Review Blog

Sep 09 2019

The Astrid Notes by Taryn Bashford

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Pan MacMillan, 2019. ISBN: 9781760552213. 337p; p/b.
As Astrid Bell, classical singer, secret pop songwriter, grapples with career-threatening stage fright, and Jacob Skalicky, Indie singer, loses his bandmates to a fatal accident, their paths intertwine as they help each other overcome their fear of falling into a forgettable life. The novel is massively character-driven, so having relatable leads is important, and Bashford fleshes them out perfectly. The consistent switches of perspective help highlight their different ways of seeing the same world. Some more minor characters are less fleshed out, as comes with a lack of 'screen-time', but even that can enhance the point sometimes, as you feel like you don't know anything about Jacob's absentee parents, just like him. It also seems that some other characters may be fleshed out more in a previous novel, without this one depending at all on having read it. This depth of character allows the novel's plot to flourish, as the reader is gripped by characters coping with their tumultuous lives.
The novel juggles its three themes of loss, parentage and ambition effortlessly, weaving them into each other to become more than the sum of its parts. The dual perspectives of the novel's leads allows for multiple valid takes on each, so it never fells like the reader is being judged for how they see things, but still allowing them to open their minds.
The story is set in modern-day Sydney, which isn't anything special - but that's exactly what's right to help the leader better relate to the characters and plot.
Vincent Hermann

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