We’re great lovers of reading books with strong locations. London has particular resonance for us as it’s our home, and so we probably would have liked Phoebe Locke’s The July Girls for its setting alone. The city informs the book, the locations – Brixton, north London or elsewhere – used to frame the plot.

What’s particularly smart about this book is that Locke draws on significant modern memory acts of terror to exacerbate the fear that the characters experience in their daily lives. There’s an underlying sense of disquiet, caused not just by Addie and Jessie’s circumstances but by events like 7/7, the 2005 bombings that paralysed London; 9/11 is also referenced. These life-changing dates which have impacted exponentially on so many of our lives serve to enhance the distress and horror that Addie, in particular, feels when she suspects that her volatile, not very present, single father might be ‘Magpie’, the serial killer who takes a woman each year on Addie’s July birthday.

Somewhere in the city, a man was performing the ultimate magic trick: making girls disappear into thin air.

But is it satisfying pulling off a trick with no one there to watch you? That man, who would come to be known as Magpie, had decided that it was not.’

There are many, many things to like about this book, among them Addie’s authentic characterisation and voice, her relationship with older sister Jessie, more mother than sibling, and also with Dellar, her sister’s boyfriend, with whom she has a strong bond. There’s a real sense of the ‘children’ stepping up and forging family, blood or found, because the adults are incapable, and of making mistakes because they are too young to have such crushing responsibility or to know that their actions, however good the intentions behind them, might have long-lasting consequences for other people. At the heart of this book though is love – what would you in the name of love? Just how far would you go?

Would we recommend The July Girls?

… Would we.


Phoebe Locke | The July Girls | Wildfire | 25 July 2019 | hardback | £16.99 |

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Acknowledgements: Book text quotes © Nicola Cloke 2019. Many thanks to Anne Cater, as always, and to the publisher for sending a review copy. All opinions are our own. All rights reserved.

Also of interest:By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept’;‘Yvonne Battle-Fenton’s Rememembered‘; ‘Is monogamy dead?’ Rosie Wylie asks‘; ‘The Revolution Will Not Be Televised‘; ‘Louise Voss’ The Old You‘; ‘Joseph Knox, what’s not to love?’; ‘Stephanie Butland, bringing women into focus‘; ‘We should all be feminists‘; The not-so-invisible woman: 150 greats in their own words’;Changing the narrative: The Red Word;‘ ‘Permission by Saskia Vogel‘; ‘Helga Flatland’s study of A Modern Family’;  ‘Blood Orange’; ‘Lisa Ko’s The Leavers, Dialogue’s brilliant debut; ‘RW Kwon’s The Incendiaries’; ‘Beauty in translation – Roxanne Bouchard’s French Canadian noir‘; ‘How Penguin learned to fly – Allen Lane and the Original “Penguin Ten”‘; Dorothy L. Sayer’s Busman’s Holiday – Romek Marber for Penguin Crime (book covers we love); ‘Vanda Symon; ‘Some like it hot – the joy of Carole Mortimer, award-winning novelist‘; Gina Kirkham’

This review is © 2019 by The Literary Shed. All rights reserved. All opinions are our own. We welcome your feedback and comments. If you wish to reproduce this piece, please do contact us to request permission. Thank you so much.


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