Monday 30 April 2018

Diamond Star Halo, Tiffany Murray

Murray sets her second novel at Rockfarm, a residential recording studio in Wales, echoing her own childhood at Rockfield Studios. Our protagonist, Halo, is just five at the opening and we see her grow into a young woman with a family of her own by the end. The residents of Rockfarm are an eccentric bunch - Nana Lew with her potions and wall of deceased rock stars' photos, Ivan and Dolly whose love is intense even after years of marriage, and Halo's siblings; Vince a cross dressing devotee of David Bowie, and her younger sister Molly, headstrong and maturing at a much faster rate than Halo. They are a close family who enjoy telling each other stories of big family events such as births and the falling in love of their parents. There is a sadness hanging over them however as there was another brother, Robert, who tragically died during a game of hide-and-seek. When an American band, Tequila, leave a newborn, Fred, at the farm, Dolly takes him in eagerly as though he can fill the gap.

Halo has felt a connection to him since the moment she touched his mother's pregnant belly, and it does not weaken over the years. He insists on sharing her bed and continues to call her Lo Lo when he is more than old enough to pronounce 'Halo'. In time, he proves himself capable of cruelty, knowing Halo loves him and kissing her before throwing up the barriers of their brother-sister relationship once more. It is an interesting relationship in which Halo seems to have very little power. The parallels Murray draw with Wuthering Heights are a little heavy handed albeit relevant. Halo is not the only one devoted to Fred and as he becomes a successful rock star the family are forced to wait for his return, talking about him to distract from their worries. The precedence he is given when he does return infuriates Molly.

This is a love story but also a coming of age tale. We see Halo move to London but she cannot escape the lure of home and runs back when given half the chance. She struggles to move on from her feelings for Fred and passes over the opportunity to be happy with another. 

An intense story of love and loss that will keep you guessing for most of the book. It questions what constitutes family and how much people are willing to sacrifice for success. It also raises the question of what success means and examines the different forms it can take as the Llewellyn siblings try to forge an identity and slice of happiness for themselves. It took me a little while to get into but by midway I was entirely entranced. 

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