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Friday, 15 November 2013

Reviewed: Life Class by Gilli Allan

Life Class by Gilli Allan, reviewed by Lynette Sofras

Having read and enjoyed 'Torn' by the same author, I think 'Life Class' is far superior. What makes Gilli Allan's stories unique is their sense of honesty, of gritty realism mixed with a little twist of magic. They take me out of my comfort zone and make me face up to aspects of life it's usually easier to ignore.

Her rural settings also provide a powerful backdrop to her stories - everyday places we recognise on a basic level, but don't always appreciate as we should. The landscapes of both 'Torn' and 'Life Class' are at risk of destruction by societal greed or demands and this makes them fragile and somehow magical.

Life Class concerns a group of people who seem to have few illusions about life, but they do all harbour secret dreams and the author dips in and out of their lives and taps into these dreams in ways that are sometimes painful, shocking and even uncomfortable, but always very true to life.

I did find the story a little slow to start with and the meandering back and forth between characters was sometimes distracting, but as their stories gained momentum, I became completely hooked.

Dory and Fran are two sisters with completely different agendas in life. After Dory's personal and business relationship breaks down she comes 'home' to be near her older sister - and embarks on a journey of self-discovery that makes her gradually start to question everything about her life since childhood. Older sister Fran's life, on the surface, seems perfect, but underneath her public façade runs a deep and private river of dissatisfaction and yearning, which she tries to solve by cultivating a dangerous internet relationship. Added to these complications are the new Life Class teacher, the aloof Stefan - a ghost from the sisters' past - and Dom, a vulnerable young student, new to the class, whose life seems to have been destroyed before it has properly begun.

This powerful mix of complex characters and their problems seem to leap out of the story and almost physically suck you into it - pulling and tugging this way and that as their stories unfold. They are almost frighteningly realistic. And Ms Allan's masterful control of the narrative pace kept me spellbound, unable to find a place to stop reading and therefore carrying on long into the night. I love it when a story does that for me and that's why it has to have five stars. Read it - you will not be disappointed.

1 comment:

  1. Great review, Gilli! Congrats. Definitely must put LIFE CLASS on my to-be-read list.