I’m delighted to be starting off the launch celebrations for Gail Aldwin’s The String Games today. Gail kindly ‘stayed in’ with me to chat about another of her works, Paisley Shirt, last year and you can see what happened here.
The String Games
When four-year-old Josh is abducted and murdered during a family holiday in France, Nim, aged ten, becomes an only child.
To cope with the tragedy, Nim reinvents herself but continues to carry a burden of unresolved grief. As an adult, she returns to France determined to find out more about the circumstances of Josh’s death.
How will she deal with this new information and what are the implications for her future?
My Review of The String Games
A holiday in France will change Nim forever.
I have to admit, The String Games was not the book I was expecting to read. I had anticipated a crime thriller but instead I found a comprehensive exploration of the manner in which one young woman has to come to terms with her past in order to live her future. Identity is key here and Gail Aldwin paints an absorbing picture of Nim’s life.
What a perfectly entitled book The String Games is. Nim plays literal games with coloured string, making shapes and patterns, but more importantly, string games are played metaphorically through the characters who have tangled and untidy lives and who experience the knotted feelings of grief, guilt and love in their very beings. There are tangled sexual feelings as Nim begins to experience an awakening with Maxime and Jez, and the complexity of relationship between her parents and Dee adds to the tension and the reality of the book. As Nim transforms herself into another identity and tries to untangle to web of the past, the title The String Games gains even more relevance.
In keeping with that title, Nim’s personality as a child, a teenager and then as a woman cannot be disentangled from the strings of her past, making The String Games an intense portrait of her life as well as an interesting story. I found Nim’s narrative voice strong and clear – which meant I really didn’t like her much in her teenage years, even though I understood her completely.
Gail Aldwin has an eye for the smallest detail that brings her prose alive so that the reader can picture her settings very clearly. More importantly, however, is her ability to contrast the mundane aspects of life with dramatic events so that there is even greater impact. The change of tense from past to present in the third part of the novel, for example, feels absolutely right for the stage Nim, or Imogen, has reached in her life. I thought the string illustrations running through the book added to this feeling of careful detail and complexity.
The String Games may not have been the book I thought I was going to read, but I found it a story with an astute and lucid understanding of what it means to be a female growing up in a world of adversity and loss. Although Nim’s experience is unique to her, so much of what she encounters can be recognised and understood by Gail Aldwin’s readers, making The String Games a relatable and engaging story. It’s an interesting book to read.
About Gail Aldwin
Gail is a prize-winning writer of short fiction and poetry. Her work can be found online at Ink, Sweat & Tears, Slamchop and Words for the Wild and in a range of print anthologies including Flash Fiction Festival One (Ad Hoc Fiction, 2017), Gli-ter-ary (Bridge House Publishing, 2017) and Dorset Voices(Roving Press, 2012).
As Chair of the Dorset Writers’ Network, Gail works with the steering group to support the skills and confidence of writers across the county by connecting creative communities. She is also a visiting tutor to undergraduates of creative writing at Arts University Bournemouth. In 2017, Gail co-wrote Killer Ladybugs a short play that was staged by Cast Iron Productions (Brighton). Paisley Shirt, Gail’s collection of short fiction is published by Chapeltown Books.
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