Mona and Wolfie have lived on Victoria Park for over fifty years. Now, on the eve of their sixty-fifth wedding anniversary, they must decide how to navigate Mona’s declining health. Bookended by the touching exploration of their love, Victoria Park follows the disparate lives of twelve people over the course of a single year.
Told from their multiple perspectives in episodes which capture feelings of alienation and connection, the lingering memory of an acid attack in the park sends ripples of unease through the community. By the end of the novel, their carefully interwoven tales create a rich tapestry of resilience, love and loss.
With sharply observed insight into contemporary urban life, and characters we take to our hearts, Gemma Reeves has written a moving, uplifting debut which reflects those universal experiences that connect us all.
Do we really know what happens behind the closed doors on our street? Are the faces we see every day really happy and cheerful or are they hiding anguish despair, or maybe even a secret?
Gemma Reeves took one street and its occupants and unlocked its doors, let its occupants spill out their thoughts and demons on our doorstep.
What I enjoyed was the broad spectrum of individuals Reeves brought to us, from the older couple struggling to live with dementia, to the young teenager grabbling with his gender identity. Indeed it was older couple Wolfie and Mona, that captured my heart, Wolfie’s love for a wife so clearly struggling with dementia, yet determined to hang on, to retain normality until the last possible moment. I found it deeply touching and full of sorrow as Mona’s mind took her back to the war and her memories of life as one of the children sent away on the Kinder transport. I loved Wolfie for his cooking skills, and the joy he found in food and being able to share with family and friends, his escape from the realities of the everyday.
At the other end of the spectrum was Freddie, son of Luca, sixteen and struggling to find where he fit into the modern world. Again it was handled with great skill by Reeves as she gave us glimpses into his thoughts, his friendship with Ana, that allowed him to explore and become more of just who he wanted to be.
The middle of the age spectrum was littered with the lesbian couple, their desire for a baby, the couple whose marriage neared an end and the single Mum who devotedly visited her comatose son hanging on to the possibility of a a miracle. Indeed it was her sons acid attack that Reeves used, along with her characters to bring the social layers of a community to the fore, a community that could be repeated many times over in the towns and cities all over the UK.
It could easily have been a mismash, an outpouring of narrative that sought to get in every single societal theme, but it wasn’t, the breakdown into the months of the year gave the book a neat, organised structure. Reeves gave us that sense of time passing, of the speed of change, moments and events that pushed her characters to pastures new, to new life and in one case death.
Victoria Park was a modern take on our world, told with care and emotion, and Gemma Reeves is an author to watch in the coming months.
I would like to thank Allen and Unwin for a copy of Victoria Park to read and review and to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for inviting My Bookish Blogspot to participate in the blogtour.
About the author
Gemma Reeves is a writer and teacher who lives and works in London.