For her debut novel, Susan Buchanan took on a brave and ambitious task to weave so many different characters together across a several countries. Using the signs of the zodiac to underpin the structure would probably work well for a reader who believes in astrology – the sort of person who regularly says things like “Oh, you’re so Capricon!” in the middle of a conversation. But the subtleties of this device went over my head as I never read horoscopes and don’t believe for a moment that when you were born affects the kind of person you are. I realise this may have put me at a disadvantage – but I was willing to suspend my disbelief for the sake of a good read!
I enjoyed this book and its many stories. Several nights, I stayed up reading later than I intended, just because I was so drawn into the storyline of whichever person was in the spotlight at that point in the book.
For a newly-published writer, Susan did lots of things very well. She juggled and wove together an extensive cast of very different people, portrayed in detail. She explained their motivations and idiosyncracies vividly. It’s the type of book that makes you think again before judging strangers in the street, wondering about their back stories.
It was also good to read a story set (mostly) in Scotland in modern times. Married to a Scot, I know it pretty well and enjoyed the geographical references. (That was one reason I bought the book.) It was good also to see immigrants woven into the story in a very positive way.
I became fond of a lot of the characters and I especially liked the surprises in some of the sub-plots – but I won’t go into those here for fear of spoiling it for you.
Another thing I liked was the cover design, which may seem an odd thing to mention, but it’s always good to see a self-published novel with a cover that would look at home alongside commercial bestsellers on the shelves of bookshops. I thought this cover was attractive, strong, intriguing and set the tone well for the content.
I can understand why those who have given it lower ratings were irritated by grammatical errors, typos and the odd unfortunate phrase, but I think they should cut the author a little slack here. If the book had received the professional proof-reading and sub-editing service enjoyed by mainstream authors, at their publishers’ expense, these would have been eliminated. Even Roald Dahl was a terrible speller, you know, and relied on his publishers’ services to knock his manuscripts into readable form. I hope their criticisms don’t deter Susan’s ambition – and I hope that having sold so many copies, she’ll now be able to buy in these luxuries before publication of her next book. She certainly deserves them.
If Susan Buchanan ever writes any books or stories targetting with a smaller cast and canvas, I’d be especially interested to read them, as I think with more time and effort to bestow on each individual, her work would be even better.