My enormous thanks to Ben Cameron at Cameron Publicity for sending me a copy of Beetlebrow The Thief by Ben Parker in return for an honest review which you can read below and for getting the two of us together for an evening in!
Staying in with Ben Parker
Welcome to Linda’s Book Bag Ben and thank you for staying in with me. Tell me, which of your books have you brought along to share this evening and why have you chosen it?
Well, I’ve only written the one, Beetlebrow the Thief, so hopefully it’s a good read for an evening in. Or a morning in, for that matter. Or an afternoon out.
(It is indeed! I know as I’ve read Beetlebrow the Thief.)
What can we expect from an evening in with Beetlebrow the Thief?
I’m really hoping to take readers away on an adventure, but at the same time I’m hoping the book does more than tell a story – the characters in Beetlebrow the Thief are people of colour, and some are in the LGBTQIA+ spectrum. At a time when we are seeing a resurgence in discrimination, I think it is important for fiction to reflect a diverse Britain.
(You manage that blend really well Ben. I found the emergent themes in Beetlebrow the Thief extremely interesting as you’ll see in my review below.)
What else have you brought along and why?
There’s a scene about a third of the way into Beetlebrow the Thief, where Beetlebrow and Pook – the heroes of my novel – break into the royal palace of their city, and are confronted and brought to a luxurious room. Then, they are presented with a vast wealth of food – chicken, cake, pies… It’s all a ruse to make the two girls compliant enough to take on the dangerous mission, so I tried to capture what it would be like to be overwhelmed with food when you’ve grown up always hungry.
(I remember that scene very vividly Ben.)
So I’m bringing a large meal, with an ulterior motive… I think that sums up the book!
Anyone who brings food is always welcome here Ben. Thanks so much for staying in with me to tell me all about Beetlebrow the Thief. Whilst we tuck in to the meal you might like to read my review too!
Beetlebrow The Thief
Two teenage girls, Beetlebrow and Pook, living in a desperate world, are trying to end the hunger aching in their streets.
But first they must find their way through sinister palaces, dank dungeons, and winding mazes of alleyways, encountering kings, prostitutes, scholars and cut-throats, and delving deep into the centuries-spanning cult of the Unfinished Painting of Essum…
‘Beetlebrow the Thief’ launches the epic adventure trilogy of their story.
Beetlebrow The Thief was published by Conrad Press on 13th August 2018 and is available for purchase here and in all good bookshops.
My Review of Beetlebrow The Thief
Living in a world of poverty drives Beetlebrow to desperate actions.
I have a small comment I wish to get out of the way in the interests of complete honesty before my review proper and that is that I would have liked fewer uses of the pronoun ‘she’ in the writing for my personal taste. That said, I understand entirely how Ben Parker’s unique writing style requires this approach. Beetlebrow The Thief is such a multi-layered and intelligently themed novel that places two females at its heart in a feminist and supportive manner that there needs to be a written style that will support and underpin the themes.
Beetlebrow The Thief may be a young adult book but it is hugely rewarding for an adult reader as the themes presented are so allegorical and equally applicable to history and modern societies alike. Females in Beetlebrow The Thief are frequently regarded as second class and abused verbally, sexually and physically by men. It is no surprise that Beetlebrow is rarely called by her real name as females are seen as second class citizens. Ben Parker is not overly explicit here, and he balances the brutality in the text with a glorious tenderness between Beetlbrow and Pook as they develop their own relationship so that he really makes the reader contemplate relationships and love.
I loved Ben Parker’s exploration of the corruption of power and the way in which two lowly females are able to succeed through their own wits (and frequently deviousness) in what is a male dominated society. So many aspects such as hunger and poverty made me reflect on what is happening in the world today.
Alongside a fast paced and exciting plot Ben Parker’s writing has enormous appeal to the senses. Particularly from Beetlebrow’s perspective, the descriptions are vivid and clear so that there is a cinematic feel at times. I thought this was a hugely successful element as all my senses were fully engaged by the writing.
But the success for me in Bettlebrow The Thief really comes through Beetlebrow herself. She is no idealised character, but is prepared to lie, cheat and use physical violence if required. And that is the crux. If required. Ben Parker throws an uncomfortable spotlight onto how and why those in desperate circumstances have to behave simply to survive. I found this very powerful and often quite disturbing. Beetlebrow is also capable of overwhelming love, sensuality and loyalty so that she is a completely wonderful human creation.
Beetlebrow The Thief is an intriguing read. It can be enjoyed simply as an exciting fantasy adventure, but I think that would be doing it a disservice. Beetlebrow The Thief is a complex, multifaceted and thought provoking book too.
About Ben Parker
Ben Parker was born in Ealing, London in 1983. He has a BA and MA in English from Southampton University. He now lives in Whitstable. His interests include jazz, cooking, reading and silent film. His main inspirations for writing are Patrick White, Mikhail Bulgakov, James Joyce, Hilary Mantel and Alan Moore.