What: V is for Violet by Alison Rattle
Who: Hot Key Books
When: June 2016
How: A copy of this novel was provided by Allen and Unwin for review.
RRP: $16.99 (AUD)
Battersea, 1961. London is just beginning to enter the swinging sixties. The world is changing – but not for sixteen-year-old Violet. She was born at the exact moment Winston Churchill announced Victory in Europe – an auspicious start, but now she’s just stuck in her family’s fish and chip shop dreaming of greatness. And it doesn’t look like fame and fortune are going to come calling anytime soon. Then she meets Beau. Beau’s a rocker – a motorcycle boy who arrives in an explosion of passion and rebellion. He blows up Violet’s grey little life, and she can’t believe her luck. But things don’t go her way for long. Joseph, her long-lost brother, comes home. Then young girls start going missing, and turning up murdered. And then Violet’s best friend disappears too. Suddenly life is horrifyingly much more interesting. Violet can’t believe its coincidence that Joseph turns up just as girls start getting murdered. He’s weird, and she feels sure he’s hiding something. He’s got a secret, and Violet’s got a dreadful feeling it might be the worst kind of secret of all…
Something was simply missing for me when it comes to V is for Violet. At first, I thought it might have been the time period – I’ve read another book set around the same time, and I wasn’t the hugest fan of that one – but then I realised that the descriptions of the sixties were perhaps some of the only things I genuinely enjoyed about this book. I think, sadly, that it was actually Violet who made this book not so great for me.
I know she was probably a product of her time, but Violet’s views on things were so problematic and judgemental. Her thoughts on divorce and sex and sexuality all had me cringing whenever she mentioned these things, and it was kind of painful to read about. It seemed to me that she had led a pretty sheltered life, because she didn’t even realise that there are reasons that people need to divorce one another, despite marriage vows and whatever else. So I didn’t really enjoy that about her at all.
Violet was also very self hating, and threw a bit of a Sandra Dee about halfway into the book. She was always going on about how boring she was, and how she looked terrible in her clothes, and no wonder boys didn’t like her. And then a biker boy comes along and she goes and buys a leather jacket and eye makeup and starts doing her hair the same as biker girls. Changing for a guy didn’t really make me warm up to her, but on the other hand at least she was willing to try and change for herself – she liked herself a lot better as a biker girl, so kudos to Violet for that, I guess.
I thought that the mystery of V is for Violet would be huge – after all, the blurb makes it out that it’s going to be a novel about Violet searching for her best friend. Which, sadly, wasn’t the case at all. Yes, her best friend goes missing, but is found dead later a few pages later. V is for Violet was less about figuring out who the murderer was, and more about Violet changing herself and making moon eyes at the biker boy.
In terms of the mystery, though, it was pretty much Violet convincing herself that her long lost brother was the culprit, and has murdered the girls in town. This was kind of cumbersome, if I’m being completely honest. It felt very cliché that it was the brooding brother who was supposed to be the killer, and to be honest I never bought into Violet’s theory. Even though she apparently was always “right” – which she really wasn’t. Like, ever.
There was a character that told Violet they were gay, and she accepted this incredibly fast. I mean, I wanted this person to be accepted (especially since I had caught onto the fact that they were gay), but it just seemed a little incongruent with Violet’s attitudes that were expressed previously. To be honest, I would have preferred to have seen so much more of this character, and their relationship with Violet after their confiding because that was the aspect of V is for Violet that I enjoyed the most. And it was only about the last three or so chapters.
Overall, I was slightly disappointed in V is for Violet. However, I did enjoy the sixties vibe, and the complete acceptance of a certain character’s sexuality.
© 2016, Chiara @ Books for a Delicate Eternity. All rights reserved.