Reviewed by: Pete Barber
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Approximate word count: 100-105,000 words
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“DC Gallin spends her time between London and Southern Spain, land of the guitar, snow-capped mountains, and eagles circling in the sky. During winter months the family gathers around log fires, while starry summer nights are spent cooling off on the rooftop, the plaintive voice of Flamenco drifting over from the gypsy barrio, accompanied by the sound of howling dogs, braying donkeys, and the odd pair of mating cats...
Kiss the Sky is her first novel.”
For more information, visit the author’s website.
Set in the 90s. Claudia drops out of College and moves to London determined to become an artist. Her overbearing mother and straight-laced, older sister don’t approve (of anything Claudia does). Her father, more laid-back, sighs and occasionally throws some cash her way. Claudia moves into a tiny artist’s studio. She gets sucked into the Rave scene, smokes dope, experiments with sex, and drops Ecstasy. The story follows her life for about eighteen months.
Firstly, Ms. Gallin is an excellent writer. It’s hard to believe this is a debut novel. Crisp, tight prose fit the era and deliver Claudia’s life in the compelling, first-person narrative of a free spirit. The two BFFs Claudia acquires--‘Q‘, a lesbian photographer based in Holland, and Paloma, a classically-beautiful French film maker--are fun to be around.
The story reads like a personal diary as much as a tale told about the main character. Claudia’s gradual slip down life’s slippery slope feels quite natural, perhaps even inevitable. The recreational drugs and the company she keeps gradually chip away her standards until she reaches rock bottom--living in a squalid squat and having unprotected sex with an unstable alcoholic crack-head.
The party-scene, especially the Raves and the liberating effects of the drugs she and her friends take, led me to believe the author has some inside knowledge. The people who pop in and out of Claudia’s life in the beautifully described settings in London‘s East End feel real, even the unpleasant ones. The squats, and more particularly, the entitlement mindset of the people who live there provides a social commentary. But the author never offers an opinion. Rather, she lays it out there--this is what happened, this is why, this is how these people felt and acted, loved and fought, and struggled.
Perhaps commentary is the best word to describe the story: an unbiased commentary of a slice of this woman’s life and of a time and a loose community that existed in London in the 90s.
For me, the book was better for letting me draw my own conclusions about Claudia. I went along for the ride, voyeuristically, and had fun on the journey.
Some graphic sex, many drug references, and bad language (used appropriately).