Today’s review is of a book that I would, in all honesty, probably never have read if I didn’t know the author. So right away you know the above is a bit of a fib.
I probably wouldn’t have chosen it, but at the same time I’ve been waiting a really long time to read it. Eight years, to be exact. The author is someone I work with, who, for reasons that will probably become apparent, has chosen to write under a pseudonym, A.G. Smythe. Shortly after I started in my job, I learned during a routine pub outing that the book (at that time unpublished) existed, and that only one other person had read it. This led to eight years of begging and emotional blackmail directed at both the author and the person who’d read it, which seemed destined to be unsuccessful. Until a couple of weeks ago, when I learned that it had finally been published and was available from Amazon under the fairly descriptive title of Jocelyn Diamond: A tale of sex, drugs and rock and roll in 1950s London.
Now I should probably begin with a small health warning. There’s a lot of sex in this book. And when I say a lot, I mean – a LOT. I was aware of this before I read it, but even then I wasn’t quite prepared. In fact I’d go so far as to re-name the book Jocelyn Diamond: A tale of sex, drugs, sex, rock and roll and sex in 1950s London.
Jocelyn loses her husband Gordon in a car crash, and over the course of the novel begins to discover what she’s been missing in the bedroom, with a variety of different companions. And we get to take that journey with her, in all its – ahem – detail. I haven’t read Fifty Shades of Grey, so can’t compare the two, but I’m led to believe that in some respects they’re quite similar (although there are no whips in this one).
So if you’re easily embarrassed, I’d probably recommend you don’t read this book in public. Particularly if you’re on the train and someone’s looking over your shoulder.
But that said, there’s a lot more to the book than just the sexy bits. The author loves dancing, and this passion comes through in the evenings Jocelyn spends in London’s various dance halls. The descriptions of the venues and the dances themselves are detailed and well-written, and you can tell both Jocelyn and her creator know their way around a dancefloor. There’s also quite a lot of fun with regional accents, not least the East End Londoners and the Americans (part of the novel takes place in New York).
But the main plot of the novel, besides Jocelyn’s adventures between the sheets, is about what really happened to Gordon, who before his death was clearly in some kind of trouble. Following his untimely demise, Jocelyn makes a discovery that leads her to believe his death may not have been an accident. Add to that the bungling criminals who keep breaking into her house, and it soon becomes obvious all is not as it seems. This was my favourite part of the book – there were a few red herrings and an interesting twist at the end, not to mention a fairly complex cast of characters on both sides of the law. I had no idea my colleague was such an expert on London’s underworld; maybe I should be nicer to her, in case she has contacts.
Since I promised an unbiased review, there are maybe a couple of things that I personally would have liked to be different. Jocelyn’s a bit of a wet blanket for most of the book – until she suddenly discovers some spirit towards the end, unfortunately for the man she’s with at the time. I also would have liked to see a bit more of her daughter, who’s shipped off to boarding school early on and never seen again. But maybe there’s a sequel in there somewhere. And then there’s all the sex, which is a bit too descriptive for me personally – but might be tame for Fifty Shades fans…?
Overall, it’s an enjoyable book with a good story. I kept reading not just because I knew the author but because I genuinely wanted to know how it ended, which to me is a pretty positive sign. And it was also quite educational… I now know a lot more than I did about dancing. What did you think I meant? 😉