Review - Starlight Peninsula, Charlotte Grimshaw
STARLIGHT PENINSULA is about a young woman who, after the breakdown of her marriage, looks back at her life. Particularly to the time when her first real love, Arthur died. Needless to say there's much about this that is reflective, bordering sometimes on melancholy. To match that mood, the location fits perfectly. Eloise Hay lives on the Starlight Peninsula, in Auckland, an odd combination of modern housing and windswept marsh, occupied yet strangely deserted and isolated, it's a quiet place, the sort of place that somebody could love to be in, and yet find it's atmosphere overwhelming.
Personal crisis however does not overwhelm all of her life and Eloise, who works in the media supporting a news team of celebrity newsreaders and journalists, has plenty of external things to distract from her own life mess. Those distractions will ring bells with those who follow the daily news - from the larger than life "dotcom" internet hacker who is wanted by the United States, to a prime minister battling poor polls in the face of calls for removal.
In an interesting twist, there's absolutely nothing in STARLIGHT PENINSULA for the longest time that gives the reader any hints on where all this is heading. Because Eloise's focus is backwards for a lot of the time - reflecting back to Arthur's death, the police investigation, and his poking around in others personal lives, the forward connections are a mystery. Everything floats gently on waves of the day-to-day - contact with old friends and long-fought family battles and interactions, occasionally enlivened with something new - a new neighbour, something slightly unexpected at work, something weird in the house, scattered like breadcrumbs on a trail for the very keen eyed.
Which overall adds up to STARLIGHT PENINSULA actually being very clever. Passive people, passive situations and oddly disconnected pathways are combined with sparse and elegant storytelling to expand a central character who on the face of it shouldn't engage. But within that sense of ennui there's something unexpectedly compelling. As passive and drifting as she may be, the way that she drinks too much, avoids decisions and any form of personal resolution, or much in the way of actual action, she's also quite possibly completely unreliable. Needless to say, something about Eloise and her situation might not be what it seems, and that's mesmerising. Which made STARLIGHT PENINSULA the most difficult book to put down for quite a while.
Eloise Hay lives on the Starlight Peninsula. Every weekday she travels into the city to work at Q TV Studio, assisting with the production of a current affairs show. One night she receives a phone call that will change her life forever.
Thrown into the turmoil of a sudden marriage break-up, Eloise begins to perceive that a layer of the world has been hidden from her. Seeking answers, she revisits a traumatic episode from her past, and in doing so encounters an odd-eyed policewoman, a charismatic obstetrician, a German psychotherapist, and a flamboyant internet pirate wanted by the United States Government. Each of these characters will reveal something about the life of Eloise Hay, answering questions that she hasn't, until now, had the courage to ask.
Tracing the lines that run through our society, from the interior life of one lonely young woman to the top tier of influence in the country, Charlotte Grimshaw's powerful novel demonstrates how little separates us and how close we really are: rich and poor, famous and hidden, virtuous and criminal.