Three naive, but very different, Appley Green schoolgirls pledge to stick together for ever, but when one of them gets pregnant, this pushes their promise to the edge. A young girl in need of love is vulnerable to the charms of an older man with heart-breaking consequences. This is Great Britain’s Sixties, an exciting era, gathering pace then in full swing as social change sweeps aside past attitudes, laws, fashion and culture. Youth is finding a voice as parents struggle to adjust. Its characters span the full social spectrum, and take us beyond Appley Green to Brighton, Margate, London, Vienna and Paris.
I always have a slight sense of foreboding when I pick up a self published book. Call it snobbishness, but my fear is that they won’t be as good as books that have been professionally published, edited and publicised etc. Dwelling on it, it’s a rather misguided view – after all, Harry Potter was turned down by 12 publishers before Bloomsbury luckily picked it up, and who’s to say that JK Rowling wouldn’t have published her series herself? The recent success of electronic devices means that self published novels are now easy to find, and extremely easy to read – and the publishing industry is shifting in order to keep up with the demand. It’s easy to forget though, that whilst self published novels may now be a lot easier to publish, they still take years of effort, planning and writing in order to produce the finished product! And the bravery of unleashing the finished article on the public is something I’m not entirely sure I possess, so I take my hat off to anyone who self publishes – especially someone who self publishes a novel that manages to be as evocative, and engaging as “Secrets in Appley Green”
The book opens with a lot of descriptive language – it seems that every household object, every item of clothing is depicted with a level of detail – and I initially found this quite overwhelming, fearing the flow of the plot would be disrupted by the constant descriptions. However, I’m more than happy to accept that I was wrong in this instance – as a few pages in, I found myself transported to the 1960’s. Given that I was born in the 1980’s, it’s quite a significant feat! There is an incredibly good sense of time and place – Appley Green feels like a real place, and the heavy descriptions in the opening actually end up working well, as they allow the plot and characters to flow out of the pages and into the readers mind, secure in the carefully depicted setting.
Characters and Plot aren’t skimped on either though – a careful blend of kitchen sink drama and gentle comedy make this a page turner – and the characters are well drawn, not just Molly, who had me rushing to the end in order to find out what circumstances she would be left in, but secondary characters like George Bird – a headteacher who I’m sure will remind everybody of that one teacher they once had. The dialogue flows well, and the pacing is skillful – with a conclusion left somewhat open ended, meaning there could well be room for a sequel.
All in all, “Secrets of Appley Green” will take you back to the 60’s – with detail that manages to be both well researched and evocative. Sensitively drawn characters and a compelling plot led me to keep on turning the pages. Whilst some issues with passages requiring tightening and editing may be there, the writing is good enough that the issues are easily overlooked, and I was extremely pleased to meet the many characters of Appley Green