sam is understandably reticent to become involved with a man who operates on the darker side of life but although Derek may not be a stranger to less than savoury activities, he's so much more than a cardboard cut-out villain. I fell a little bit in love with them both and desperately hoped they would find happiness together after learning more about their troubled pasts.
It's Deborah, however, who is the thread that weaves throughout Attend and draws everything together. As magnificent as any tapestry, her story reaches back to 1913 when as an orphan girl still living in the Hospital for Infants in Albury Street she explores the tunnel underneath the building. If her fantastical claims are to be believed, her discovery there results in what appears to be both an incredible gift and a terrible curse. Attend is teasing magical realism where I was never quite sure of the truth and yet this little old woman's mysterious charm meant that I trusted her. I could understand why they both Anne and Sam continue to listen to her despite their suspicions that she could be at best a fantasist or even wilfully misleading them for I would have done the same.
The themes in Attend meander and combine to produce what is quite simply a masterclass in storytelling. The superlative characterisation and engaging plot are complemented throughout by the authentic descriptions of both past and present Deptford which leap from the page - there were times where I could almost smell the damp and musty air. I loved every word of this gently subversive, wise and perceptive novel and it will be one that stays with me for the longest time. I can't wait to find out what further delights West Camel has up his sleeve following this absolute treat of a debut!

Attend is published by Orenda Books, purchasing links can be found here.

Don't miss the rest of the blog tour, details are below.

About the Author
Born and bred in south London – and not the Somerset village with which he shares a name – West Camel worked as an editor in higher education and business before turning his attention to the arts and publishing. He has worked as a book and arts journalist, and was editor at Dalkey Archive Press, where he edited the Best European Fiction 2015 anthology, before moving to new press Orenda Books just after its launch. He currently combines his work as editor at Orenda Books with writing and editing a wide range of material for various arts organisations, including ghost- writing a New-Adult novel and editing The Riveter magazine for the European Literature Network. He has also written several short scripts, which have been produced in London’s fringe theatres and was longlisted for the Old Vic’s 12 playwrights project. Attend is his first novel.
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  1. So delighted you loved this one Karen. Thanks for the Blog Tour support x


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