I was delighted to be offered the chance by Ruby Mitchell at Hodder to read The Mirror World of Melody Black by Gavin Extence in return for an honest review. The Mirror World of Melody Black was published on 10th March 2016 and is available in paperback, hardback and e-book from Amazon UK, Amazon US, Hodder, Waterstones and all good bookshops.
I was fortunate to be involved in the launch celebrations for The Mirror World of Melody Black and you can read my interview with Gavin here.
My Review of The Mirror World of Melody Black
When freelance journalist Abby finds the dead body of neighbour Simon, little does she realise how her life will freefall in the coming months.
The Mirror World of Melody Black is an intriguing and intelligent read. Gavin Extence’s first hand experiences underpin his writing with an authority and depth that make it hard not to be affected by the writing.
I found Abby a very difficult character to like. She’s brittle, manic and selfish in many ways. However, despite the fact I wouldn’t want her in my life, Gavin Extence made me empathise with her almost against my will. I didn’t like her but I wanted to know what happened to her. It worried me that those around her didn’t know quite how to respond to her, and her relationships with Beck and her family particularly left me feeling sad.
The themes explored in The Mirror World of Melody Black are highly relevant to today’s society as Abby struggles to manage good mental health. Reading this made me question my own responses and attitudes and the answers did not always make for a comfortable feeling. It’s testament to the quality of the writing that Gavin Extence illustrates so well just how easily a person can go from being slightly unhappy to suicidal or happy to completely manic. The vibrancy and extremes of experiences as Abby attunes to colour and sound are elements of mental health I hadn’t really considered before. I found my own senses appreciating Abby’s fully.
Other than a couple of startling episodes, the plot is relatively simple and straightforward and I suspect that is a deliberate effect to mirror the way lives of those with a bipolar disorder often live. This simplicity serves to exemplify how ‘ordinary’ life is a struggle for those with mental health issues. The book also questions quite where we draw the line between sanity and insanity and it made me wonder who we are to judge. I’m sure we all could inhabit the mirror world suggested by Jocelyn.
It sounds, from what I’ve said, as if The Mirror World of Melody Black is pessimistic and bleak but not a bit of it. It is thought provoking and disturbing in many respects but there is love and humour too. There’s great wit, particularly in the conversations Abby has. Whilst I didn’t laugh out loud I found myself smiling frequently as I read. Gavin Extence uses pithy one line sentences that manage to convey a whole world of information and understanding to the reader.
I’m not sure if I enjoyed reading The Mirror World of Melody Black. I thought it was interesting and compelling. I found it unsentimental and intelligent. I found it both uncomfortable and moving. More to the point, I had to carry on reading – almost against my will.
The Mirror World of Melody Black is a novel that will make readers think, and that is no bad thing.