Saturday, 27 June 2009

"Missy" by Chris Hannan

Missy is a first novel, though its author is already an established playwright. This shows too, in the dialogue, which is taut, and credible. That credibility is important, since this is a historical novel set in the Wild West. It is also part of how Hannan has created a well-drawn heroine, Dol McQueen, as its central character.

Mention of historical fiction conjures up visions of contrived period speech and ostentatious display of local colour, but this book is much more than this. It is a genuine novel, however one wishes to define that term, and under its fast paced narrative there lie some serious issues, not least Dol's troubled relationship with her mother. Mention of Moll Flanders is not out of place, since the reader is likely to be ambivalent towards Dol herself, and one of the things I liked best about the book is the way in which she is forced to re-evaulate many of her attitudes and past actions in the closing scenes, something which Defore spares his heroine. I will not say more about this as I do not wish to give away any of the plot.

I have sat on the judging panels of two novel prizes, and I have to say that this book is far better written than many of the efforts which I had to wade through. I would like to congratulate the author on a fine piece of work, and look forward t0o reading his next offering.

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