*I received a free copy of this book, with thanks to the author. The decision to review and my opinions are my own.*
Blurb: Welcome to the first comic contemporary novel from Kate Abley. Sue, a nice lady from Chingford, was 18 in 1979. Now, thanks to an Alzheimer’s Drugs trial gone wrong, or right, she is 18 again. But she soon remembers that youth isn’t all plain sailing; she’s in the dating pool with her daughters, the political waters are stormy and the public-private octopus wants her mental capacity. Are Somali pirates the only people she can trust? Can she navigate herself to freedom?
Sashay, stride, and scuffle in great boots and brave hat choices, with Sue and her friends as they do battle with Big Fat Pharmas, off-piste agents and the DNA lottery.
Changing the Subject has an intriguing premise which hooked me in the moment I read the blurb. Sue, the main character, is a middle-aged mum-of-two from London who volunteered for an Alzheimer’s drug trial, only to find that something went, well… unexpectedly right, and she was still herself but in a body that looks and feels about 18 years old.
There are some slapstick-style shenanigans involving spies, attempted abductions and financial, political and moral shadiness, but the true heart of this story is Sue’s. Her relationships with her friends, her daughters, even her ex-husband, are all explored with genuine warmth and humour as Sue struggles to adjust to her new life situation and all the uncertainties it brings, whilst remaining, at heart, Sue.
I did struggle at some points in the story because it is all told in a stream-of-consciousness inner monologue from Sue’s perspective – which is great for creating intimacy with the reader – but the author has faithfully reproduced actual human speech patterns for the dialogue, making it a little hard to follow with all of the hesitations, repetitions, revisions and fillers that that entails. Similarly disruptive to the narrative flow, was Sue’s habit of reproducing all abbreviations phonetically, causing the reader to circumnavigate an awful lot of Bee Bee Cee, Em Eye Five, Dee En Aye and similar occurrences. It got a little bit wearisome Eye Em Aitch Oh!
Regardless of these stylistic quibbles, the characters were lovely and very realistic – I’ve met plenty of Sue’s, Sam’s and Julie’s myself – and the plot was great fun. I particularly enjoyed the apple motif and the clever foreshadowing.
This is a story with real warmth and humour, and quite a lot of ridiculous silliness; great for a bit of light, not-taking-yourself-too-seriously reading. Especially if you are a woman of ‘a certain age’.
She was that woman, that woman with the long blonde hair and the great boots, a great stride and a hold-all over her shoulder. Taut-faced-tight-arsed and confidently walking along a jetty somewhere warm towards a bar. She looked just like that woman in the shampoo advert. Mind you, that woman’s hold-all was probably full of the swimsuit and evening dress she would need for the next cutaways. Not like hers. Her bag was loose and lumpy. The contents exposed what was too much backstory for a shampoo advert. Probably too much backstory for her. One-minute sitting on the Seven-Oh-Five reading in the Metro about Bloody Brexit; next minute, well next year, an ‘illegal’ bombshell cum lab rat with great boots. But she was definitely worth it. In all that time no-one had mentioned actual numbers, that’s how big they were.
– Kate Abley, Changing the Subject
Changing the Subject is available on Amazon right now!